Aimee’s Story In Her Father’s Words
All new posts are on Aimee’s new website. Click below to get to it:
The following are older posts. As I said, click above for the most recent info. I am keeping the following online, but am no longer maintaining this page.
From Andy Copeland: Sunday, May 20, 9:50pm EST:
I know everyone wants to know how Aimee is doing, so here’s the scoop:
Aimee is being Aimee. She’s cracking jokes, speaking frankly, displaying her usual early morning grumpiness and she has been off of the ventilator for over 10 hours. They are running an oxygen “mask” to her tracheostomy at an o2 level of only 35%, but the important thing is that she is getting zero breath per minute (bpm) assists. In other words, she is breathing completely on her own! How cool is that?
Bottom line: Aimee is doing great today. *insert crazy-grin-happy-face here*
Which brings me to this mythical “cone of silence” that we have supposedly retreated into.
The only cone I have ever retreated into is a cone of Pralines & Cream (triple scoop). Yeah, I could retreat into that cone for quite some time. Rest assured that I have not been eating Pralines & Cream for the past three days. Please allow me to explain my silence.
I have been gone from Snellville for two weeks now. Do you know how much mail piles up in two weeks? Now you can multiply that times ten for all the great cards and letters we have received from the public. The level of prayer and support has been phenomenal and we intend to read every card and send thank you cards for every gift.
I also had a doctor appointment, I needed a haircut (shout out to the guys at Gerald’s), opened a bank account (shout out to the great folks at UCB in Snellville), get some work done at my office (though admittedly only a paltry amount) and I hung out with my awesome neighbors in the evening hours.
This week I have to start talking to my clients. Being deprived of them has been an unnerving experience for me. My goal is to talk to all of them by June 3. I honestly wish I could see them all face-to-face by then. If so, I would give them all a great big hug. I love each and every one of them dearly.
I knew I was spending too much time with the media when my parents said they were having to watch CNN for updates on Aimee. Not good. You may not realize it, but talking to the media is a full-time job. The only problem is that it doesn’t pay anything. Nada. Zipola. I have a family to support and it is not going to help Aimee if I am not being the provider that I have to be. Two of my most important responsibilities are to pray for and provide financial support for my family. Everything else, including blog posting, organizing blood drives and conducting media interviews is secondary. I see that now.
Therefore I know you will all forgive me for being silent these past two days. I truly appreciate your gracious kindness, continued prayers and unbridled support. It is people like you who make America great and don’t you forget that.
I want to also give you all a piece of advice. If a stranger ever walks up to you and offers you sage wisdom, you’d best be listening. That stranger could just be an angel from above. Yes, there is a story behind this and rest assured that I will tell it at a later date.
God bless you all and good night!
From Andy Copeland: Friday, May 18, 7:57am EST:
I apologize for not posting any recent updates on Aimee. The past 48 hours have flown by like a whirlwind. Much has happened and my computer time has been extremely limited. I truly appreciate your patience and understanding.
That said, here is the account of Aimee’s last 48 hours:
On Wednesday the doctors suggested that we remove the breathing tube and complete a tracheotomy. The fact is, the flesh wound on her abdomen makes it difficult for her to take deep breaths and cough, which means that she could get congestion in the lower part of her lung. Her pulmonologist made the suggestion for the tracheotomy and I was 100% in agreement. She hated the throat tube anyway (so did I) and the trache will make it easier for us to read her lips. Her respiratory therapy will also take a huge leap up in quality.
Aimee is still a very sick girl, but her quality of care took a big step forward when she was approved for hyperbaric treatments. She is scheduled for a total of ten treatments that will help her regain more of the blood flow in her hands. Her hands have gone from a purplish hue to a reddish flesh tone. She can flex her wrists now as well. Unfortunately her fingers are beyond recovery.
Aimee knows about her hands now. She holds them up to her face, examines them and shrugs her shoulders as if to say, “yeah, so what?”
Aimee’s sense of humor is intact. I rubbed her foot and laughed at some of the things she had mouthed and I told her “Aimee, you are as priceless as the Mona Lisa.” Aimee shook her head and lifted her pitifully swollen and atrophied hand toward her eyebrows as she mouthed some words. Paige, Donna and I looked at each other and back at Aimee. Whatever she wanted to say, she was adamant about it. We did our usual consonant/vowel breakdown and forced her to spell the word. Then we all burst out laughing.
“I’m nothing like the Mona Lisa. She doesn’t have eyebrows.”
Later that night, we put the Kokua Festival/Jack Johnson and Friends CD on for her. The moment she heard “Better Together” she started swinging and bobbing her head while mouthing the words of the song. You’d have thought that she was grooving on the dance floor. In her limitless imagination, she was.
Thursday, May 17
I once again apologize for the delay in providing this latest update on Aimee’s condition. I feel that any report on her situation must be handled with love and compassion and thus it takes more time to deliver news of her medical developments. Past attempts to speed the delivery of such information have appeared to me to be cold and callous. I think you would agree that Aimee deserves better.
This morning Paige and I set off for the hospital first thing. The past two mornings Aimee had been in hyperbarics, which ran through and eliminated her morning visit. When I called this morning, the nurse said that Aimee was not going to hyperbarics. She also said the doctor wanted to talk to us.
