Update on Stephanie and My Diabetes

Vinny and StephThis weekend marks four months since Stephanie did not wake up and had emergency surgery to fix a brain bleed caused by an unknown head injury that had clotted and burst. It has also been six months since I spent a weekend in the hospital newly diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic.

My Diabetes

I am up by 30 lbs of muscle weight over the severe weight loss that the Diabetes onset caused and running and exercising to keep my insulin use extremely low. While the first 30 days were very difficult – my attitude combined with the support of family, friends, and the great USF Diabetes support team made things very easy by the New Year. Lately I often have to remind myself that I have the disease and for that I am blessed. I see the struggles that others with the disease face and consider myself lucky.

That said I see my Type 1 as a gift. Being relatively healthy my entire life and not being in personal need of the medical community I got a crash course. The weakness of losing 20 lbs in 3-4 weeks, the sore throat and mysterious dry mouth, and severe fatigue and loss of concentration measurably consumed about six weeks of my life. I fought hard to complete the Richard’s Run 5K which was my last exercise until after the hospitalization.

After the diagnosis I learned what it is like to live with a chronic illness, to feel like my body had become broken and betrayed me, to have doubts that I would ever be physically and mentally strong again. I was determined to build myself back and did. I counted every pound gained and tracked every mile ran and gained it all back and then some. I ride and run more than ever now and plan to add more activities given the time.

My Type 1 helped prepare me for what was to come.

Stephanie’s Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Every day since we thought we lost Stephanie has been a miracle. The journey from comatose to consciousness is long and there is no medical community road map or standard evaluation. There is no prognosis.

Doctors, nurses, therapists, and administrators that are too rushed to take time with her can write her off without a second thought and ones who take even a little time are brought to tears by her progress. On April 17 Stephanie was discharged from Oak Hill Hospital in Spring Hill and admitted to Consulate Health Care of Bayonet Point for care and rehabilitation which started off very rough.

The stress of the transfer and an infection stalled her forward progress and led the team at Consulate to downgrade their expectations of her. We countered with persistence and videos showing what Stephanie had already achieved. In the last two weeks Stephanie has made great progress and the team there is pushing her hard to keep making more.

She’s been off the respirator since late February and been breathing mostly room air for the last two months as we decreased her breathing tube size and added a speaking valve to wean her further. Last week we began capping her breathing tube about 50% of the time and plan to go 100% in the next week which means she is completely breathing on her own through her nose and mouth. We hope to remove the trach very soon. This is a huge step.

She remains able to move her feet and legs on command and can take steps forward and backward while being supported. She is still very tight in her arms and recently only moves her hands and fingers a little bit. We are pushing her hard to improve her hand an arm movements. She smiles when we are with her and is attempting to speak. She was witnessed by others last week when she said “mom” to her mother. Both of her eyes are now open on a consistent basis and she is definitely focusing on us when we engage her.

But she is still not “conscious” yet.

This is the hardest part, the part nobody understands, nobody can predict and that challenges us all so deeply. She’s certainly aware and responding but she does not seem to truly understand her own situation yet. She stops responding sometimes and it seems almost like she’s bored with it and not sure why we keep asking her to do seemingly insignificant things. I could hear her voice saying “OK I squeezed your hand… what gives? Stop asking already!”

In the last month her mom, brother, sister, and myself have gone to a support group started by a mother and her daughter. The daughter suffered a TBI in a car accident about 10 years ago. She is about Steph’s age now and was given very grim chances and her family suffered through similar stages for about as long as we have. Photos her mom shared with me of the experience were all too familiar. With their story, the story of other survivors and our faith we are keeping hopeful that Steph’s consciousness comes back fully soon.

The last six months have been unlike any other in my life and have challenged all of us involved to grow and learn. Together we all help each other and through this update I want to thank all of you for your continued prayers and kind thoughts.

7 comments

  1. Jackie says:

    Vinny, you truly are an amazing friend. Thanks for the awesome update on you and Steph’s journeys :)

  2. Jaclyn Katz says:

    Vinny, I’m glad that you posted this. I get all sorts of pieces of information. This helps clear up a lot of it. Just the other night I had a dream that I was with Stephanie at a diner and she was recounting what she remembers from all of this. It really pulled some heart strings. I woke up in tears. I miss snd love her soooo much!

  3. Adriane Street says:

    Thanks Vinny for doing the updates, I just can’t seem to bear doing them anymore. And thanks for being one of the only people that have kept visiting and being there for my parents. They draw so much strength from you. You really have my respect cause you are the only one who is there as much as my parents and it shows what an amazing person you are!

  4. Raquel Castillo says:

    I knew Stephanie when we were young. I regretfully lost touch with her and Adriane until Facebook. I’m saddened to hear of her health issues. I myself, have personally dealt with this very same sadness, struggle, and how it’s a very long road especially when there’s no way of knowing the way she can or will be. My daddy was in a motorcycle accident when I was 16yrs old. That was 14yrs ago. He remained a parapalegic due to brain injuries. He still cannot walk, talk, eat on his own but were able to get him off his tracheotemy. He still hasn’t passed his swallow tests so his feeding tube remains. Due to atrophy In his left arm A few years back, we had to decide to remove his left arm or pull his feeding tube. I had every intention of letting him go but decided not to. In the beginning he was in acoma for 3 months in icu. There was no way to know how he would recover. He still has no use on his legs, the left arm was amputated but His right arm is very strong. He wins all arm wrestling. He can write and knows exactly whats going on. If you look at my videos you can see him write. My prayers are w you!!! it will be rough but it certainly sounds like she’s doing fantastic. From personal experience, the more interaction the better. Not enough, makes recovery much less likely for amazing results. But it’s not impossible. Never give up!!! She’s there and I truly believe she’ll get through this!!! Best of luck to you All. ♡♥♡♥♡♥♡♥

  5. Patsy Stills says:

    Vinny,

    Wow! Two jaw dropping stories in one. Sounds like you have yourself geared up and ready for your challenges – congrats on the renewed focus on health and wellness. As for Stephanie, it sounds like she is making progress and is on her way too. I am so proud of your ability to gut through it, figure it out, stay positive, get support, stay involved and keep making forward progress. Writing it all down and recording this will help you remember all the small stuff that our minds so easily push aside as we jump to tremendous feats of loving healing.

    You and the extended family will be in my daily prayers. Thank you for sharing.

    Patsy

  6. Ingrid Hancock says:

    What an incredible journey of hope, love, commitment and faith. Please keep us up to date on this incredible time in your lives. You are a powerful young man with remarkable gifts. We are ao proud of you and how God’s light works through you. You are a blessing. Our prayers are with you both❤️

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