Beating All Odds, A Miracle Recovery

On April 24th , 2013 at around 6 pm, Cielo's last words to her husband were "I can't stay upright, I'm dizzy, I think I hit my head". Erik rushed her to the closest hospital emergency room making the 20 minute trip in 12 minutes through rush hour traffic. Moments after they arrived and they took her back she stopped breathing and had to be given CPR and placed on a respirator. Erik was asked why he didn't call 911 to which he responded " I was certain she had bleeding on her brain and I know every second is critical ". He was then told that he made the right decision because had she waited for an ambulance she would not have made it. After they confirmed the injury was in fact a bleed on the brain they informed Erik she would have to be airlifted to CMC Main Trauma Center for emergency brain surgery; The fall had fractured her skull and severed an artery which caused uncontrolled bleeding between the skull and the lining of the brain which formed a massive blood clot the size of a grapefruit. This was according to Dr. Couric, the chief of neurosurgery at CMC Main Trauma Center in Charlotte, who had successfully performed the operation only minutes prior to there meeting. Prior to the pressure being released and the clot removed the right side of her brain was pushed to the left. The doctors called it a center line shift. The shift was so great they believed it was not survivable. She was given a ten percent chance to live and we were told she would likely die within forty eight hours.

Forty eight hours came and went and although relieved as we were told her odds went up after surviving the critical 48, she was not even close to being out of the woods. After six days and still in a coma, the neuro-surgeons were pushing Erik to consider terminating Cielo's life by turning off the respirator and if that didnt do it, pull the feeding tube which would starve her to death. They even went as far as sending palliative care to try to convince him it would be the right decision. Others close to Cielo also wanted to terminate life support, believing those were her wishes. Erik told them" yeah your right she dosen't want to live in a vegitative state. THIS ISN'T A VEGITATIVE STATE. THIS IS A RECOVERY, GIVE HER A CHANCE." Her loving husband who spent countless hours researching online to learn as much about severe traumatic brain injury and the subsequent coma it caused in order to make the best decisions possible based on as much information as possible, refused to give up on his wife like they were doing with such disregard for life. Erik replied to some of these people who threw in the towel before the game has barely begun "There are 1.7 million head traumas per year in the US today. 200 thousand people are living in permanent vegatative states in the US right now. The average length of a coma is 1-2 months depending on severity. Obviously they don't all survive. Cielo has. The rest don't all end up in a permanent coma either. There are success storys from all over the world so what the heck is wrong with you people, give her a damn chance , Again, its been six days. How can anyone survive an injury like this when they arent even given a chance by the people who are supposed to help them. If this is what its like at other trauma units then this country has a serious problem. Convincing weak minded, Indifferent or uncaring family to terminate is tantamount to murder in my opinion. More than just statistics should be taken into account since everyone is different and so little is known about the brain". His opinion was right, at least in this case. He continued "Nobody knows Cielo like I do. Cielo is not a quitter she would never let herself be. She is the strongest and most stubborn person I know and I can't think of two better ways to be in order to survive and recover from a trauma such as this. No way Cielo will give up. She will give it everything she has and then some, so how can I give up on her. The neurosurgeons can't even come up with a with answers to my questions. I'm told that its a gray area. They can't answer because they don't have any clear answers. They just don't know enough about the brain and don't like to admit that to a regular guy like me. Other people have survived this, I now its a small fraction but you watch, Cielo ain't going out like that, and shame on anyone who dosen't think she deserves the chance to prove it." A few hours later Erik said "I've got to get her out of this ICU, I need people who know she can make it and want to give her the opportunity to make it around her". About 10 days later and after speaking with a doctor from the trauma unit, who are the team that take care of everthing the neuro's don't, Erik consented to allow the trauma docters to give Cielo a trachyostomy, an inferior vena cava filter and a feeding or peg tube. When asked why he would consent to those things by some others who still want to pull the plug Erik said " Two reasons. First reason is Cielo's comfort. Don't you see her choking and constantly gaging on those tubes jammed down her throat and see its obviously causing her distress, I need her to be as strong as possible so she can come back to me. The second reason is because she can't leave the ICU while intubated. Her best chance to get better is to get out of there. There is a doctor in the progressive care unit who has put himself on this case because he looked at her chart and scans and thought she will not only survive, but has a chance to make a full recovery. His name is Dr. Nunn and that's the kind of doctor we need on our side. You all know this. Look I don't care how painfull this is for you to see. This not about you or me or anyone else the only person that matters is Cielo and I'll be damned if i'm not going to give her the best possible chance to recover with or without your blessing. I've done my homework, I've done my due diligence, what have any of you done but sit around and feel sorry for yourselves and how much it hurts you. Seems your more troubled by what your having to go through rather than what Cielo is dealing with in order to live. Suck it up and give her your support, She needs everyone here to pull for her, besides I Thought you had an unshakable faith that God was going to fix her. Seems that faith is shaken after all. So why don't you try putting some faith in Cielo for once in your lives. I have all my faith in her and I know she will come back to me. She has too. I'm nothing without her. Its going to take a long long time but your sister will get through this. If anyone can do it, its Cielo. She got me through some of the darkest times in my life and now its my turn. I'm going to help her get through this with or without you or anybody else. luckily I have a lot of people behind Cielo and myself who support my faith in her".
Cielo was transfered the next day to the PCU. Two weeks later she woke with a low level of consciousness to Dr Nunn saying with a loud and stern voice, "CIELO I'M DR. NUNN. I'M HERE WITH YOUR HUSBAND ERIK, WE NEED YOU TO OPEN YOUR EYES" And although on very powerful sedatives to control seizures and neurostorming the miracle happend, she sat up and opened her eyes as if she was just sleeping and had a bad dream. Even before she opened her eyes, the will to fight and to live was evident. Now some of those doctors and the others started to see what Erik seemed to know all along. This isn't the end of the road, its the start of a long and hard road, but at the end of that road she gets her life back. Erik told me that he has been talking to her from day one and reminds her she needs to come back to him and the kids and that she needs to show the doctors she is fighting to comeback. he would tell her to try to open her eyes and don't get frustrated if you can't just yet it will take time but just keep fighting and you will come back to us. You just keep trying. He also repeated over again and again to try communicate with him by blinking her eyes twice for yes and once for no. although her eyes weren't open at the time she eventually did that by pressing her lids together hard. When he couldn't tell because of involuntary movement she pressed them closed harder and paused so he could tell the difference. he said holy cow that's problem solving, I knew you were in there C. he didn't tell any one for a while about this for fear of being labeled a desperate man who see's what he wants to see by the staff. Four weeks after the accident she has gone from what doctors termed a vegetative state with no neurological activity to a low level of consciousness with continued improvement.