I was a bit apprehensive when I saw Aimee’s pulmonologist. As we approached him, he went into a semi-squat, hands on his knees, much like a shortstop getting ready for the next pitch. He reached up and pulled his reading glasses down to the tip of his nose and made eye contact. I took a deep breath and braced myself .
“We need to talk about Aimee’s hands and foot,” he said as his eyes bored into mine. He didn’t have to say anything. We had noticed a remarkable change over the past several days in Aimee’s hands. They went from a splotchy purple color to a red tone and then to a pinkish flesh tone. Yesterday I had noticed them turning back to an angry red. Knowing all this, I nodded and he continued. The doctor explained that her body was trying hard to heal her hands, but the blood flow was too poor. There was an added risk of infection. The palm of her right hand had developed a sore. Today her hands had returned to their splotchy purplish coloration and they were actually hampering Aimee’s recovery.
The massive loss of fascia on Aimee’s left side also continues to present a big risk to her recovery. This weakens her ability to breathe deep and to cough, which further complicates her respiratory condition. The pulmonologist said that Aimee’s respiratory condition was excellent following the tracheotomy that was performed the previous day. We had a window of opportunity to perform the amputations and have a successful outcome. If Aimee developed respiratory problems and her hands released an infection into her body, there was a risk that she could become septic again. As they usually do, the doctors were presenting us with a medical no-brainer. We had to do what is necessary to save Aimee’s life.
A short time after this meeting with the pulmonologist, we convened in a meeting with him and three surgeons. I knew this decision was not being recommended lightly when I learned that they had flown in a noted plastic surgeon who specializes in hands. The hand surgeon confirmed our fears. The hands were endangering Aimee’s progress. As always, my decision was simple.
“Do whatever it takes to give us the best chance to save Aimee’s life.”
Some people may criticize my decision and say we should have prayed over Aimee and asked God to heal her hands. Trust me, this we have done every day. I believe God has appointed and anointed Aimee’s doctors as miraculous healers and I trust that their decisions are God-breathed.
I then asked the doctors if Donna, Paige and I could share these developments with Aimee. They responded that they wouldn’t have it any other way.
As we walked back to Aimee’s room there was a man talking loudly to her. He was flailing his arms and kicking his legs. At first I wondered if someone had sneaked into the ICU and was attempting to frustrate her. Then I noticed that the person was trying to get Aimee to follow his motions. He was her physical therapist.
When he saw us gowning up to enter the room, the therapist left. Aimee had a look of frustration on her face. She had been crying from her exertions, which must have been incredibly difficult for her. The look on her face warmed instantly the second we walked into the room. Her pulmonologist had even noted that Aimee’s blood pressure rose when she saw us, which was a good thing.
A small tear rolled down the side of Aimee’s face as she smiled and greeted us.
The next thirty minutes we took Aimee through the timeline of her illness. From the kayaking trip to the amputation of her leg to the miracle of her survival. We told her of the outpouring of love from across the world. We shared with her the Mike Luckovich editorial cartoon. We told her of news conferences and television appearances. We told her that the world loved and admired her. We explained that she had become a symbol of hope, love and faith. Aimee’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped. She was amazed.
I took Aimee’s hands and held them up to her face. She didn’t draw back in horror. She knew the condition she was in.
“Aimee, these hands are not healthy,” I explained. “they are hampering your progress.”
I explained the use of “pressers” and how the medication restricted the blood flow and collapsed the veins in her hands. I explained everything that the doctors explained to us.
“Aimee, I do not want anything to happen to you. Your mind is beautiful, your heart is good and your spirit is strong. These hands can prevent your recovery from moving forward. The doctors want to amputate them and your foot today to assure your best possible chance of survival.”
“Do you have any questions about any of what we have discussed?”
Aimee thought for a moment and mouthed some words. Paige caught her response and quickly interpreted.
“I’m a little confused, but I’ll figure it out.”
Aimee nodded to confirm the interpretation.
We went on to explain that Aimee would be able to use prosthetics to get around. That she would be fitted with artificial limbs to help her get around and perform normal daily functions. She nodded at this and asked if they would be fitting her immediately. We told her that she would need to continue to recover and the prosthetics would come later. She again nodded approvingly.
She smiled and raised her hands up, carefully examining them. She then looked at us. We all understood her next three words.
“Let’s do this.”
A tear rolled down my face as I walked out of her room. I wasn’t crying because Aimee was going to lose her hands and foot, I was crying because, in all my 53 years of existence, I have never seen such a strong display of courage. Aimee shed no tears, she never batted an eyelash. I was crying because I am a proud father of an incredibly courageous young lady.
From Andy Copeland: Tuesday, May 15, 5:32pm EST:
We were told by the doctors that Aimee would have a roller coaster ride of highs and lows over the next few days, weeks and months. Personally I don’t like the roller coaster analogy. The best part of a roller coaster ride is when you are falling, because although it can be terrifying it is extremely exhilarating. Sooner or later the ride has to slow down and crest another incline. The inclines tend to be ho-hum, a time to catch your breath and smile at the person sitting next to you. As you near the top, the anticipation builds until the terrifying exhilaration repeats itself. This is not what it is like with Aimee.
