On the home front – happy birthday to my son

Dave coming home from dialysis

Dave coming home from dialysis

I think it’s probably been too long since I’ve taken a minute to update those of you who’ve been so supportive of my son Dave Jr throughout his illness and recovery. Today’s his 34th birthday and a real reason for us to celebrate as so many of his doctors never thought he’d live this long!

For those of you who don’t know, he’s been diabetic since he was 8, but didn’t control it well during his rebellious teen years and as he grew older, he began to suffer the consequences. In 2007 he moved back home because he kept getting sick to the degree that he was having trouble keeping a job. In 2010, he was in the hospital 7 times, but they couldn’t track the root of the problem. On January 3, 2011 I had to call an ambulance because he was so sick he could no longer stand. They soon discovered he had a staph infection that caused him to go septic. During the next few weeks his kidneys failed, they had to remove his teeth because the infection had lodged in his jawbone and he underwent 15 + surgeries trying to clear the infection from his right kneecap before they finally had to amputate his right leg above the knee. For all of us, it was a nightmare of gigantic proportions and there were many times my husband and I were called to come to the hospital because they didn’t expect him to survive the night.

But fighter that he is, he hung on and just kept breathing. He was released into a specialty rehab hospital in April and came home in May. He was still on so many medications that he could hardly be considered alert and had a hard time participating in the physical therapy he needed to get his muscles functioning again. Little by little, though, he began to recover.

Last November, he had a low blood sugar episode that caused another ER visit. He’d apparently been low so long it was hard to revive him. They had to intubate him, then sedate him to keep him from pulling out the tube. When he was awakened from the sedation the next day, he couldn’t remember anything later than 2009. They told us that was not unusual and did all the routine tests to rule out a stroke or other cause. As there was no obvious cause, they presumed his memory would return. Still, the major problem with that was that he didn’t remember the amputation and kept trying to get up and walk, then he’d panic in finding his leg gone and several times fell and hit his head, requiring yet another CT scan to be sure no further damage had been done.

His short term memory seemed to reset whenever he slept, so if we visited, then he took a nap, he didn’t recall that we’d been there. But gradually it began to get better. He was released into a short term rehab facility in December and made great strides there. He still had a lot of things that he didn’t remember but his short term memory was much better and he didn’t have to keep reliving the loss of his leg, which was a huge relief to all of us.

His medicaid funding for the rehab ran out and he came home in February. We were all glad to have him back home, but he soon realized that the home PT wasn’t giving him any progress at all toward getting well enough to get a prosthetic leg, so we talked to a social worker and found another nearby rehab facility to take him in for 6 weeks. He was both apprehensive and excited about going and we took him on the appointed day. Unfortunately, a mistake with his medications that night caused him to arrive at dialysis the next morning unconscious. Once again he was taken to the ER and once again he awoke with no memory of the last several years.

He’s been back in the rehab facility for several weeks and is again making progress in regaining his memory, but it’s been much slower

Dave, Caleb, Josh and Jake at Jake's wedding May 2012

Dave, Caleb, Josh and Jake at Jake’s wedding May 2012

this time and we’re making arrangements to bring him back home. No parent should ever have to go through something like this, but I’m thankful nonetheless. I’ve seen the things he’s had to endure and I honestly don’t know if I could’ve faced them with the same courage and determination that he’s shown. I’m so proud of my son, and of my family and friends for the way they’ve stood by him throughout this ordeal.

I want to thank those of you who have been so kind. Some of you have met him over the years, either when he attended Cluefest with me or when he helped us with one of the Criminal Pursuits conferences. He’s always telling his nurses about the “famous” authors his mom works for (he thinks you’re all famous =) and how he likes to listen to the audio books some of you have written (he also developed glaucoma along the way and can’t read anymore). Those of you who sent cards he still has them in a box of treasures that he keeps.

So on his 34th birthday, I wanted to tell you how he’s doing and to say thank you again for supporting him and for supporting me. I really appreciate you!

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5 thoughts on “On the home front – happy birthday to my son

  1. EARL STAGGS says:

    Happy Birthday to Dave. He deserves a medal for surviving all he’s been through. And so do you. All my best wishes to the Nunn family.

  2. lynettemburrows says:

    Happy Birthday to Dave. I’m so sorry life has been so challenging. But you’ve got a loving family at your side and all that wonderful courage your mom talks about. That will help give you all strength going forward in your healing. Best wishes for healing and the faith to do the work of healing.

  3. radine says:

    As a long-time friend of PJ (and sometimes, happily, one of her clients) I have felt very close to the Nunn family, and enjoyed being with them at Criminal Pursuits conferences put on by PJ. I am always grateful for updates and glad to hear this “strength after the fire” story! With hugs to all, Radine.

  4. Happy Birthday Dave!

  5. He is fortunate to have you as his family. Best wishes to all of you.

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