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19yr old son c5/c6 burst fracture

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    19yr old son c5/c6 burst fracture

    Hello, my name is Elaine and I am Charlie James' mom. We call him CJ for short so I will use that in this post.

    On February 22, 2008 CJ, my 19yr old son was the passenger in a vehicle that was in a head on collision. CJ was at party with a couple of friends and there was alcohol. CJ chose to get a ride home with someone who said they were sober enough to drive but really wasn't. At approximately 11:37pm the vehicle that CJ was riding in veered into oncoming traffic and hit another car head on. CJ was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle. He was careflighted to Methodist Dallas Hospital in Dallas, Texas. At approximately 1:06am my husband received a phone call from Methodist Hospital stating CJ had been in a car accident and that we needed to come. My husband was thinking ok, maybe a broken leg, broken arm....he decided to let me sleep and woke up our 17yr old son Timothy and they went to the hospital. When they arrived they were shuffled to the Neuro Intensive Critical Care Unit and then to CJ's room. CJ's doctor was busy with another patient and the nurses wouldn't tell them anything. My son Timothy happened to notice his chart and started reading. He fell to the floor crying. My husband asked him what was wrong and he pointed to the chart. It stated, SCI. My husband then decided he better come home and get me. It was 3:30am by the time I was awake, threw on some clothes and heading out. The hospital was about 45 minutes from our home. All he could tell me was it was a spinal cord injury. He did not know how bad. We walked into the NICCU and CJ's doctor approached us. He told us that CJ had suffered a broken neck in two places, his C5 and his C6 and that he was paralyzed from the chest down. They did an MRI and a CAT scan and he did not have any brain bleeds or damage. He had no other broken bones, a few cuts and bruises and a cut on his head. I lost it and fell in my husbands arms screaming. When I finally regained my composure, we went in to see our son CJ. CJ was lying on his back with a neck collar on strapped to a board that was on a hospital bed. The first words out of his mouth to me where, "I really messed up Mom". I told him everything was going to be ok and that we would be by his side every step of the way. He then asked me if there was hope that he would walk again, I told him YES that there is always hope! He then proceeded to ask about the driver of the vehicle he was in. Where was he? Was he ok? What did they hit? A pole? A car? I told him that I did not know where the driver was, did not know if he was ok, and I told him they hit another car. That was all I knew at that point. Later that day, the Arlington, Texas police department arrived at the hospital to speak with my son and us. They told my husband and I that the car that CJ and the driver hit had a mother and her 3yr old son and 14yr old daughter in it. The mother was killed instantly, the 3yr old suffered a broken femur and the 14yr old was ok. The driver of the vehicle that CJ was in walked away without a scratch. They told us that the driver blew a .17 and was charged with intoxication manslaughter, and 3 counts of intoxication assault. Now we had to let the police tell our son CJ about the fatality and to answer any questions they had. At this point CJ was in a traction bed. They had a semi-halo screwed into his head with a weight hanging to keep his neck and head straight and he was strapped to a board and on his tummy. The officer proceeded to tell CJ of the fatality and our son cried. He told the officer to tell the family he was so very sorry. The officer told him that it was not his fault, he did not make the decision to drive, that the driver did. They told him about the driver's charges, that he was arrested and in jail. They proceeded to ask him questions about what had happened that night. CJ told the officers he was drinking, he felt sick and wanted to go home. He did not know if the driver had been drinking or how much he had to drink if he had. He remembers being crouched down in the front passenger seat, then hitting something, and then cold concrete. The officers asked for consent to have access to his medical files and we gave it.
    The next day CJ underwent 8 1/2hrs of surgery to replace the two vertebrae that broke and fuse them together with a metal plate and screws. CJ made it through the surgery well, but the injuries were worse than what they had thought. His two vertebrae burst instead of just breaking. It may have caused more nerve damage than just a normal break. We just kept holding on to hope and prayers. CJ was fitted with a HALO which he would have to wear for 3 months and brought into recovery. He had a tube up his nose and a tube down his throat connected to a ventilator. He woke up and we where there, we told him we loved him and that he was going to make it through all this. He couldn't talk but he could blink to let us know he understood we where there. The next day they took him off the ventilator and took the tube out of his throat. He was talking, drinking and eating by that afternoon. The NICCU waiting room was covered with about 50 kids and families that wanted to go in and see our son. That was a long day because they only allowed 2 at a time. CJ did well for about 3 more days and then on February 29th, 2008 the nurses were bathing him and noticed his lips were turning blue. They had to put him back on the ventilator....They put in a tracheotomy and he couldn't talk or eat. We had to learn how to read lips. They told us he had a touch of Pneumonia. They treated it with antibiotics and it went away. Over the course of a month and a half at Methodist, he had 4 bronchiostomies (sp?), was on all kinds of drugs and fought many fevers. On April 4, 2008 CJ was well enough to be transferred to Baylor Specialty Hospital in Dallas, Texas where their job was to wean him off the vent and drugs. He spent a month and a half at Baylor Specialty and was weaned off the vent, drugs, feeding tube, had the HALO taken off and was put in a neck collar that he would have to wear for 6 weeks. He was getting physical and occupational therapy the whole time he was there. When he left he was already sitting in a wheel chair for 2 hours twice a day, plus sitting on the side of his bed for 45 minutes twice a day, with assistance of course. He could also brush his teeth with an assistive device they made for him.
    On May 26, 2008 CJ was transferred to Baylor Institute of Rehabilitation to begin his rehab. He stayed until June 26th, 2008. He came home but he had a pressure wound and a wound vac hooked up to it. The wound didn’t get better it got worse and they readmitted him to the hospital on July 14, 2008. He is still in the hospital at this time on IV antibiotics. They are going to be doing a flap surgery to help the wound heal quicker. He can move his arms and wrists but not his fingers. He can feel his legs but cannot move them. He cannot straighten his arms completely due to the fact that he has bicep control but not very good triceps control. He can’t feed or dress himself as of yet, but we hope to teach him once he gets out of the hospital. He is still getting OT and PT in the hospital and they have offered to teach him how to feed himself. I found this site right after his accident and finally got the courage to sign up. We are very scared and angry at the same time, along with a ton of other emotions. He has a very long road ahead of him and we still hope and pray everyday that he will regain more and more! Any advise I can get would be much appreciated. Sorry this is so darn long!
    CJ's mom - Elaine

