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When John was first transferred to Shepherd Center, he was on the ventilator. It was quite a production to see the team assemble to move him from Macon to Shepherd. They had to call in a respiratory therapist in on her day off so that she could travel with him in the ambulance to monitor and care for the portable ventilator.
When we got to Shepherd, he was moved directly into the ICU. I made it there first even though I stopped twice for drinks and potty breaks. Atlanta traffic is dreadful on a good day but 3:30 on a Wednesday afternoon is pretty bad.
His ambulance got there about 10 minutes after I did – I think because I knew to get off I-75 before we got to downtown and go back roads to Peachtree Road. I guess our 3 years of living in town taught me something. I was placed in a very nice and completely empty waiting room next door to the ICU.
Anyway, he got there and the staff started asking him all sort of questions and then when they determined that he (1) couldn’t answer most of the questions because he simply didn’t know (specific dates and medications) and (2) he was on a ventilator and couldn’t talk. They came and started asking me all the questions and to get the full history of what had happened.
By the time that was all settled, there were still about 15 people in his ICU room. The room was large and could have held a few more.
John spent that night in the ICU and they took him off the ventilator about 2 am. He was breathing on his own!
The next day, the plan was to get him out of ICU and into a regular room. The ICU doctor saw no reason to keep him there. Apparently, the Macon hospital had described him as a fragile flower but Shepherd saw him as a man fighting his way back. Meanwhile, a barrage of therapists made their way into his room to assess him from head to toe.
At Macon, we had to fight to get physical therapy to even assess him. They had said that there was nothing they could do with a man who couldn’t move. Shepherd assessed him, making him make an effort to move each muscle in his arms and hands. They asked him to try to move his legs too. All while keeping their hands pressed to the muscle feeling for any reaction. Their assessment? John had had movement, small as it may be, in each limb and hand. They could feel it and, with extensive strengthening, he would improve soon.
He has both occupational and physical therapy as well as speech therapy. His swallowing has suffered not only because of the Guillain-Barre but also because of the 10 days of ventilator tubes down his throat.
Later that day, John was moved to his room. It’s a large and airy room that overlooks the parking deck. He has a lovely window where you can see blue skies and a large handicap accessible bathroom with a shower.
I spent two nights with him at Shepherd before I felt like he would be okay without me for a couple of days, and then I scooted to south Georgia to see my children. They had just finished their first week of YMCA camp and were having the summer of their lives.
My son, who’s five, is a little scared about the whole thing. He misses his daddy but understands that daddy is sick and that daddy is in a special hospital with a special room with special medicine. When I see him, he throws his little body on me and wraps his arms around my neck and forbids me from leaving again.
The Shepherd Center is really amazing. Where other hospitals only saw obstacles they only see opportunity.