Caregiver Around the Globe, Cindy Shandorf

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IMG_4056On May 16th, 2014 my husband, Frank, went into surgery for a ruptured brain aneurysm (under the assumption that it was a 6-hour clipping) – instead, he went through a 12-hour resection surgery. Dr. Gardner removed the aneurysm and cut away ‘bad’ arteries and sewed the ‘good’ arteries together. He suffered status epilepticus and respiratory failure during surgery.

He was wheeled into the ICU with a team of nurses and along with his neurosurgeon, with a nurse squatting over him doing chest compressions. I was told everyday for 60 days he was in a medically-induced coma and “to expect the worse and pray for the best.” This was very disheartening to us. Then, while still in a coma, the case manager came to me and said he had to go to a nursing home – I said (in not nice words at the time) that he wasn’t going to a nursing home. He didn’t.

He went to a Brain Injury Rehabilitation Inpatient Unit for 51 days. He learned how to talk, walk, feed himself, use the toilet, shave himself. I had to change our dining room into a bathroom to bring him home. Our daughter and I took care of him, gave him his many meds, etc. He went to outpatient PT, OT and speech therapy for several months.

Our daughter and I kept working with him and he continues to get stronger everyday. He had a paralyzed vocal cord, but it’s now closing on its own. His aphasia is also getting better as well. He has hemiparesis on his right side, but last summer on his 3rd anniversary he was strong enough to climb the pool ladder to get into our swimming pool. He’s able to mow our yard riding the lawnmower and is able to drive locally after getting his drivers license reinstated. He can remember 5-word sentences, which has not been an easy talk for any of us, but it’s important to continue to love and support your survivor.

We went through many emotions and changes (financial, personal) during this time and still are adjusting. Frank went on disability after working full time and I took early retirement to care for him. It’s been hard accepting our new life, but I’m glad we stuck it out because it’s well worth it.

I cannot visualize my life without Frank in it. He’s our miracle man! I feel our perseverance and love for him is why he’s gotten stronger and better. It takes years for the brain to recover. Stay strong and love them like there’s no tomorrow!

The Joe Niekro Foundation would like to thank Cindy for sharing Frank’s story with us. It’s great to see such amazing milestones being achieved throughout recovery! It also shows how crucial caregivers are in the recovery process.

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