    Hi Elaine,
    I am so sorry for all that your family is going through, and know what a difficult period this is for you all. I have a C5/6 SCI and have been able to do many things independently, including driving, working for years, transferring, and almost all self-care. Most people think there is a two year window post injury for improvement to be seen, a period known as "Getting return". Each SCI is unique, so it is impossible to extrapolate from one injury to another, but it sounds as though he is already getting a fair amount of return, which is great. Keep writing here, there is a wealth of information and support. It is a long road, but he is lucky to have such supportive people in his life, and that will help tremendously. Wishing you the best.


      Baylor Institute of Rehab

      Hi Elaine,
      Our daughter was at Baylor Rehab. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to ask. I know what your going through. The rehab is great at BIR and she's still doing in home therapy PT/OT with BIR. She's 17 mos. since her diving accident c5/c6 incomplete which happened in Baton Rouge.
      Aggie Mom 2007


        All I can do is cry for you and CJ. SCI really sucks! The only thing worse for your child would be a terminal illness. CJ has youth on his side. When my son broke his neck, the drs. said he was paralyzed from the chest down and we could not expect too much. It has been 4 years (he is 24). He is getting ready to move out, he has his own business, he drives, plays poker, he's an artist, a very talented writer, and so much more. He has gotten a ton of feeling back, unfortunately no function (a little in his hands). There are many things happening in research (this is a great site for sci info and what is happening in the world), keep CJ and your family focused on getting thru this first year - don't think too much about the future - look back at how far you all have come since that first nite in the hospital. There are many reasons to be hopeful - CJ will walk again, as will my son, we just don't know when. I will keep you all in my prayers.


          My heart goes out to your family and your son. My 21 y/o daughter was injured on 4/14/08 and has a c-5 injury she also lost her right arm. she too was sitting in the passenger seat of the vehicle she was in which happened to be an ambulance of all things. All she did that day was go to work at job helping others.

          you will find alot of support here and alot of answers to questions you didn't know you had yet.

          Good Luck and keep Hoping!!!!


            Sorry about CJ's accident. My injury is about the same level - diving accident, 3.5 years ago.

            I think I've had to take in more information and learn how to live more in the past few years than I did in the first 4 years of my life.

            But it can be done. There are C5/6 quads here who've graduated, have great jobs, beautiful wives and wonderful children. They live independently or as independently as they can.

            Please don't hesitate to ask questions. Oh, and get CJ online here.

            C5/6 incomplete

            "I assume you all have guns and crack....."


              Hi Elaine

              Another broken heart thanks to this devastating injury ! I'm so sorry your family is going through this ....... but I'm very glad you found us ! As others have already stated you have found the premier site on the net for info and support.

