Brian Ortner's spinal injury recovery fund

$110,375 of $150,000 goal

Raised by 1,765 people in 28 days
Created July 22, 2019
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On Saturday July 20, 2019 the Wisconsin Rapids area was hit with severe storms that caused major damage throughout town.  My husband Brian Ortner is a lineman for the local telephone  company and was called out to work.  As I understand it, he was clearing debris off of telephone lines when the limb swung and hit him in the back.  Luckily the line he was trying to cut it off of kept the tree from completely pinning him to the ground or we most likely would have lost him.  He immediately could not feel his legs.  He was rushed to Marshfield by ambulance where we learned of his devastating injuries.  He has an unstable T8 (thoracic) burst fracture that severed his spinal cord.  He has a left femoral neck (hip) fracture, C6 (cervical) spinous process fracture, T9 & T10 transverse process fractures, left rib fractures 6-10, and the 7th right rib.  Currently he feels nothing from the chest down and that will not change.  The neurosurgeon told us that we are lucky that he is even alive.  People with that severe of injury usually do not make it to the hospital, which is what makes Brian's surgery so risky.  The bone of his spine is pressing on his aorta (the major blood vessel off your heart).  He went into surgery this morning around 10am to stabilize his spine.  We are told the surgery will take 8-10hrs.  With that surgery comes the risk of his paralysis moving up to affect his diaphragm.  If that is the case he will likely be sedated with a breathing tube for the next few days with the hope that the swelling would go down and he will be able to breath on his own again.  He will also have an NG tube in his nose.  The good news is they told us it is VERY unlikely that he would lose the use of his arms after this surgery.  I am so greatful for that!  It sounds like we will be here for the next 2-3 weeks and after that I need to try and get into a spinal cord injury rehab center.  So far we have been told Denver is the best one.  The reality of our situation is that our lives are forever changed from this moment on.  The home that we have lived in for the past 15yrs, where we brought our babies home to will no longer be a home we can have.  It is an old home that has 3 levels and too narrow of doorways for his wheelchair.  And the icing on the cake is that today (surgery day) is our son Bennett's 8th birthday.  This is not at all where we imagined we would be, but here we are.  And I am sure there are many things in the future we can not foresee.  Please pray for Brian today for him to make it out of this risky surgery safely, and pray for us all in the future as we learn to deal with this tragedy.  Thank you for all of the thoughts, prayers, and offers to help.  I don't like to ask for it, but we will need it.   -Amy
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Day 20. Have I every told you that I hate rollercoasters? I don't mind small or medium ones that give you more side to side movements, maybe a few little ups and downs, but I absolutely hate the ones with big drops. Well today was a big drop. I should have know that the day was gonna be a total shit show when it started with me dumping my oatmeal on the ground in the 4th floor bistro. I took the kids up there to eat breakfast and as I was in line Bennett was over by the soda machine getting himself a Sprite for breakfast! I turned around to tell him hell no and took the tray with me spilling oatmeal and brown sugar all over the floor. Figured life happens, clean it up move. Next we were a bit late for wheelchair class. It was Brian's first time in that class and we were technically on time by "Craig time" standards, but I know it bothers Brian being late. Wheelchair class was great. It is in a big gym and they have wheelchairs in there that are used to play basketball and are built a little different than regular wheelchairs. They let the kids be in them in the center while Dad and another guy Chad did their warm up. They had Brian going backwards blue line. Of course Bennett almost got himself kicked off of the chair for not following directions (shocker) but luckily did not loose that privilege. They then took us outside. 1st showed Brian how to open a door not using the auto open button. Then we went down a 4-5 blocks while they taught Brian what angles to enter the road off of curbs, and how to pop over higher bumps in the side walk. I think this is where the honeymoon with the kids ended for me. They were too hot, too tired, and Bennett was freaking over the damn bees. So I told Brian I would walk back with the kids and meet him for FES bike. Guess what we missed? Brian doing stairs with his wheelchair! He was beaming when he told me about it. He even had them take pictures. So our friends Melissa and Wait came to watch Brian in the gym. After I had Melissa take the kids and I to get something for Brian's birthday.We started heading to Dick's sporting goods. I wanted to get Brian some longer basketball shorts. He isn't a fan of most of the pairs he has now because well they don't like you wearing underwear after a spinal cord injury, or at least not right away, and he is a bit afraid his boys might hang out! Well as we get about 10min away Bennett says Mom I peed. I was like a little? Cause he has done that before, gotten busy and had a little leak out and he was like no, a lot. ARE YOU KIDDING ME KID? In a rental vehicle now? Argh. So tried not to be a jerk Mom since these kids are dealing with so much right now and don't know how to process, but still hard not to be a jerk Mom in that moment. We went back got him and the car cleaned up, and carried on. Then Aubs melts down. Probably cause it is hot and not enough water, ect. Get that under control, eat some cheese curds at Culvers and start heading back, hit traffic, take a different way around and get a call from Wait. During OT Brian was leaning over and there was a loud pop or snap so they are waiting to see the doc. So I get back, the Waits take the kids, I go by Brian. Docs give us the yeah it probably is nothing but lets get xrays....guess what....spiral fracture of the left leg (femur)where his nail or screw was (lower than original injury). Are you fucking kidding me right now? Deep breath. Brian cried more today than I have seen him do through out this entire journey. I don't know how to help him. I have been with the man for 18yrs and I don't know how to comfort him. Sometimes he just needs alone time to take it all in and that is what I gave him tonight. He didn't want a hug or to hold my hand, he just needed to take it all in and watch some football and not think about it, cause he does NOT want to have another surgery and he does NOT want to have any set backs, but here we are yet again. It is not alright, so I guess it isn't the end, but I am getting a little tired of the 1 step forward 14 back. And I know he is too.