Each day we claim some small victory. We don’t have to see physical progress, we seem to take comfort from simple words, silly actions and quiet moments. That is not to say that there are not concerns, but they are quickly snuffed out and the doctors are left once again scratching their heads.
Speaking of doctors, we have an amazing assortment of brilliant minds focusing on Aimee. Their attention to detail astonishes me. Their accessibility is greater than I could have ever anticipated. Their compassion is extraordinary. Aimee and all the other patients in ICU are their family. If you could go out and recruit the best medical minds and the most caring hearts in the world, I am convinced that these are the men you would assemble. Their personalities range from House to Patch Adams and all points in between. I love them all.
The nurses are quite similar. They are hard-working, diligent, compassionate and loving. Many of them are mothers and fathers and they share the faith that bonds you and I together through prayer. Even the nurses who do not work with Aimee stop by to talk with us at their shift change. They tell us how Aimee’s progress baffles and inspires them. They listen to us while we play with Aimee. They laugh and smile at our frolicking. We smile back.
There is nothing in the world like being loved. Donna, Paige, Aimee and I have always shared our love with smiles and laughter. We tend to be a loud family, which is probably my “fault”. I am a loud person, but I am loud for a reason. I started playing guitar at the age of 14 and my first guitar was electric, not acoustic. Needless to say, after a few years of playing in bands and helping other bands “road” their gear, my hearing is not the best. I have tinnitus, which is a high pitched tone in both ears that grows to a roar when I am tired . My ears have been roaring a lot lately. That’s why I tend to be loud. If you hear my voice above all others, it doesn’t mean I am angry or mad, it usually means I’m tired because I am trying to talk above the roar. This loudness is often offensive to many, but I cannot help myself. Donna and Paige will often tell me to quiet down, which helps.
Guess who else is loud? If you guessed Aimee, then you are correct. If you get us both together in a restaurant, the volume often increases to a feverish pitch and quieter patrons start casting annoyed frowns in our direction. Sorry folks, this is how we roll.
So now you can imagine what Aimee’s ICU room is like. It is loud in there. We certainly do not intend to disturb the other patients, but we just like to laugh and have fun. Here’s how last night went:
“Hey Aimee-beetle-bush-kee!” Paige squeaks as Aimee opens her eyes. Aimee’s eyes are opened wide and her mouth forms a crescent that spreads as far as her ventilator strap will allow.
“Hey Paige!” Aimee mouths.
“I love you Aimee!” Paige says as she reaches and touches Aimee on the arm and shoulder.
“I love you too Paige!”
The sisterly exchange continues and Aimee starts asking questions. Unlike before, she doesn’t ask where she is or how she got there, she asks how Paige’s boyfriend is doing.
“He’s doing great Aimee,” Paige replies. Paige goes on to say that her boyfriend has assembled a chicken coop and that he has acquired some hens to lay eggs. She further explains the need for a ceramic egg to increase overall egg production.
“You see Aimee, the hens are all jealous of each other. If one lays 2 eggs, then the rest will try to lay more.”
I think I saw the nurses making notes. I know I learned something new.
Aimee mouthed some jumbled words while she frowned and shook her head. Paige somehow picked right up on it.
“No Aimee, he isn’t going to eat the hens, he just wants them to lay eggs.”
Aimee smiled and mouthed, “I like eggs too.”
The nurse said that Aimee had told her that she was bored, so she turned on the TV. After about 10 minutes, Aimee asked her to turn it off. Too many annoying commercials.
“Aimee, it there anything you want?” Paige asked her. “Perhaps some music?”
Aimee shook her head and mouthed some words. I couldn’t tell what she said, but Paige picked up on it right away.
“You want to read?”
Aimee nodded furiously.
Reading has always been Aimee’s first love, even going back to when I used to read her the Bert and Ernie Bath Time book. I read that book so much I have it memorized to this day.
Tubby time is so much fun
Rubber ducky you’re the one!
You don’t know how good it feels
To wash my ears and scrub my heels
I rub and rub ’til I’m all dry
Then it’s time for beddy bye.
OK, I admit that waxing nostalgic isn’t always such a good thing.
The other thing that Aimee asked for took us a bit by surprise. Some of the simplest words can take minutes to decipher when you have a tube interfering with your lips and movement of your jaw.
“That looks like an L, does the word start with an L?”
Bless her heart, her enunciation was very difficult to comprehend.
“Lamb chops?” I asked.
Donna, Paige and Aimee all frowned at me, so I clammed up.
The nurse was standing at the foot of the bed. Clearly she saw something no one else saw.
“Aimee honey, are you trying to say ‘LAPTOP’?”
Aimee smiled real big and nodded intensely.’ Lamb chops’ was actually pretty close.
Paige then told Aimee that she got Aimee a gift, but she forgot to bring it. Aimee’s eyes became wide with excitement, which reminded me of the same look I had seen on many Christmases and Birthdays. We all laughed at Aimee’s wide-eyed anticipation and the nurses were laughing as we de-gowned and walked out of the room.
“It sounds like a game show in there!” Nurse Kathy said.
Yep, we’re loud and we have fun. That’s how we roll.
I hopped in the car with Paige as she drove back toward our temporary residence. Paige reached for her iTouch to cue some music.