              When you're ready .. come over to Caregiving ..... there are many parents of kids with sci there (I'm sad to say )but you will find plenty of support and a safe place to vent with us ....... I'm afraid there will be days you will need to do that ...... and we'll be there to hold you up ... I promise ! Stay strong !

              ~ Be the change you wish to see in the world ~ Mahatma Gandi

              " calling all Angels ...... calling all Angels ....walk me through this one .. don't leave me alone .... calling all Angels .... calling all Angels .... we're tryin' and we're hopin' cause we're not sure how ....... this .... goes ..."
              Jane Siberry


                My son is 19. I live in fear of that phone call. I'm so sorry you got it.

                Youth is a great asset. He's experienced every possible setback, it sounds like, which sucks so much. But he's young, and has family that loves him. 2 years from today, come back and read this post. You won't recognize him as the pale, frail kid you're looking at today.

                Hang tough.
                Does This Wheelchair Make My Ass Look Fat?


                  I'm sorry this has happened. I was in a situation similar to your sons. I feel you're lucky to find this site so soon after CJ's injury. I wish I found it sooner. Don't be afraid to ask any questions.


                    Thanks so much you guys for all of the advice and prayers. We went to see CJ today and they will be doing the flap surgery on Wednesday. He is doing ok other than that. They say he should be coming home by the end of August. I will definitely get him on this site as soon as he gets home. I will also get over to the caregiver site for more info and help. It's so nice to know we are not alone, although it's soooo sad to know so many others have gone through this tragedy. I will keep updating as we go along. We love our son very much and we have 4 other boys as well, ages 20,17,16, and 10. We appreciate this site soo much!!

                    Elaine- CJ's-Mom


                      I am glad that you found this site and I am sorry you had to. My thoughts and prayers are with CJ, you and your family.


                        It just dawned on me that something Rehab Rhino said the other day might be helpful to you. He said only recently has his mother ceased viewing him as a sickly disabled guy, and begun worrying just what he might do next. LOL, that is the trouble with boys. If they're not worrying you one way, they're worrying you another!

                        I feel safe promising that CJ, given time, will once again have you worrying about what he's up to. The SCI recovery process is just unbelievably slow. I think we expect it to be faster (I certainly did). Given his secondary complications, CJ is healing slower than he would with SCI alone...but he is healing.

                        This injury has to be measured in years, not weeks. As an impatient person, I have found that unbearably frustrating. But you have no choice but to bear it, so you do.

                        Best to all of you.
                        Does This Wheelchair Make My Ass Look Fat?


                          Elaine I'm sorry you had to find us this way.
                          It's great that CJ has such loving parents & support.
                          I live in Cleb, Tx but my Dr's are in Dallas at UT Southwest Medical Ctr.
                          My urologist specializes in sci. Dr. Gary Lamack

                          My physiatrist is Dr. Michele Mendez who also specialices in sci.

                          I recommend both of them highly.

                          I pray he'll recover from his flap soon and be on his way to a fullfilling life.
                          God bless all of you.


                            Mona, thanks for the info and prayers. Betheny, CJ is a very impatient teenager but he comes by it honestly, lol. It is unbelievably frustrating that this has happened and there is nothing we can do about it. Hopefully CJ will learn patience from this, guess he has no choice. I wish I could go back to that day and change something to change the outcome but I know I can't. The trial for the boy driving will begin in 8-10 months and we will have to relive it all over again. CJ wants to be at the trial and we have to be to testify. The kid driving was 17 at the time of the crash but has since turned 18. He was arrested again for Felony street racing which resulted in a car crash where he also injured his passenger with a broken femur. That accident happened a week before CJ's but they did not arrest him for it until after CJ's accident. God, if they only would of arrested him that night CJ may not have had to go through all this. Can you tell how anygry I am?????? We never liked the boy that was driving but you know teenagers, they don't listen to parents much. I do hope and pray that I will have to worry about CJ being out and about again, kind of weird to say that but that may mean there will be some normallcy (sp?) again in our family. I feel like this is a nightmare I just can't wake up from...will I ever stop grieving for the child CJ once was??? I hope so, I really do!



                              Elaine- BIG HUGS to you! I am so sorry you are going through this right now. As others have said- SCI is hard enough to deal with let alone having complications in addition. I don't blame you one bit for being angry about this. As a mother I know I would be also. My fiance had a SCI at C5/6 but he didn't have any kind of accident. It just "happened" to him. He never did anything to hurt himself- he herniated a disk that compressed his spinal cord. So now he looks around trying to figure out all of the "why's" and "how's" of it all. Hang in there. This really is a great place to come. Everyone here has been wonderful to me!! You and your family are in my thoughts and I will send my well wishes your way every day!!