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Day 19. The kids have arrived!!!! It was a tearful reunion. I pretty much lied to myself thinking I wouldn't cry, and then my kids got out of the car and ran to me. Like actually ran to me, and I don't think besides their births I have had a better feeling in my life. And then they saw Dad and I think were afraid to hurt him at first and then once they knew they wouldn't break him it was just like it always was. Brian is telling everyone (including me) to use our inside voices. I am carrying around 8 and 10 year old kids because I still can, Aubrey and Bennett are poking at each other and Dad is telling them to stop touching everything and keep your fingers out of your mouth! Ha! The kids both got to tie dye shirts and we were able to see lots of puppies! Still trying to decide which breed we will need. It is so much fun to see all the dogs! The kids also took turns pushing Dad in his wheelchair and helping him in his lift. Both are so careful with Dad. Aubrey is just taking it all in and Bennett is firing question after question.
Melissa took the kids and I to Target and Wait hung back with Scotty. I can't tell you enough how lucky we are to have them in our lives! So happy they were able and comfortable bringing the kids out to us. Wait said when they pulled up and were looking for me they couldn't see me, so Mitzy rolled down the window and asked Bennett if he could smell me. He said nope I can't smell the love! Ha. That kid cracks me up. He also struck up a conversation with someone in Eau Claire last night when the Waits and kids were out walking their new puppy. Someone stopped to see the pup and Bennett started telling them how he was going to Colorado to see his Dad who was hurt by a tree. And they said the lineman? We read about your Dad! Just crazy how many people our story has reached.
We were able to check in to our AMAZING apartment up the road. Craig really does try to think of everything. That place is so nice and so homey. I will be sad to move out from sleeping in the room every night with Brian but it will be nice to have a space away from here where the kids can spread out a bit.
The kids got lots of Dad snuggles in. Each took their turn snuggling in bed with him. Bennett needs to maybe snuggle on the right side away from the majority of Dad's broken ribs. He was snuggling in a little too much and Brian was making an OUCH face but when I asked if I should move him he said no. I think it was worth the pain. Somethings are.
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Day 18. Wow. 18 days out here. 18 days without our kids. It has been so hard and yet easy in some ways. When the accident happened I just went into do mode. And after we got through the surgery and I realized how much support we were going to get (emotion, spiritual, financial, and more) it allowed me to just focus on the tasks at hand. And we knew the kids were in good hands with everyone they were with. I know they have had so much fun with everyone they have been with. And we even have good cat care too! Our cat Squeaks is 17 and I was worried he would die from a broken heart with us gone for so long, but we have a great cat sitter Tori, and have had others stop to snuggle the Squeaks too. And we have great neighbors who keep an eye on our house. I know I say it alot, but we are so lucky!!!! And tomorrow is the day. We have made it 18 days without our kids and tomorrow is the day. Only 1 more sleep. Actually only like 12 more hours til I get to hug and kiss my babies. I can not wait! And to the lovely Marshfield SICU neighbor of ours Sue, who gave us a Target gift card to use for the kids and another sweet couple who sent gift cards for the kids to use at Target, I plan to take them tomorrow, hopefully to get Bennett some Legos to keep him occupied! I never know what Aub will want but she isn't usually the one I have to keep busy! Thank you!!
Today was a GREAT day! We went on our first outing through T Rec and it was to Red Rocks. I welled up just driving up there. Mostly because that is who I am, a crier. I am done trying to fight it, but I welled up because it is just that beautiful. A friend posted a quote from Bob Ross that said you need the dark to see the light and we both saw the light today. It is truly breath taking. Brian did great, not too uncomfortable until the ride back. He said that was a bit rough. But by that time I think pain meds were probably starting to wear off and he was getting tired. We both got back, ate lunch, and took a long nap. Then we got up and ate outside of his room (1st time!) and even took a roll down the road to check out the nearest barber shop. The guy needs a hair cut already Michele! This is a huge step for him to want to leave the comfort of his room. Big big day!!!
