Jim Borelli - Spinal Cord Injury

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Raised by 64 people in 14 months
WHAT HAPPENED:  At 8:30 p.m. on March 26, 2018, my husband Jim Borelli was going up the steps to our second floor in our house where our bedroom is located.  He had an armload of freshly washed bed sheets to take up.  He kissed me and said he was heading up to bed early.  We have a 2 story house with the bedrooms and full bath upstairs.    Little did either of us know that 10 seconds later Jim would fall and become paralyzed.

I heard a sound I didn't recognize but heard Jim swear and then heard a tremendous clunk several times and then a very loud smash.  I thought the bedsheets Jim was carrying up got caught on a dresser handle or doorknob and the dresser crashed and broke apart.  I was hollering not to worry about the furniture as I jumped up and saw my Jim passed out cold at the bottom of the 15 steps to our 2nd level. 

He remembered losing his footing, cursing, and trying to grab the handrail or kick his foot out in the stairwell to stop the momentum of falling.  I grabbed the phone to call 911 and kept calling his name and tapping his cheeks as I was afraid he hurt his neck.  I remember hollering out "Don't you dare take him from me". 

2017 was a hard year with my kitty cat Zoey's sudden illness and we put her down in April.  The last week of Sept. my job was eliminated due to a merger, so I was suddenly jobless.  Four days later my mom suffered a massive stroke and died in hospice not even a week later.  In Nov. my lungs hurt and the pulmonologist diagnosed a lung nodule which thankfully dissolved.  With my loss of my mom, I was in no merry christmas mood and neither was Jim.  We put up a tree because I knew my mom would want me to have one.  Just had 2 presents to us from our daughter Jamie.

Jim had 4 surgeries since his fall.  His spine was fused and is held together in the correct position with metal plates and titanium rods.  He aspirated (swallowed something and it went down the wrong pipe as we might say), so he couldn't breathe and was on a respirator.  It got so bad that the doctor said he needed a tracheotomy which is basically cutting a hole in Jim's throat and inserting a breathing tube.  He does not remember anything from the first hospital.

Being a Vietnam Vet, Jim was transferred to the Milwaukee Zablocki VA Medical Center.  He was in several units and is now in the Spinal Cord Injury Unit.  What was so distressing was that Jim couldn't talk to us with the respirator in his throat.  We guessed at lip reading, brought in pictures of items he might need so he could nod yes or no,  another several sheets of words like "pain" or "stop" or "come here".    He finally had the breathing tube removed however he still has a bandage over the healing hole in his neck.  

Jim is paralyzed from the waist down and also his hands are limp including his fingers.  He was an active retiree (age 68) playing baseball with a number of teams, loved mowing the yard, and walking round the neighborhood, and visiting with neighbors.  He was the President of our Stonewood Homeowners Association.  Jim is very social and this accident could leave him paralyzed forever; however, it is still too early to say.

Jim is about 2 months out from completing his physical and occupational therapy at the VA.  He did complete his speech therapy which mostly consists of relearning swallowing and strengthening muscles so he doesn't choke.  He is still on tube feeding and just this past week got his first taste of pureed food.  Jim has a great sense of humor.  He said the scrambled eggs were like cotton candy because once they hit his mouth, they dissolved into nothingness.  He did like the waffle and coffee is really thick which is odd to me.

WHAT IS NEEDED:  With Jim coming home in 2 months, I have several household modifications that need to be done.

*Wheelchair ramp to house - I have this scheduled for installation on 6/20.  Thankfully the ramp is provided by the VA.

*Ramp from inside door to garage (2 steps down)
*Ramp from kitchen sliding doors to back porch (2 steps down)  The VA does not pay for these ramps.

*Doorway from living room to kitchen is too narrow and needs to be widened and have hardwood flooring installed where the drywall currently is.

*Handicap Van Cost.  I hunted down used wheelchair vans (Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country).   I have been searching for a minivan 3 years new with low mileage.   $30,000 to $35,000 for vehicle.   We based our goal of $35,000 primarily to cover a wheelchair accessible van.

*Medical Bills.  I have 3 bills from last Nov. that are still being processed so I do not know what the patient portion will be.   These bills are prior to Jim's spinal cord injury.  I just want all previous bills from 2017 paid to close out that year.  Jim has Medicare which covers a good portion of medical bills but not all.  Jim has been classified by the VA system as a veteran with a catastrophic injury.  

Medical Supplies.  I do not know what I will need but maybe slings, linens, specialized wipes like the hospital uses, compression socks, mattress protection pads in different sizes, Twin XL sheets for the hospital bed, clothing that is easily removed, and until he comes home, I am not sure what else.  

*Visits.  I truly need people to stop by and visit us so Jim feels he is still part of the community.  He is strong and a fighter and has made great progress.  He originally had no feeling in his body from the neck down.  Now even though his upper and lower arms can move, he cannot feed himself, bathe, even blow his nose or wipe his eyes.  I am more than willing to take the best care I can of Jim when he comes home.  The house is so lonely without him here.  We will have home nursing care provided.

HOW THE FUNDS WILL BE USED:    Before Jim comes home, I have to have the following ready.  Most important, the van.

Minivan with wheelchair/handicapped access to get to house. $30K -35K

Wheelchair and power station - VA to provide

Wheelchair ramp to get into house once home - VA to provide ramp to front door - they provide 1 ramp. 
Jim will also need a ramp to go from the house to garage and also a separate ramp to go from the house to the back yard.