“Do you have any Chicago?” I asked her.
“Yeah, I have Greatest Hits. Why?”
I grabbed the iTouch and cued it up. The refrain was all I wanted to hear.
Feelin’ Stronger Every Day!
Feelin’ Stronger Every Day!
Feelin’ Stronger Every Day!
God Bless and good night.
Andy’s post: Monday, May 14th, 9:38pm EST
Sorry guys, I have so much to write about – you have no idea.
Today was a really huge day. We had to handle some family business matters between visits and when we actually had time to sit in the waiting room, we were overwhelmed by visitors. It is growing more and more difficult to have personal time to type my blog while in the waiting room. I do not want to ward off visitors, because most mean well.
Let me just say that we had a lot of fun with Aimee today. Paige arrived in time for our last visit with Aimee and we enjoyed life together the way we always have. We saw Aimee laugh and smile. She told us some things she wanted, we played games with her and she was very stimulated. It was an amazing time. The nurses were even laughing and saying it sounded like a game show in Aimee’s room. I will blog fully every detail tomorrow.
As for now, I want to spend time with Paige and Donna. Stay tuned, today’s “story” will be posted tomorrow.
God bless you all!
Andy’s Mother Day’s Post: May 13th, 10:44am
Happy Mother’s Day!
I thought this would be a difficult day for Donna, but she’s handling it well. Her sister Deirdra took the trouble to buy a gift and a couple of cards for me to give Donna from Paige and Aimee. My plan was to get up early, retrieve the cards and have them and the gift set out for Donna when she came in for her coffee.
So I walked out to the car and looked in the trunk for the gift. It wasn’t there. Not only was it not there, but the trunk was neat and organized, not a mess of strewn about bags and baskets as it was the night before.
Then I remembered that the night before I was looking for an envelope of gift cards that Donna’s sister Debra had brought us from the teachers at her school. I couldn’t find it and I told Donna that she took it. That worried her, because she didn’t recall me giving it to her. She went outside and looked in the car for it and reorganized the trunk in the process. She came back in the house more distressed. The card wasn’t in the trunk.
I decided to double check my computer bag. Uh oh. I smiled sheepishly.”Well what do you know, I found it!”
So there I was, Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, and I did not have the cards nor the gift. Donna walked in for her coffee.
“Honey,” I held her by the arms and kissed her. “Happy Mother’s Day.”
Donna smiled and that’s when I noticed the shirt she was wearing. It was the t-shirt that Deirdra had bought for me to give to Donna.
“Where did you get that shirt?” I asked her.
“Isn’t it cute?” She responded. “I found it in the trunk last night when I was cleaning out the car. I’m not sure who gave it to me, but I like it.”
Aimee is doing wonderful this morning. She is awake, alert and wanting to be rid of that blasted ventilator. She remains at 33%.
Just to let you know what it must be like to breathe through a ventilator, imagine having to suck air through a straw for days on end. No thanks. Well, that’s what it is like for Aimee. No wonder she hates it.
She still has questions, basically the same questions that we have already answered. They are giving her medication to help her forget the stress she’s under, so that explains her inability to recollect many things. This is good for her, but mildly frustrating for us. It frustrates me because I want her to be able to focus on what she can control, not on things she cannot control. I tell her not to worry, I tell her to concentrate on breathing, I ask her to pray and meditate on healing. I hold her and pray while she prays. This is all we can do now and I can honestly say it works quite well. I believe this has helped speed her healing process.
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Romans 8:31
Thank you so much for your continued prayers and Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there. Y’all are awesome!
Andy’s Post: May 12th, 10:30pm
As we near the end of the day, Aimee’s important number is 33%. This puts her 12 points away from Aimee Day.
I incorrectly said in my last blog that Aimee’s oxygen would be decreased down to zero. I know that got some giggles from medical professionals. If Aimee’s oxygen intake were to go to zero, then that would spell doom for everyone in the world, because the air around us is now 21%. Ah well, you know what I meant.
Look, my days have been like this lately. Stress and sleep deprivation do funny things to a person. On Thursday I was talking to a friend on the phone and I was looking for a phone number to give him.
“Wait a second,” I told him, “the number is on my phone.” I then reached for my belt, but my phone wasn’t there. My dear friend Pamela from the Shepeard’s Blood Center sat next to me holding a smart phone. “Is that my phone?” I asked as I reached for it. She looked confused. No, of course it wasn’t mine. I was now in a panic. My wife saved the day. “Andy! ANDY!” Donna laughed and held her hand to her ear. That was when I realized I was talking on my phone.
Life would be boring without these kinds of moments. I don’t mind at all being made a fool of, and I believe that people die unhappy because they are afraid to laugh at themselves. Laughter is the best medicine, so I want to share Aimee’s laughter with you.
Two days ago, Paige and I were imploring Aimee to focus on breathing and to meditate on her lungs being healthy. She was a bit stressed about things, so I attempted to paint a word picture.