Thank you all for continuing to share our story through talking with coworkers, friends, family, and social media. The continued support is greatly appreciated. We will take all the help we can get! It is gonna be a long wild ride. We have had cards come from Georgia and I think Tennessee. So cool to see how far the story reaches. Most of the time it is people who know someone who knows us, but it is cool to see cards come from near and far. Brian's favorite card came from someone at my work place. Becky from Pharmacy sent a card and wrote what she called the best quote ever in it. The quote is "Everything will be OK in the end. And if it's not ok, it's not the end." I agree Becky. That is the best quote ever. Brian also agrees. He said keep that one. I like that quote.❤
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Day 17. Another day of changes. Today Brian got his Foley catheter out. For those of who may not know what that is it is a tube put in Brian's bladder to help him drain his urine. The cath stays in all the time and empties into a bag attached to his leg and then you empty the urine from the bag. Not pleasant but convenient. I know Brian didn't like it cause he always wanted to wear pants to cover up the bag. So yeah it is out but now onto a whole new stressful ballgame. So Brian has zero sensation below his chest so he will have to use a cath for the rest of his life but he has now progressed to a self cath. Something he can do all on his own but it is a lot. It takes planning and timing. He has to count what he drinks and what he pees. And it seems like a lot more comes out than goes in! They do not like his bladder to be over 500ml of urine. If it gets too full the urine can back up into the kidneys and cause problems over time if it continues to happen. So he has to count everything that goes in and cath every 3-4hrs. And it doesn't take much to get to 500ml. They say 300-500ml is a good output to stay around. Well a little carton of chocolate milk is 237ml! We learned a 20oz soda is 700ml!!! So he can't even have a 20oz soda or if he does he has to plan according. And never before have we ever worried about where we go to the bathroom. We all take how easy that is for granted. Now we have to worry if we have all the supplies we need. We never needed supplies but now we do. Lots of them. Catheters, gloves, cleaning supplies, ect. And you have to be careful so everything stays clean so he doesn't get a UTI, and he has to set an alarm at night to turn and cath himself. It just seems like a lot. Wait it does not seem like alot IT IS A LOT. When we got here Brian said he never thought about all that goes with being paralyzed. He just thought we would get out here, they would throw him in a chair and teach him how to use it and send him home. He soon learned there is much much more to this. And I guess that is why I am sharing it with you. I am sure my husband doesn't want any body to look at him and think any different of him than you have, but it is different. And he shouldn't be embarrassed at all. This is life for him now. For us. And we are lucky he has a life to live. Brian today in our psych session said this isn't what he wants, but what he has to deal with. He is nervous about going to far from his comfort zone but Asma provided suggestions to help which was great. She said baby steps. Use the bathroom in our apartment when the kids come first. Use a public bathroom in the building here before going to a resturante, but don't let this stop you from going places. And I can see how it easily could. It has to be done every 3-4 hours otherwise his AD acts up. AD is automatic dysreflexia- it is where if something is wrong where Brian can't feel (stubbed toe, full bladder, ect) then his body will do something to warn him. For him if his bladder is full he spikes a fever and gets really sweaty. Now there are work arounds. We had talked with our counselors how that totally sucks because he won't even be able to have NA beer cause he will have to go to the bathroom ever 30min and Brian will pretty much live in the bathroom! Or what about when we ice fish and there is only hand sanitizer and not the cleaners area to work with? She said there are work arounds. She said if it was a specific event or thing you wanted to do you can put in a Foley cath for short term. She had 1 person who was paralyzed in college and he told her drinking is part of my life, my college experience. I have a designated cather. Now that is a new one but made me laugh. I know we (he) will figure it out. It will be 2nd nature shortly but it just seems pretty unfair at the moment.

Now on to the good news. Brian put in his contacts for the 1st time since the accident. All went well with that. We had a new nurse today David who used to live in Wisconsin. He moved around a lot because his Dad farmed for different people and one of the places he lived was Greenwood, Wi. Brian's hometown. I told him his childhood sounds just like Brian's! I think Brian attended 6 schools from K-5th grade because his Dad farmed for others as well. We didn't get a chance to talk too much cause he had to do a lot of teaching with us today and we had a busy day with classes but we hope to have him or at least see him again to chat.
Chuck worked Brian hard in PT and at the gym. He did exercises on his stomach and really worked hard on his arms, shoulders, and range of motion. Brian claims he is more flexible now than before the accident. I rode the free trolley to Walmart. I know I have had a ton of offers to take me anywhere I want to go but I just needed to do it myself.
The kids arrive in only 2 more sleeps and we can't wait. We have our passes that we can go off campus public transportation if we want, but I have a feeling we will stay close to "home" it is supposed to be 98 Sunday and this Colorado heat is no joke!
Sorry for the too much information update. I just feel it shouldn't be something to be ashamed of so it should be ok to talk about the struggle of the life we are going through, the life he is going through.
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$110,375 of $150,000 goal

Raised by 1,765 people in 28 days
Created July 22, 2019
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