Caring for Caitlin
At 11:45am on April 26th, I got a call from my mom, and when I picked up the phone I knew immediately that something was wrong. She choked back her tears on the other end of the phone, saying, "We're at Lehigh Valley Hospital Kyle . . . it's your sister. She was in a car accident, and it's bad . . ." And my mom told me all of the trauma that devastated my sister's body. Two collapsed lungs. A shattered skull. Broken nose. A broken leg. Broken arm. Broken collarbone. Bleeding in her brain. Endless injuries that I knew nobody could survive. And I couldn't believe it when my mom told me that she was alive, and that she was in critical condition, and that she was fighting for her life. It didn't make sense that somebody could survive an accident so devastating. It was a miracle.
And no sooner did I hear she was alive, I was driving to the hospital. I got there to find my dad waiting for me outside of the ICU. He took me into a room, put his arm around me, and broke down crying, telling everything he knew about his daughter's condition. I've never seen him lose control like that before . . . I've never seen anyone so scared before. And so we went in to see Cait. And no matter what I was expecting, nothing could have prepared me to see her like that. My parents told me to talk to her, but I couldn't choke out the words I wanted to say. My beautiful sister was twisted and mangled and bleeding, and she was connected to a thousand tubes and wires and pumps that were the thread by which she was barely hanging onto life. I saw all the people that love her so much surrounding her: our mom, our dad, aunt, uncle, and cousin, all sobbing and terrified. I looked at our mom and dad and knew that this is something that no parent should ever be put through; they should never have to see their daughter in this hospital bed.
But I know my sister, and she is a fighter. She's one of the strongest people I know. She astounds anyone that she comes across. She is incredible. She will battle this with everything she has.
Her future recovery will be long and hard, taking years to rehabilitate her mind, her body, and her spirit. We are so grateful for the many thousands of prayers already given for Caitlin, as we know she is in God's hands now, and we trust in Him to deliver her from her pain and suffering. We look forward to the day she will be healed, and we humbly pray for a miracle that will bring this precious child back to us all. We know Caitlin would rather be the one providing help to someone else, not receiving it.
Currently Caitlin is in a trauma neuro intensive care unit, still in critical condition. She is in a coma, with the doctors unable to say for sure when she will awaken, and in what state. She is surrounded by a mother and father who cannot leave her side, having to endure an unfathomable challenge for two loving parents – always wishing that they could switch places with her. And so we're praying, and hoping, and holding onto every sign, no matter how small, that Cait will come back to us. We are trusting and putting our faith into the incredible staff at the Lehigh Valley Hospital to care for her and revive her. We're desperately praying that there's a reason that she survived that crash. That she will surface from this coma, and come back to be the daughter, friend, and sister that we cannot imagine living without. Because she is too amazing to leave our side and to be gone from this world. Because she has always been astonishing, and because we would expect nothing else of Caitlin than to climb insurmountable obstacle.
I know many of you who read this might not know my sister, but let me tell you. She is one of the most determined people I've met in my life. She's giving, and caring, and a better big sister and friend than I ever could have asked for in my life. She has guided me through everything in life. She spent four years of her life volunteering and raising money to find a cure for pediatric cancer, and devoted herself to a family whose child battled pediatric cancer. She changed the lives of that family, and so many more; the work that she's done with THON has impacted so many. She's an active member in her church and community. She coaches youth swimming, with a whole team of kids who love her and rely on her. And ultimately, she is somebody I would trust with my life, and somebody I want to be an aunt to my children one day.
With the extent of the traumatic injuries to her body and her brain, her treatment and care will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and most likely go into the millions. It's an amount of money that my parents and I could never even begin to fathom how to raise. So we're asking – not for us, but for Caitlin – to donate to help make her better. This is the toughest battle she will ever fight, and my family is desperately asking for help to help bring Caitlin back to us, and give her back to the world.
We had a meeting yesterday with the Doctor and Medical staff at Good Shepard Rehab Hospital. Caitlin continues to show small signs of improvement. She has been out of the coma for about 11 weeks now and they feel that she goes back and forth between an 'awake' state and an 'aware' state. An awake state means she has sleep cycles, not that her eyes are open and seeing what is happening around her. An aware state means she is responding to simple commands/stimulus and is minimally conscious. The goal is to get her to a minimally conscious state but it has been challenging.
Her body is healed and she is on medications to calm her brain while trying not to sedate her too much so that therapy may be productive. The general theme we heard from nurses and therapists is that she responds to commands/stimuls sometimes but her response is not consistent. As they have reduce meds that make her more lethargic she has become more restless making physical and occupational therapies more challenging. Hopefully, she will show a more consistent response as her brain heals and she gets more control of her body.