“Imagine you are on a farm.” Aimee closed her eyes. “On this farm we have a pond. You look out at the water as ducks slowly waddle by.” Aimee smiled. “Ah, so you like ducks?” Aimee nodded, still smiling. “On this farm we also have some stinky, squealing pigs.” Aimee’s smile broadened. “But we are not going to eat them, are we?” Aimee vigorously shook her head. “I also see some goats.” Aimee remained expressionless. ” Do you like goats?” Aimee raised her eyebrows with a shrug motion. “You must be like your mom, because she doesn’t like them either.” Aimee rolled her eyes. “Do you like goat cheese?” Aimee nodded. “Will you be in charge of making the goat cheese?” Aimee nodded agreeably. “Ah, but you will probably wind up drinking all the goat milk.” Aimee frowned.
This is our communication.
Today Aimee kept trying to tell us something. A bit frustrated that I couldn’t quite read her lips, I offered an alphabetical solution. I asked her if it started with a vowel. Aimee shook her head so I started naming consonants. Aimee nodded at W. We repeated this process and wrote the sentence on the board.
WHEN WILL P…
I stopped at P. “When will Paige be here?” Aimee nodded vigorously. It broke my heart. Aimee wanted her sister.
Having one beautiful daughter is a blessing, but having two is like having the keys to the kingdom. Having two who love each other is like being the king. I am a king.
Donna’s mother Jean then entered the room. Jean has a way with her grandbabies and she knows what they love.
“Hey Aimee girl!” Jean evoked with her matronly Southern drawl. “How would you like a great big ole pan of biscuits?” Aimee nodded. “And what do you want on those biscuits? Honey?” Aimee kind of tilted her head from side to side as if to say “I guess”. Then Jean said, “How about a nice jar of homemade blackberry jelly?” Aimee didn’t nod, but I could very clearly see her mouth the words “BLACKBERRIES!”
I call that Lip Reading 101, Aimee-style.
God bless and goodnight.
May 12th, 9am, on Andy’s facebook page…
“The miracle continues.
The words I hear from the medical professionals to describe Aimee’s continued recovery are “astonishing”, “incredible”, “confounding”, “mind boggling” and “unbelievable”. All those are fitting words. My favorite word is “miracle”.
Several days ago I asked you to pray specifically for Aimee’s lungs. On that day her lungs were stressed and damaged. Aimee desperately needed healing in that one area of her body so that the rest of her body could heal. When the prayers started, Aimee required 100% pure oxygen to be fed to her through a respirator. The doctors have gradually reduced the oxygen level over the past few days to 39% yesterday. The oxygen level is now a countdown to what I will call “Aimee Day”. When the level of pure oxygen she receives hits zero, Aimee will come off of the respirator.
On Aimee Day, we will finally be able to talk to our daughter. Our joy will be felt around the world. As wonderful as that moment will be for us, it will also be the time that Aimee receives all the answers about her condition. She will learn about the loss of her beautiful leg. She will discover that her hands lack the dexterity and tactile response she has known all her life. How would you respond in such a situation? I think that moment will be one of horror and depression for Aimee.
We have been trying to help Aimee by focusing her away from the negatives of her condition. When I see her, I rub her neck and shoulders as only a father can and she relaxes and closes her eyes. I then whisper in her ear that she is our miracle child, that great things will abound from her wonderful spirit. I want Aimee to know that her potential is as limitless as our love for her. She already knows this, because I have told her and Paige that all their life.
As Aimee Day approaches, I want to ask everyone to pray for my child’s psyche and for her self-awareness to not be focused on her physical being. Please pray that she will have understanding. Please continue to pour your love out to my daughter, because the collective love of the world is what she needs to pull her through. I have said that Aimee’s greatest gift to the world is her mind, but her mind is also as fragile as her body, if not more.
Please also continue to pray for Donna, Paige and me. Our journey along this road has been very difficult and there are many obstacles ahead. I also want to apologize to the medical community for my enthusiasm that caused me to misstate medical terminology. I understand that some of you are rolling your eyes and joking about things I have said and this is why I have backed off of trying to cite medical terms to describe Aimee’s condition. I am not a doctor, I am not a nurse – I am a father. Please accept my apology and look at the big picture. My daughter is alive.
Now on to another incredible development. Yesterday doctors revealed that they are continuing to examine Aimee’s hands and foot. It appears that they may be able to save more of her extensions than they originally thought. That is why they are taking that part of Aimee’s recovery very slow. We have had well wishers who have suggested all sorts of homeopathic remedies to reverse the deterioration of Aimee’s hands and foot. I want to thank each of you for your love and concern, but the doctors are using the best tools and medical technology available to cure our baby. I have complete confidence in the physicians and nurses at Doctor’s Hospital. As far as we are concerned, they are the best in the world. I am convinced that God has gifted these doctors and nurses with the knowledge and wisdom necessary to cure Aimee.
One final note: As Aimee Day approaches, the world is waiting to listen to her speak her first words. Words are very important and your words for Aimee have been encouraging and uplifting. To honor Aimee, please offer words for those around you that are equally encouraging. We often forget about the power of our words and sometimes we spout words that are negative and damaging. I must add that this is also one of my biggest faults and I am an imperfect work in progress. I thank you all for honoring my daughter with your prayers and blood. In like fashion, I pray that my words and actions will honor my Father in Heaven.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
May God bless you all.
