Medical & health needs

Wind Beneath My Wings
My name is Grayson Ann Sheringham and I am writing to tell you about my hero, my father, Danny Cox. My dad was born on March 7, 1959 by his mother LuVerne and his father Dan Cox. Following him 5 years later, on May 30, 1964 was his brother Daryl Cox. My dad was for the most part a good kid, playing outside, usually climbing trees, fishing, or riding his bike. He attended school at Erwin in Center Point, Alabama. He started playing football when he was twelve years old. He played full back on offense and nose guard on defense and was a pretty good player but decided to hang it up his junior year to work. My dad also joined the wrestling team his freshman year but decided not to pursue it any longer because it interfered with football and football was his love. He got a job at K-mart only to work there for 6 months. He had to give that job up because he slipped and fell at work one day, fracturing his spine, causing him to wear a back brace his senior year. My father graduated from Erwin High School in 1977. After high school he worked with his best friend Bill Ellis doing construction work. Then something very tragic happened to his brother, Daryl, on October 25, 1980. Daryl was in a real bad car wreck and it took a long time for him to recover. Daryl was in the hospital for months and had one of the best nurses you could ask for, Jean Alexander. Jean stood by Daryl’s side, did extra things for him, and became really close to the Cox family. Ironically enough, my dad knew a good thing when he saw it and starting dating Jean. Daryl had multiple surgeries and lots of time spent doing physical therapy. He later found out, five years after the accident, that the blood transfusion had given him AIDS. Daryl’s wreck made my dad think long and hard about his life, he wanted to change it, he wanted to make it better, and that he did. He quit construction and went on to EMT school, volunteered as a fireman and became a medic on an ambulance. I guess my dad had a good year in 1982 because he married Jean on June 6, 1982 and joined the Odenville Police Department in September. Eight months later they sent him to the Police Academy. He quit doing paramedics to focus more on being a police officer because he enjoyed it a lot more. From what I hear my dad was one of the best cops around, facts must prove it because he became Chief of Police a year after joining Odenville Pd. My parents then had my brother Dan Cox (aka Trey) on September 5, 1984. My father left the Police Department in 1985 to better provide for his family by working at his parents cleaning business and at Jeffrey Bayer as a Property Manager. My mother and him moved in to my grandparent’s house and expanded the cleaning company to Panama City Beach, Florida. In September of 1988 my parents bought a house in Homewood, Alabama and had me, Grayson Ann, on October 31. My father and his parents closed the business down a year later in 1989. My dad then went on to work at Nassau Vision as a sales representative. Six to eight months later he got a promotion as Nassau’s sales manager and another six to eight months after that they made him southeast and southwest regional manager. We had it all back then with my parents annual income being $120,000. Some would say we were living the American dream, but there was something missing. My dad was never home and my mom was always exhausted from working in the emergency room at UAB full time, being a full time mom, with both kids that played sports, and being a full time house wife. Our little family had it all from what it seemed but we just had to slow down. In order for us to do that my parents made a decision to move out of the city environment in Homewood to a very small town in Argo Alabama on Christmas Eve in 1996. The cost of living was not as high there and the lifestyle was more laid back. I remember pulling up to this small house the first time and thinking my parents are crazy. I liked being a block from my elementary school and across the street from my best friends, but I had no other choice, I was only eight years old. This house was small, old, and needed a lot of updating. We planned on totally renovating the house and starting over. I learned how to use a hammer, how to sand sheet rock, and I was learning from a good teacher, my father. We got a lot done in what seemed a short period of time, my dad even changed jobs. He started working at Logo of Paris, an optical company. Then on September 13, 1997 something happened that would forever change all of our lives. I will never forget that day; I was only nine years old. My mom, my brother and I were on the back porch assisting my dad,he was doing some work on the roof that was going to be mom and his bedroom. It was a beautiful day out and we were actually having fun just spending time together and then I hear my father scream and if you know my father, you know he does not scream just for any reason. The next thing I hear is my mom yelling my dad’s name and I look up only to see my father fall off of the roof, after hanging by a two by four for a split second. I knew he was hurt and it scared us all. After waiting for thirty minutes for the ambulance to get there, they