For the most part, Caitlin has been breathing through a trache but she is able to tolerate about 30 minutes of breathing in through the trache and out through her nose/mouth via a 'speaking' valve that is placed in the trache. This lets air in but closes when she breathes out, forcing the air over her vocal cords and through her mouth/nose.
Caitlin also had a test performed on her eyes yesterday to check if they are functioning. What they can tell is that light entering her eyes is getting to the optic nerve and both eyes appear to be functional. However, it is not known whether or not her brain is actually able to process any images. She does open her eyes and seems to track sounds but, again, it is not a consistent response.
At this point, the plan is for Caitlin to be at the Good Shepard Rehab hospital for at least another 7 weeks. Hopefully, she continues to improve and responds more consistently to commands/stimulus as she moves into the desired minimally conscious state.
Thank you for keeping Caitlin in your prayers and for your continued support of her and our families.
Caitlin was in the TNICU in Lehigh Valley Cedar Crest for four weeks. While there, she underwent multiple surgeries to heal all of her broken bones. All of the surgeries went very well, and the plastic surgeons said that the surgery on her face went so well that she likely won't look any different than she did before the accident! She spent much of the time in the ICU breathing with the help of a ventilator, but now she is off the ventilator and breathing on her own!
She was moved out of the TNICU to Good Shepard rehabilitation facility on May 23rd (two days before her 23rd birthday), where she still currently is. She's made a lot of progress at Good Shepard -- breathing on her own, healing physically, and beginning to progress physically and mentally in ways that we haven't seen before. The nurses, doctors, and physical therapists believe that she is responding to commands such as "wiggle your toes" and "give us a thumbs-up", and there are times where she will open her eyes and look at people in the room! While she's still considered to be in a coma, these are all very progressive steps that give us an enormous amount of hope.
In the coming weeks, the medical professionals at Good Shepard will continue to rehabilitate her and give her the therapy that she needs. As she continues this promising progress, her next step will most likely be brain therapy.
My parents, family, and I are so grateful and indebted to everyone who has donated thus far. We're so blown away and awed and speechless to how incredibly kind people have been to our family in support of my sister. I wish there was a way we could express just how much everybody has helped, and how you've all inspired my family and I to be much better people because of your kindness and altruism.
We love you all, and I can't wait to give you guys more news of the progress Caitlin is making! We haven't stopped having faith and hope for this girl, and the progress she's made already is such a blessing beyond what we were expecting!
I'm just a bystander on FB and I will pray for a speedy recovery, but I do have some advice. I have been a caregiver / home provider for my nephew that suffered a brain trauma, out of the country, September 3, 2015- due to a fall in his home in the Caribbean. He was life flighted to Broward Medical Center ICU in Fort Lauderdale. He spent 3 weeks there and then I offered my home to my sister, nephew and his dad - here in Scottsdale AZ- he had injured the speech/writing/ reading part of his brain and could not speak. Extensive therapy was needed, for a long duration. I had room and Barrows Neurological Institute is in Phoenix- one of the best in the world- CTN program - the Center for Transitional Neuro Rehabilitation had the solution - he needed communication help- how to speak, write and read again. He was 21. He was depressed and felt hopeless, sullen, angry, difficult to live with- often the case with brain trauma. After a year and a half of daily therapy- he lived with me and they provided transportation/ classes/ therapy daily- he graduated three days ago on May 4, - giving a speech in front of hundreds- doctors, therapists, family, friends and fellow patients- 25 graduated on Thursday. Tears were the norm for the entire audience. He is now back to life, works at a paint ball company downtown Phx- joined a paintball team( he did this prior to his accident) and also holds a second job at a new Marriott opening May 8. People come from all over the world for the CTN program- when your sister gets out of ICU- and she will- get in touch with Dr. Pam Klonoff at CTN Barrows and begin the road to recovery - so many patients/ graduates were in car accidents - some years ago- and they are back to 'themselves' - life has some bumps and this is a big one, but not insurmountable. Good luck and God speed for a sure recovery. I hope this helps.
I wish we could reach out to everyone of you that have donated and/or have shared this page and personally thank you! Know that we are reading your posts and it warms our hearts to know there are so many pulling for Caitlin, even people who have never met her! Thank you and God bless you all!
The human brain is the most powerful thing in God's creation. I want to encourage you Caitlin as you join millions of people who have shown us the marvelous miracle of brain regeneration. There is a great neurologist Dr. Caroline Leaf (also on facebook) who lectures and writes about people like you Caitlin. Your family may want to consider finding some of her research to encourage and guide you to full recovery. May God bless you as you become a very public tool in the Redeemers hands; demonstrating His love and His victory in your complete health. Much love to you! (mom of David Means from PSU swim club)
Can we get another update on her condition? I am sure every one would like to know how she is doing?