From Andy: (Posted on Facebook on May 6th, 2012, 8:30am)
Tuesday afternoon my 24-year old daughter Aimee suffered a laceration to her calf when a zip-line broke near Carrollton, GA. The ER at Tanner Medical treated and released her with 22 staples in her calf. Aimee is a student at West Georgia University, where she is in the process of completing her Master’s Degree. She remained in Carrollton, despite my efforts to get her to return to Snellville where her mother and I could supervise her recovery.
Wednesday, Aimee complained of severe pain (the doctors only advised her to take Motrin and Tylenol) so she went back to the ER to get a prescription for Darvocett. This alleviated her symptoms until she complained of additional pain on Thursday. Aimee went to the doctor and received a prescription for antibiotics and posted a clean MRI report. Again, she was treated and released.
Friday morning Aimee was pale and weak, so a friend carried her to Tanner Medical immediately. Upon arrival, the ER physician diagnosed her with necrotizing fasciitis in her damaged leg. The fasciitis had spread beyond the injured area to her hip and thigh. The surgeons advised me that they wanted to try to save her leg, but at this point saving her life took precedence. They removed all of the infected tissue and advised that she would have limited, if any use of her leg. They also called for a life flight to the JMS Burn Center in Augusta, which has the most advanced infection care unit in the state.
Upon arrival at JMS, Aimee was once again rushed into surgery and the doctors completed a high-hip amputation of her left leg. They were also forced to remove tissue from her abdomen. As if this wasn’t enough, Aimee arrested when they moved her from the operating table, but they were able to successfully resuscitate her. The doctors say that Aimee’s probability of surviving the night is bleak. All we can do and all we have done is pray.
I type this factual progression of Aimee’s condition as a way to better cope with what is without a doubt the most horrific situation that a parent can possibly imagine. We take so much for granted in life, but I never imagined that one of my daughters would face this most unlikely of situations. I hope and pray that when you read this that the news we receive at sunrise will be positive. At this point, no news is good news, but all I know to do is hope and pray for the best. I only ask that you all do the same.
UPDATED POST from Andy: (Posted on Facebook May 7, 8am)
I didn’t realize how blessed we are.
In the process of worrying over the condition of our beloved daughter, a simple fact escaped our attention: Aimee’s survival is a miracle. I didn’t realize this until our cardio-pulmonologist revealed that Aimee defeated tremendous odds in her first night here. When Aimee arrived at JMS her lactic acid (it forms when the body breaks down carbohydrates to use for energy during times of low oxygen levels) was at 6 mmol/L. The normal range of lactic acid in the human body is between 1 and 2. The survival rate for a lactic acid level of 12 mmol/L is roughly 5%. On Friday night, Aimee’s lactic acid level peaked at a whopping “unsurvivable” 20 mmol/L. How’s that for miraculous?
I just learned the above facts today. I could bore you with more medical jargon and measurements, but suffice it to say that Aimee has tested them all and although she continues to tread the line, her improvement is beginning to take root. That said, major challenges remain.
Over the next 48-72 hours, Aimee’s brain will face a major challenge. This is when swelling sometimes occurs that can potentially cause tissue damage. So far there is no sign of swelling and simple tests show her pupils to be even and responsive to light. We pray that her brain can be saved. She has had a starvation of oxygen to her extremities that has reduced the blood flow to her fingers and toes, making them a deep purple color. It is probable that she will lose the tips of her fingers and toes.
The doctors have discontinued one of Aimee’s blood pressure medicines, which means her body is gradually becoming able to regulate her blood pressure. They are also weaning her off of the paralytic drugs so that they can see if she can begin to display responsiveness to verbal commands, which is the easiest and least invasive way to test brain function. The best way to test this is to utilize a CAT scan, but that also means moving Aimee, which represents a major risk.
Her attending physician wants to take her into surgery this morning to examine the devastated area of her body that remains skinless and remove any further dead tissue. We are praising God that the bacteria appears to have ceased its progress. On top of this good news, thanks to the initial and timely efforts by the ER staff at Tanner Medical in Carrolton, GA, early bacterial cultures have been isolated and identified, which means that the broad spectrum of antibiotics utilized up to now can be significantly trimmed back to only those that are required to combat the actual infection. This is important, because there are other bacterial infections that can yet occur and we do not want to take the chance that those bacteria become resistant to antibiotics.
Other issues continue to swirl as well. Aimee is in renal failure and she is being supported by dialysis, but there is a strong chance she will regain the function of her kidneys. If she doesn’t, I have one that she can have.
Everyone is asking me, “What can I do to help?” Until now I have only asked for prayers. I am now going to ask everyone reading this for one more thing: your blood.
There are currently about 44 ICU patients at JMS with varying levels of tissue damage. Regardless of the type of damage, every patient is receiving massive transfusions of blood every day, mainly because their bone marrow cannot keep up with the necessary blood cell production. If everyone reading this will go and donate one pint of your blood, then that will help my daughter and many more like her. In addition, please tell everyone you know to donate blood.
Thanks again for your prayers. Although Aimee remains critical, she is responding and making gradual improvement.
UPDATED POST from Andy: (Posted on Facebook May 7, 11:30pm)
Aimee is still on the ventilator, but they have cut back a bit so that she can do some of the work. This means that her lungs are gradually regaining some of their function. The most exciting development is that Aimee opened her eyes this morning and responded to simple verbal commands! On top of that, during the lunch visitation Aimee’s sister Paige took in her iTouch and played some Bob Marley music for Aimee.