Through all of this her husband has not left her side which means he has not been able to work. So they have lost two incomes for now. This tragedy is financially destroying them, threatening the loss of their home and vehicles and all the while medical bills are piling up. Eventually Cielo will be released and the home you know and are comfortable with is imperative for recovery. The state of South Carolina has no disability insurance unlike NY and CA the only two who do, and there are few funds available to them and fewer places for help. Cielo's on going care will continue for several years and continue to be a drain on their finances which were already strained due to Erik being in the construction field and the economy being what it is. Any donations received would help with the care she needs for her recovery and help safeguard all they have worked for and deserve to keep. Put yourselves in their shoes, could you do it by yourselves. If so then congratulations your very fortunate and I hope you never have to find out if your right. In the real world these things unfortunately happen and very few can handle the many many challenges and pitfalls that come along with these unfortunate events. They say it takes a village to raise a child, what do you think it will take to prevent the destruction the lives built by a husband and wife unwillingly cast into the hardest and most painful situation they could be in and all in the blink of an eye.

I used to wonder if miracles really happened? I believe in them now. Her tenacious will to live and her powerful love for her husband, her husbands steadfast love and unshakable faith in her, dedicated family and loyal friends along with a handful of amazing doctors and nurses who cared enough to try, has given her the best chances. She is proving most doctors and medical teams wrong. Now with the transfer to the Carolina's Rehabilitation Center and the upgrade of her consciousness to emerging responsive its pretty clear Cielo is as strong as my son had been repeatedly saying to anyone who would listen from day one. She really is an inspiration to me and most anyone who has seen the truly amazing story unfold in front of their eyes. Now, while Cielo is fighting so hard for a full recovery, having to learn how to do everything over again like walk, talk and scores of other things we all take for granted every day; Erik is fighting to keep their lives from collapsing under the weight of finances, trying to return to work and having to take over both roles in their home all while being there for his wife and being there to learn the proper care needed in order to help take care of Cielo when she returns home. As many of you know sometimes it takes more than one miracle to happen in order to get through a tragedy such as this. Please help give them the best chance for both a full recovery for Cielo and a financial recovery for the both of them. Nobody could handle this alone.

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Elsie Tornetto 
Matthews, NC
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