An electrical ift is needed to get to 2nd floor which has the bathroom with shower facility (only powder room on 1st floor) and more importantly to get to the hospital bed on 2nd floor in spare bedroom.    The VA is submitting this request and is awaiting decision on approval or not.

Hospital bed delivered and taken to 2nd floor and set up - VA to provide.  

A lift to move Jim from bed to wheelchair and bath - VA should provide but it has to be delivered before Jim gets home or I can't get him into bed or into the bathroom.   I assume I need one for both floors of our house.  

Please help Jim Borelli by making a donation to this GoFundMe site to help pay for medical bills and expenses.  No donation is could be too small or too big.   

                                                                                             THANK  YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT,  

                                                                                                             Karn and Jim Borelli

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Jim Borelli Update 8.24.2018

Jim is now home and we are acclimating to medical life at home. We have an agency send in an aid for 2 hours from 10-12. We were supposed to have help on last Wed night and no one ever showed on Wed, Th, F, S, S, M, T and most likely not tonight. I have the social worker and OP nurse getting a second agency to take over pm visits for 2 hours. I am not good at being a 22 hour nurse on call every day. I'm wearing out on energy and emotions. The psych doc is arranging for someone to spend time with just me while Jim has therapies at the VA. Starts in 2-1/5 weeks.

Our wonderful neighbor lady Kathy Burmester-Cindriccame over early Mon morning and cut Jim's hair. It is short so it doesn't get tangled moving his head over the headrest on the wheelchair or pillows.

The VA sends a lot of supplies I don't ask for and even though I have 2 banquet tables in the living room, it is not enough. I had help moving some of the living room furniture now jammed in our dining room moved so that I can get tall cherry wood cabinets into Jim's room (former living room) to put the supplies in a more orderly fashion.

Jim has good and bad days mostly with the spasms frequency and severity and with pain from the injury. He is losing his voice but the PT lady said that it is weaker because at home he isn't using it as much as in the hospital. It should get better as he gets better and talks more.

I have a baby/security monitor I have set up in Jim's room so at night when I am asleep all he has to do is say my name or holler and I go turn him, fix pillows, wash his face, move his position, pull up his sling, whatever he is asking for. The hard part is he calls when he can't stand it anymore so when I come down he is cranky and hard to understand what I can do to help. When the calls come x3 a night, my sleep is all messed up.

Getting in and out of the van is still a chore. Today I crunched his boots into the side of the back seat and I hit my head 4 times which is a new record. Getting Jim out of the wheelchair and into a sling to get him over to the bed is another chore. We are getting better at that one. I think yesterday was the first uneventful transfer. It is hard to move a full grown adult in a sling to a bed and hit the right position and then roll him to one side then the other to get the sling out.

So soon we should have evening help. A problem lies in that we have had 3 different aids from the morning agency in one week. So that means I have to give directions to the aids the whole time. It is not a break for me at all. Hopefully, this too will smooth out.

Love to you all,
Karn and Jim Borelli
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Jim Update 8.1.2018:

Jim is scheduled to have a consult at Froedtert Hospital on Monday August 13th to be sure he is a candidate for the medicine pouch to be inserted in his lower abdomen. He will return to the VA Hospital later that day.

The next day August 14th, which by the way is Jim and my 25th wedding anniversary, Jim is scheduled to be released from the VA Zablocki Medical Center.

The platform lift to the second level of our home where the bedrooms are located AND the ceiling track lift are not yet installed and may be 6-8 weeks out. So, we have to bring the hospital bed back down to our first level but need the carpet removed so that I can operate the hoyer lift. It is horribly hard to move on carpet and that is without Jim even being in the sling! This is my biggest priority right now.

Therefore, Home Depot is helping out removing the carpet in our living room and putting in laminate flooring next Wed. August 8th. If there are any able bodied people who could assist the Home Depot staff (the Store Manager and Assistant Manager are personally installing the flooring), please, please let me know so that I can coordinate with you to help out. The project is to start at about 10 a.m. Especially if you know how to put in tongue and groove flooring, your help would be most appreciated. My email is karn.borelli@gmail.com. Please let me know. Thank you!

Karn Borelli

p.s.: I cleared the living room of all furniture and the flooring will be delivered this Saturday, 8.4.18
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Great Update for Jim Borelli:

Jim was able to use a plastic spoon this morning to scoop ice cream out of a bowl and get it to his mouth and eat it! This is the first he has been able to eat anything on his own. It is a big deal.

The OT reps said it is possible to get Jim home by August 14th which is our 25th wedding anniversary. Wouldn't that be sweet? On August 7 Jim and I will stay at the VA "apartment" where he can live in more of a household setting. A nurse will check on Jim twice a day but I will be doing the majority of care for him. I will be able to cook food there and do laundry if I want, but most importantly, I get to hang out with my husband all day.

Hopefully the VA will have the lift installed in our home so that he can get to our second floor bedroom before Aug. 14th. The lift company came out twice and measured. I am hopeful that all is coming along nicely.

Thank you again to ALL OF YOU. We always knew we had good friends and neighbors and family to support us. But when you see the outpouring of love, help and assistance, it warms your heart. Thank you so very much.

Jim and Karn Borelli
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7.11.18 Update:

Great news: I found a 2015 handicap equipped Dodge Grand Caravan that Jim and I both decided was right for him and within our established budget. This afternoon I will take delivery of the vehicle!!! This is a huge load off my mind and the most expensive item we have to purchase. Oh yeah, you probably want to know how many miles: just over 43,000.
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