“Get up, stand up! Don’t give up the fight!”
Although Aimee was tired, she occasionally opened her eyes to the music. When she had her eyes closed, she appeared to be mouthing the music, which was a bit funny to see because she has a couple of tubes shoved down her throat and her tongue protruded to the music while her lips moved. At the same time she was raising and lowering her eyebrows. Bob Marley’s message rang true to her. Aimee is not a quitter.
Just a note on blood donation. I am a bit naive about how this donation process works, because I understand that any donations to your local Red Cross chapter will not go to to JMS. JMS gets all their their blood donations from the Shepeard Community Blood Center. Blood banks are a bit provincial, but some banks are willing to partner and share donations. When we do a blood drive for Carrollton, I would prefer to do it so that the Joseph M. Still Burn and Wound Center receives at least a good portion of the donations. We are in the process of investigating our options for the Carrollton area, so please stay tuned.
One important note: giving blood in Aimee’s honor does not mean all the donations go to Aimee. Although Aimee has consumed a lot of blood, plasma and platelets, she may soon require less of those as her condition improves. The way it works is that Aimee gets credited with donations and those credits offset the blood that she has used. Your platelets and blood may go to someone else…which is fine by me. When I saw a small cradle in the burn unit, I can say I have no problem with my donation going to that poor unfortunate infant.
Thanks to everyone for your prayers, your love and your concerns. I will endeavor to keep you updated on new developments.
UPDATED POST from Andy: (Posted on Facebook May 8, @ noon)
Two steps forward, one step back.
That’s how the waiting game goes for us. Yesterday evening, Aimee had made significant progress in a couple of areas. Her lactic acid level had dropped to 3, which means that her organs are not as stressed as they have been and this will allow her organ function to improve. Additional good news was that Aimee’s ventricular ejection fraction (a measure of how well her heart is pumping blood) had increased from 10% to 25-30%. The more her organs learn to function independently, the quicker Aimee can get back to normal.
Today Aimee’s condition has worsened. Her temperature is up to 102 and the progress she made yesterday was lost overnight. Her breathing is labored and she is once again relying on the respirator for support. We are reminded of the tenuous nature of her condition. The doctor was careful to set expectations this morning: Aimee’s survival chances are “slim to none”. She continues to experience a major shutdown of all five major organs. The rate of survival when three organs shutdown is very poor. Bad news never feels good, but I refuse to let it get me down.
Proverbs 16:4(Amp): “The Lord has made everything (to accommodate itself and contribute) to its own end and His own purpose; even the wicked (are fitted for their role) for the day of calamity and evil.”
The above scripture from Proverbs is the verse of the day on Bible.com and it was placed there for us. God has a purpose in everything and he has dominion over evil. Negative thoughts are bound to creep into our mind when we hear words of discouragement. The whole purpose of evil is to destroy hope. However, God is in control and I have to trust in the direction He’s taking us. I will remain hopeful in all things and I will not give up on my daughter. Some see a hopeless end; I choose to see endless hope.
Please keep praying. We need those prayers now more than ever. Please reach out to everyone, call your churches and prayer chains and ask them to pray specifically for Aimee’s lungs to regain their function. When this small progress is made, Aimee’s healing process will accelerate.
If this news leaves you with a long face, then wipe that look off right now. Smile and honor Aimee with your hope. Shower my child with prayers and good vibes. I know that’s how she would want it.
God bless you all.
UPDATED POST from Andy: (Posted on Facebook May 8, @ 3:30pm)
I would like to thank Aimee’s co-workers at Sunnyside for establishing a non-profit fund in Aimee’s honor. This fund will be very important in helping Aimee get established when she recovers. The fund is at United Community Bank and is simply called “Aimee’s Fund”. If you want to send flowers or a card, I would ask that you instead make a donation in Aimee’s honor to the fund. Thank you all for your continued love, prayers and support.
UPDATED POST from Andy: (Posted on Facebook May 9, @ 12:30am)
On Friday night, after being told that Aimee might not survive the night, my sweet mother-in-law Jean West looked at me and said, “Here we go again!”
My wife Donna looked confused, but before she said anything, her sisters Deidra and Debra said, “Yep, we’ve been here before.” Donna’s confusion was justified. She didn’t remember because she was the first miracle I enjoyed in my life.
Twenty three years ago, Donna suffered a closed head injury as a result of a head-on collision in Spartanburg, SC. It was raining heavily that day when Donna swerved out of control into the path of another vehicle. The passenger of the other car suffered a terrible multiple compound fracture in her left leg while Donna’s skull bounced off of the windshield. Nope, they didn’t have airbags in 1989.
When I first saw Donna in the Spartanburg Regional Neuro Unit, I was stunned. She laid there, tubes protruding from her nostrils, mouth, neck and arms, respirator pumping and torso heaving in odd unison. Her head was bruised and horribly swollen. There’s no way that was my wife. Someone made a mistake. “No mistake”, the nurse said. I was stunned.