finally got him off to the hospital. After waiting for what seemed like forever, the doctors told us that my dad had broken his shin in one place, shattered his ankle in eight places, and fractured his spine. They told us because the swelling was so bad that my dad would have to wait a few days for it to go down in order to perform surgery. He laid in the hospital for eight days and the swelling had finally gone down enough for them to perform surgery, putting a external fixator on his left leg. External fixation is a method of immobilizing bones to allow a fracture to heal. This procedure is done by placing pins and or screws into the bone on both sides of the fracture. The pins are secured together outside of the skin with clamps and rods. The clamps and rods are known as the external frame. Let me just tell you that the external fixator was very scary looking to me, especially being only nine and it being on my daddy’s leg. Two days after having the surgery my dad finally got to come home. He would then have to clean where the pins went through the leg and where the screws went into the leg twice a day for six weeks. I helped him clean those wounds several times and every day before school I would put the coffee pot beside him so that he could have his “coffee fix” without having to get up in the mornings. Dad lost his job at Logo of Paris, and with the first surgery being about 115 thousand dollars, we started to going through savings and retirement money. After six weeks of wearing this thing around his leg and tons of pain, we find out that the pins were loose the whole time and my dad’s bones were just floating around in there. Basically my dad sat in excruciating pain for over a month for nothing. The doctors then concluded that my dad had caught staph infection from the surgery. Staph Infection is also called Staphylococcus Aureus and is a group of bacteria that can cause a multitude of diseases as a result of infection in various tissues of the body. Having staph infection can range from mild and no treatment needed to severe and potentially fatal. In my dad’s case, they wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible by performing a procedure called debridement. Debridement just means the removal of a patient’s dead, damaged, or infected tissue to improve the healing potentially of the remaining healthy tissue. After this procedure was done, they put my dad in a cast for three weeks. This procedure caused my dad to have Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, also known as RSD. RSD is a condition characterized by diffused pain, swelling and limitation of movement. The symptoms are way out of proportion to the injury, it can linger long after the injury is healed and it is the most painful chronic disease there is. After lots of pain and three weeks with a cast on, the doctors performed another debridement procedure and put on another external fixator. After six long weeks of more pain and cleaning the wounds twice a day, he had the second and last external fixator removed along with another debridement procedure done. This was my dad’s most painful surgery in the 27 that he has had so far. His doctor told him the pain during this procedure is equivalent to someone having bone cancer and that my dad is the strongest man he has ever known to make it through this procedure the way he did. Dad went inn on a Monday; they cut him open, scrapped his bone, put antibiotic beads inn, and left the wound open. On Wednesday they went in and did the same thing then again on Friday. On Friday they also sewed up the wound and put in a mid-a-port into his chest. A mid-a-port goes in your chest, around your heart, and into your stomach. It is done to provide high doses of I.V. antibiotics to try and get rid of the staph infection. (It was not successful in getting rid of the staph.) He was still in a ton of pain but the doctors told us the infection was gone so my dad just tolerated the pain like the strong man he is. Six months later we find out that the Staph Infection was never gone; it was just steadily growing, and killing some bone in his leg. So dad had to have a bone graph where they took out the piece of bone in his ankle that had already died from infection, and put in a bone that they had to remove from his hip. (This hip bone is called the illiec crest and the part of the ankle bone that had died off was in the tibia fibula area of the ankle.) They put the hip bone in place of the dead bone in order to prevent from having to amputate his leg. They also had to fuse his ankle. Fusing the ankle makes it to where your ankle can only stay flexed; it does not allow you to move your ankle side to side or to point your toes. They do that in order to give the new bone a chance to hold because when you have too much movement it will not allow the new bone to grow. He was in the hospital for four days this time and still in a ton of pain. It took him a couple of weeks to recover from that surgery and he just did not seem to be getting any better. With my dad being the stubborn, hard headed, compassionate, strong man that he is, he was completely determined to get out and start working again. Dad got a job at Butler Imports in 1998 as the National Sales