Sunday morning: Joe Watkins, Jan, Richard and my Christmas baby, died Saturday. He had been born on that special day in 1992 and was about a month shy of his 19th birthday. Actually, nothing about Joe was shy. His mother and I could embarrass him but I don't think he was embarrassed about anything he did.
I'm not sure of the exact time of death. I suspect I saw the end coming Thursday afternoon, during the Lions v Packers Thanksgiving football game. Yesterday, however, a nurse, who said she had helped admit Joe to Shands, told us that his paperwork back when he was admitted said he was not expected to survive.
The staff at the hospital put in herculean efforts. They do that, the nurse said, when a young person comes in and shows any chance of surviving, despite what tests and science indicate. Joe probably died in that ditch right after the wreck on Isle of Wight Road or on the helicopter flight to Jacksonville. When I first saw him in the trauma unit last Saturday morning, he was moving his eyes and had some reflex actions, but all movement soon ended.
When we left him last night, the staff was preparing him for organ donation. If things worked right, as many as nine people could survive a disease or injury with his organs. Joe had signed himself up as a donor. We're also hoping some researcher is able to use his brain to better understand traumatic brain injuries. And there could be numerous people who benefit from tissues such as skin, bones and veins. The thought of all this has lightened our loss a little.
The donations do not mean we've cancelled a viewing. We've been assured there could still be one. But we've not started planning it or any services. We're not sure when his body will be released to us because the donation process could take a day or two and even then Joe's remains have to go to a medical examiner's office here for autopsy since he died in a wreck.
Keep him in your prayers and memories. If things go right this morning he hope to head back to Midway this afternoon. It's going to be hard to drive passed the wreck sight, but there's no other way to get home.
Friday evening: Friday has been a day of stable signs for our Joejoe, the first in several days. After last night and early Friday's warning that he was likely brain dead, really any continuing news is welcomed, even though the roller coaster is getting harder and harder to take.
The doctors took Joe off the drugs that were keeping him in a deep coma about 2 this afternoon. It is the second attempt to bring him out of the induced coma. That last attempt, on Tuesday, ended with high pressure readings. Tonight we've got all our fingers, toes, even hair crossed. We should know more early to mid Saturday.
The doctors are starting worry about his kidneys and lungs, but he has not been put on dialysis yet and the inhalation therapist said he's not seeing worrying fluids in Joe's lungs. He's being closely monitored.
We got all the poster boards that supporters signed at Tuesday night's vigil. With the help of long-tall Trey Sikes we were able to get them all taped up on the walls along the side and foot of Joe's bed. When he starts waking up he'll see all the greetings and prayers from his friends. The nursers were amazed.
Thank you all so much.
Friday noon: Everyone, News of Joe's death went out prematurely, according to his main doctor. That doctor says monitor readings imply that Joe's brain may have herniated (sic) overnight. We called some folks with that news to give them the opportunity to come down and unfortunately that got out. Joe's vital signs, however, are not typical for a patient whose brain has herniated. There are no tests they can do at Joe's bed that will state exactly what his condition is now. His doctor says he is too unstable to move down to where they could do such a test. So, the doctor suggests that we wait another day or two to see what develops.
Joe's treatment is aggressive, but the doctor assures us he can feel no pain. We are still praying and ask that you continute too.
Thursday evening: Pressure readings, advice on stimulation or not and doctors' suggestions continue to whirl through all of our heads. Wednesday night and Thursday day were especially hard. The doctors say we should start getting some indication of where we're headed in the next day or two. I'm looking for something of substance.
Thanksgiving has been hard on us. Thanks had been in short supply until I got the time tonight to look at the outpouring of prayers and support on joe's patient page, caringbridge.org/visit/joeybear and on Facebook pages. The faces of all who have called and visited also bolster our spirits Tonight, through the window of Joe's hospital room the setting sun illuminated his face. I pray it was a sign.
Wednesday evening: The stream of visitors has been heartening and we've seen pictures from Tuesday night's prayer vigil. Thank you all very much for your concern and prayers.
Back to Joe: This morning, the health professionals decided they may be getting false readings so they changed out the monitor in Joe's skull. When Jan and I arrived for the 5:30 a.m. visitation, there were four or five professionals standing over his bed, working on him. It was terrorfying to see and sent me running from the intensive care unit. Jan was able to stay and I too went back a little later.
The professionals have kept us informed, to some extent too informed. I get upset when I see and hear things that I don't understand at all.
Wednesday afternoon: The setbacks continued Tuesday night into this morning. The pressure inside his head kept climbing to the point where they put him back on the drugs that keeps him in a deep coma. The doctor says he'll keep Joe in the coma into or through Friday, which is the usual limit for extreme swelling. We've got some visitors so I'll have to sign off for a while.
Tuesday morning: Joe had a pretty good night. He was weaned from the barbitute that was keeping him in a deep comma at about 8 Monday night. He was able to maintain an acceptable head pressure count well into the morning. At 6 or show it was still 10/14. Today has been different. The count climbed through the morning and was near the danger zone last time we heard at 11.
The roller coaster of emotions is weighing on us, but acts of kindness from friends and from strangers is helping ease the fear.
Monday morning update: Pressure in his Joe's skull has dropped a little. That's good, but he's still got a long way to go. His nurse this morning warned that the worse swelling could present itself starting later today through day 5/7. Let's pray.
Sunday afternoon: Two days after being injured in a car wreck on Isle of Wight Road Friday, Joe, my youngest son, is holding on. Unfortunately, his injuries included traumatic brain injury. We're not sure yet how bad it is. What I've been reading and what we've been told since he was flown to Shands Hospital in Jacksonville is that he will get progressively worse in the first 2-5 days after the injury.
And, unfortunately, my perception is that he has been getting worse. The medical staff working with him tell us that is to be expected. That doesn't make it any easier to see. And, they say, he's not out of the woods yet. That is hard to hear.
He was put in an induced coma this morning. His doctors, nurses and physician assistant say it was to keep pressure from building up inside his skull. It is the pressure they are worried about now. The pressure, they say, is of most danger to him. They say it is from swelling of his brain and a build up of fluids.
Jan says she is encouraged by the various readings on the machines Joe's hooked up to since the coma. I'm fixated on the same numbers but have given up trying to understand what they mean.
We have been getting lots of visitors and messages of support. We really appreciate it and welcome anyone who would like to come down, even though we aren't in the best of shape and often are not good hosts. And in most cases, people cannot visit Joe. His medical team wants to keep stimulation down until after they have stabilized the pressure, and then some. The staff at Shands have also been great.
I'll try to post some updates in coming days, but computer time is hard to get when you're competing with a hospital full of people filling time while they wait to see their injured loved ones and friends.