Donna was non-responsive. Lifeless. Machines doing the work that her body could not do. I was devastated. After standing there, not quite knowing what to do or say, I walked back to the Neuro waiting room, angry, totally dejected and pathetically self-focused. God, why did you do this to me?
I cried, but the tears that fell were faithless bombs of self-pity. I looked at my parents and Donna’s parents and they all hugged me and consoled me. I was beyond consolation. How do you comfort someone who lacks the ability to provide comfort? How do give hope to one who lacks faith?
Don’t get me wrong, I loved and I still love my wife dearly. I had simply never been required to make a stand of faith in my life. I was baptized at the fresh young age of nine, an age when faith is a word in a Sunday School book that you toss aside after the class is over. Sure, I had my share of challenges, but I had never before been forced to deal with the potential loss of a loved one. God must have hated me. What did I do wrong?
Perhaps my greatest gift that night, and the greatest gift of my life, was the gift of a Deacon’s Bible in the Neuro waiting room. Had it not been for my Baptist upbringing, I might have reached for the month old copy of Sports Illustrated, but I knew there was nothing in there but old news unworthy of reading.
When I opened the Bible, I thumbed a few pages and the pages stopped turning on James 1:
“2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
To this day I consider James my moment of epiphany. That was the first time I truly understood what faith was. This realization was sudden and overwhelming. I wept uncontrollably and my family moved to console me, but I stood up and smiled, because I knew Donna was going to be fine. Seven days later, Donna emerged from her coma and she is by my side to this day.
On Friday afternoon this scene played out again, but this time my tears were for Aimee, for the young life that was lying on that OR table, for the “lost” promise of youth. I felt nauseated and I walked to the restroom. As I stood looking in the mirror, I turned on the water and watched the tap flow. The water fell “like a wave of the sea” and I was reminded of that day twenty three years ago. Overwhelmed by a wonderful sense of peace, I emerged from the restroom, embraced Donna and told her it would be alright.
We all experience periods of despair, but when you mourn you need to question what you are mourning. Are you simply pitying yourself? Are you throwing in the towel and quitting? Are you tossed about like a wave on the sea? If you are then God will not answer you. Be selfless, love those around you and believe in only the best possible outcome. That’s what I believe. That is what Aimee needs. I know this is true, because I have been here before.
UPDATED POST from Andy: (Posted on Facebook May 9, @ 9:40am)
I haven’t been able to see Aimee yet this morning, because the doctors are working with her. They are now running tests on her good foot to determine the blood flow there. Her circulation to her extremities has been poor and the doctors are doing everything they can to make sure that they do not have to remove any of her digits.
Aimee’s surgeon said that they are going to perform surgery in the ICU unit to remove some dead skin around the area of her amputation. This will help speed the healing of that tissue.
I cannot say enough about the wonderful work that the medical staff is doing with Aimee. One of her doctors call Aimee the “doctor’s pet”, which should give you an idea of how special she is to them here. Her nurses put pigtail braids in her hair and they call her “Heidi”. Aimee looks so cute lying there with her braids splayed out to the sides.
As I said, the level of care here is amazing, but the compassion and concern from the medical staff is on a level that I have never experienced. The Joseph M. Stills Burn and Wound Care Center is the most amazing place I have ever seen. We am so blessed to have our “Aimee girl” here.
I will provide additional details when I see Aimee later this morning.
UPDATED POST from Andy: (Posted on Facebook May 10, @ 11:24pm)
It has been a long day. I just plopped on the sofa and went to sleep in a matter of minutes. Let me simply say that Aimee’s neurologist reported that her brain function is normal. We know this because she desperately wants to communicate with us whenever we go in her room .
The only way to communicate is for us to pick the topic in the form of a yes or no question and allow her to nod or shake her head. Yet there are so many topics that she needs answers to. We have quickly learned that this method of communication only stirs her up and makes her attempt to speak, which causes her to move the breathing tube and irritate her throat. We have come to the conclusion that it is in Aimee’s best interest to not try to communicate, but for us to simply be by her side. This is an emotionally painful learning experience for us and we do not want to frustrate our daughter.
How many of you can lie in bed for 8 hours in one position? Not me. Aimee has been lying on her back with only slight positional movement for nearly a week now. Keep in mind that Aimee cannot be moved a great deal because of the wounds that have wracked her body. Fortunately she has a nice soft air mattress beneath her that significantly reduces any possibility of pressure sores. As I mentioned, the nurses do shift her frequently. Our baby girl is so fragile right now and maintaining her comfort is a round-the-clock effort.
The nurses here are loving and helpful and they are helping me learn what is best for Aimee. I stood at the foot of Aimee’s bed tonight and spoke to her nurse about a lot of things. The nurse actually ministered to me. She was concerned that I might crash and burn if I didn’t get any rest. She’s probably right. I am now going to bed.
Thank you so much for your prayers and support for Aimee. I promise you that you will one day see and hear the power of your prayers when Aimee delivers her story from her own lips. I await that day with intense anticipation.
God bless you all.
Thanks to this Interior design bloggers who helped us with some of the technical aspects of taking care of Aimee’s blog. And, thanks to the Interior Design marketing people who organized a dedicated server for us while we had over 70k views of our website during the peak concern of Aimee’s situation. Finally, thanks to this New York City Interior Designer for helping to fund this project.