Representative and taking a huge pay cut. Now this part of my dad’s story is when you learn what a strong and giving man he really is. Three months after having the bone graph done, the ankle fused, and working a new job, they found out that the procedure did not work and the new bone did not grow. The Doctors told dad that they would then have to give him a bone transplant. During this procedure they took a bone from a dead person, drilled a hole in the bottom of my dad’s foot, took a hammer and drove the six inch bone into the place where the dead bone was. Can you imagine having this done to you number one and number two waking up in the middle of this surgery? Well my dad did and I think it will forever haunt him, especially the noise he heard. My dad being the devoted dad he is, made the doctors release him only four days after his bone transplant. He wanted to be released so he could go watch my brother play football on Friday night, then go back to work that following Monday. During his two years working at Butler Imports, he had a couple more debridement surgeries, still trying to get rid of the staph infection and still in a lot of pain. Dad didn’t let it hold him down, he just kept on going. He would walk around a warehouse all day with an infected leg and never complain once because providing for his family was way more important to him. Around July of 2000, dad was in Charlotte, North Carolina on a business trip. He had stopped at a gas station to get gas and stepped down from the gas island the wrong way and broke his foot. I do not know how, but he finished working through the week in Charlotte with a broken, infected foot. He had to drive around a big show trailer with a clutch for the rest of that week. Then after he got his work in Charlotte done, he went on to drive that truck all the way to Alabama, an eight hour drive with a broken foot pressing a clutch over and over when stuck in traffic. (Wow, just thinking about that gives me chills and makes me tear up…what a strong willed man and he did it to provide for my brother, my mother, and for me. I think I deserve to say I really have the best dad I could ever ask for!) Dad came home and went to see his doctor; they upped his pain medication and gave him a walking boot. Dad worked on his feet with that walking boot and a broken ankle for three months, causing four stress fractures. His hard work for our family then caused the staph infection to grow, the RSD to get worse and to then learn he would have to have his leg amputated from the shin down. My father will tell me today that he was thankful that his doctor said they were going to have to amputate it. He would have never said that out loud during that time because he was so worried about how the family was going to take it. He told me he did not want us to think it was ok to give up, but little did he know, we never thought for a second he was giving up, not ever. Dad was was on massive amounts of pain medications and half the time he just was not himself. If he did not take the meds, which at times he would really try hard not to, he would be in terrible pain. Heck, he was in terrible with taking all of his pain meds. I remember lying in my bed some nights, just trying to go to sleep, but I couldn’t because I could hear him moaning in his sleep from all the pain. I would just cry and pray that God would take the pain away and it just seemed like he was never going to get better. I knew there was nothing I could do besides pray and be there for him and the rest of my family. I think we all are so stubborn (picking it up from my dad) that we would all try to hide the pain. I mean, it is never easy to see someone you love so much go through what my dad had already been through and what he was about to go through. The doctors wanted to amputate sometime in October but my dad was not having it. My brother had just torn his meniscus playing football and had to have surgery on his knee. My dad WAS NOT going to have his surgery before making sure my brother got taken care of. (Talk about awesome dad!) On December 7, 2000, we head to the hospital knowing that on our way home, daddy, husband, son, brother, and friend, will never be the same. As we sit in dad’s hospital room waiting on them to call him back for surgery, I realized that he was staying stronger than anyone else in that room. He did not shed one tear, he did not show fear in his eyes or say one negative thing and that made me want to cry more. Then we hear a knock at the door and it is his Doctor. (Doctor James Floyd.) He told my dad with water in his eyes, “Danny, I think it’s time, we have fought the good fight, we have done all we could, and I think it’s time to let it go.” Then they put him on a different hospital bed and brought him out to the hall so we could tell him we love him and good luck. My brother and I held his hands, told him we loved him and good luck and a tear rolled down my brother’s face, which did not happen often, and my dad looked up at him, shook his hand and said “It’s going to be okay son, cowboy up.” Everyone else said what they had to say and we waited patiently in the waiting rooms and when dad came back it was the craziest thing to me. I cannot even express the feelings that I felt or what was going on in my head, but I do remember at that point in time, I realized that dad would never be the same. I felt like he had basically sacrificed his leg providing for us. In that moment I realized that God really blessed our family with an amazing man. I have a hard time showing my admiration for him as coping with everything was never easy. (But that day, that day was something special. It was so hard to see him like that but I knew that it was for a reason, God had this in his plan for a reason! Maybe I am wrong, but I think it was to bring our family closer, to make us all stronger and because God knew that if anyone in this world could handle it, my dad could…and he did handle it and he still is handling it to this day.) He only stayed in the hospital one night after his amputation. His first night back, I wake up because I heard him scream and I think we all ran to him to see what was wrong. He had fallen down, he had forgotten that he no longer had a leg and tried to stand up to go to the bathroom. It broke my heart and he took it and made a joke about it. I just never got how he stayed so strong for us and how he just never gave up, no matter what. He eventually took himself off of the narcotics and took nothing but Motrin and antibiotics. He seemed to be getting better as the months went by; his RSD was even a lot better. He would get around on his crutches like he had done it his whole life but there was one thing that really bothered all of us, we did not know if he would be able to get prosthesis (fake leg) because of all the nerve damage that had been done. Over the two years, after his amputation, he had multiple debridement procedures done. They were still trying to get rid of all the staph infection which they would, but it seemed to always come back. Approximately two years after the amputation, they realized that he was growing neuromas in his stump. Neuromas are nerves that grow into a big ball of nerves and cause a ton of pain. You could barely touch the end of my dad’s stump and it would hurt him pretty bad. So they put him back in the hospital and he then had another surgery to remove the neuromas. He then got staph back in his stump and with that and the surgery his RSD flared up again and put him back on narcotics. He then had to have another debridement procedure done, this time being a lot worse than all the other times he had this done. They went in and cut open his stump and scraped it clean, left a big hole in the bottom of it and inserted a sponge that was about six inches in diameter along with a tube that was sealed air tight so they could use the tube to suction out the infected fluid from his stump. Every day for two weeks, the nurses would take out the sponge and tube from his stump and put in new ones in the open wound. When he was released from the hospital he had to pack the open wound with gauze two times a day for three months straight. He would have to jerk out the gauze so that it would pull out any dead skin and keep the skin from growing together. The hole needed to heal inside out to keep the risk of infection down. Mom stood by his side and helped him yank the gauze out two times a day. Months passed by and the wound just did not seem to be healing, some days it would look better and some days it wouldn’t look good at all. Then my uncle Daryl, he passed away on June 26, 2006. He had been getting really sick from the aids but this time he got ammonia and Daryl’s body could not fight it off and he passed. It was really hard for us, losing Daryl, but especially for my grandparents. They lost their first born, Margret Ann, three days after her birth; they have watched Daryl suffer since he was sixteen and my dad since he was thirty six. I cannot fathom what those two have had to go through, watching their kids go through all this pain and yet, they both remain so strong throughout it all. Two months after Daryl’s passing, my dad had to have a Femoropopliteal Bypass. A Femoropopliteal is also called a Fem-Fem Bypass. Fem-Fem bypass is used to bypass diseased blood vessels above or below the knee. To bypass the blocked blood vessel, blood is redirected through either a healthy blood vessel that has been transplanted or a man-made graft material. This vessel or grafter is sewn above and below the diseased artery so that the blood flows through the new vessel or graft. During this surgery, my dad stopped breathing. He was on a breathing machine (life support) for two days, in intensive care for four days, and in the hospital for a total of 30 days. You will never know what it feels like to lose an uncle and only 2 months later, my dad stops breathing. After seeing my uncle pass and going to the funeral and coping with a family death for the first times, then I see my dad not breathing was heart breaking and scary. The doctors then wanted to amputate my dad’s leg up a little higher, to his knee. We still do not understand the purpose for the second amputation, but my dad had it done and nothing really changed.
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Grayson Ann 
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Springville, AL
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