Clarence Clemons

Today's update is from Bob's sister, Susie:

Bob was moved from the ICU to Shady Grove Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital in Rockville on Tuesday. This is an excellent rehab facility, located, thankfully, less than 10 minutes from our neighborhood. Mornings are devoted to physical and occupational therapy, and meals are served in a large, light-filled dining room. Each patient has an entire care team, headed by a case manager, with whom Barbara has met. The general atmosphere is focused and lively, with bustling activity and a great diversity of patient needs and abilities. The goal is to guide patients to independence as quickly as possible, and stays are usually between a few days to a few weeks.

The initial transfer was confusing to Bob, and the first day he was quite disoriented and angry. He seemed to have thought that when he left the ICU, he'd somehow be transported magically back "home," where everything would be to the way it was, and so the adjustment to reality was rough. The first night, he tried to climb out of his bed; thankfully, he was discovered before he made it to the floor. To keep him safe without restraints, the staff installed a kind of tent-like structure with mesh sides that zip shut over his bed. Needless to say, Bob was not pleased about that. Grrrr.

In spite of all this, his P.T. sessions have gone pretty well. Erica, his physical therapist, gives him generous encouragement, and Bob's responded by working hard with her. He's also got a speech therapist, who is working with him on swallowing, which has been a real problem since the ventilator was removed a few weeks ago. She's helped him to be able to begin eating again, and his meals are served at a special table in the dining room for people with swallowing issues. He still has the PEG in his stomach for supplementary nutrition, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

We've all talked with Bob about his issues with his "tent," and he's pretty well accepted that it's not there to punish him, but to keep him safe and make sure his legs can heal. He's even discussed it with his nurses and promised that he won't "try anything stupid" if they leave the sides open, which they do as much as possible, especially when he has visitors...

...which he did on Friday - his 52nd birthday! The staff began his day by bringing him a bouquet of balloons, which they tied to his bed. In the afternoon, Barbara, Susie & George arrived with handmade cards from Kevin, Melanie & Jeremy, along with a framed picture and bio of Bob, written by Walt, to hang on his wall - to introduce his caregivers to the "real Bob". When we gave it to him, he held it in his hands and read every word before looking up with a smile and pronouncing, "That's the real me!"

The best birthday gift of all was a phone call that came in at 4:40: "Hello? This is Clarence Clemons. I'm calling to wish Bob a happy birthday." Yes, the Big Man, himself. Several months ago, Bob had bought a ticket to the Bruce Springsteen concert here in D.C. that took place this past week, as a birthday present to himself. After the accident, it was clear that there was no way he'd be able to make it to the concert, so his brother David, who's interviewed Clarence a number of times, started the process of getting in touch with his "people," to see if they could make something happen in time for Bob's b-day. And as we all know, once David decides to get something done, it does get done! He told us that when Johnny Green, local concert producer and Clarence's long-time friend, reached him, the Big Man thanked him for the opportunity to call Bob. And he placed the call himself, no intermediaries. Do we need to tell you how happy Bob was? I don't think so. Big, big grin as they talked, telling each other they were each their guiding light, with "God bless"es all around.

"I'll be checking back with him," Clarence said as he hung up. So something magical did happen after all - in spite of the tent, the still-broken legs, and the long, uncertain road ahead. On Saturday, Barbara, Walt, Susie & George had supper with Bob in his dining room, and Sunday Mimi & company came down from Phillie to see him. Barbara has told Bob's social worker about Bob's piano playing, so we're hoping that this weekend's rec therapy will include a visit to the keyboard. Things are changing every day, but that's the news as of this moment. And now, on to tomorrow.

Click here to send Bob a note! (1)

"I'm going to get my whole life back."

From Barbara:

It's four weeks since Bob was taken to Suburban Hospital, and today, he made a big step forward - he felt, for the first time, that he could really recover. For the past week or so his mood has been sad and frustrated, mixed with great anxiety (when he wasn't almost totally subdued by medications). At the same time, his body and mind have been healing steadily, and his greater awareness has made him more and more upset about being in the hospital. We tried to comfort him as best we could, letting him know we understood how he felt. Today, when I came in to his room, he was as distressed as ever, insisting that he wanted to "get out" and NOW. I know at that moment he felt betrayed by my inability to whisk him right out the door, into the car and back to his apartment. It took a while for him to calm down and later, almost miraculously, his mood began to change. He'd closed his eyes for a while, and I was sitting near his bed, when he turned his head toward me and began to talk - very very slowly and softly. Some of his words were almost inaudible, and I had to lean close to hear.

"I can't believe I did that," he said. "But it happens." I realized he was talking about the accident, something he has never said anything about, never wanted to hear about. We didn't know if he remembered it. Then, he said, "I feel very fortunate that I didn't get into a more horrendous accident."

He cried hard, and then, "I'm sorry but this is the only way I can express myself." And, a few minutes later, "I feel that I'm going to get my whole life back together again." Amen.

And more news: Dr. Westerband, the wonderful surgeon in charge of his care, came to Bob's room today to talk about next steps. He is very happy about Bob's progress - clinically, he is 100% better than the day he first saw him, and he is ready for a new stage, not quite a rehab facility because of his extreme weakness, need for further medical care, and the fact that he can't put weight on his legs for another 6-8 weeks. What he is recommending is a nursing facility that will give him appropriate care along with some physical therapy, occupational therapy and other help. This is planned as a step toward actual rehab. We are waiting to see what help Bob's health insurance can provide, and then to visit various recommended places to see what would be most appropriate for him.

There's a long road still ahead, but Bob can do it! Especially with all of you behind him - his extended family - whose beautiful words of encouragement come every day. Thanks, thanks, thanks.

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"A tough cookie!"

We were excited on Monday to see Bob actually eat - chew and swallow - real food! - a meal of chicken, potatoes, carrots, apple sauce, milk, tomato soup and pineapples. Not that he ate it all, but the act itself was real progress. His nurse reported that before we arrived he had been really lively - waving to the secretaries in the hall, answering her questions (even volunteering that he didn't want to come back to this place). And she reported proudly that he had been able to sit in a chair for a little while. When we came, he was pretty tired from all this, but was relaxed while being fed.

On Tuesday, his orthopedic surgeon, who had done complicated surgery to repair both legs, called to say that the steel rod in one leg had slipped and he would have to do another procedure, which was scheduled for Wednesday morning (yesterday). He also needed more oxygen to help him out while his lungs are getting stronger so he's in a kind of face mask to pump more into his system. He came through the surgery very well and though tired out, he was alert when he came back to his room, and talking even more than before. The doctors and nurses at the ICU are just terrific - watching over him constantly and with real concern, affection, respect and optimism. We say a grateful thanks to them and to all our family and friends who surround him and us with loving help and support. As one nurse said earlier, "he's a tough cookie," and we look forward to seeing him bounce back from this new surgery and be ready for his next 5-course feast.
As Bob would say, "Stay tuned."

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Off the Ventilator!

Update from Barbara, as I was out of town this weekend and haven't seen Bob since Wednesday.

"Again, our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has written to express their concern and love. We feel encouraged by Bob's progress from day to day. On Sunday, they removed the ventilator, and he definitely seemed more alert - even able to growl some words from a very sore throat. His first sentence, which I leaned in to hear, was, "I want a soda." His breathing is somewhat fast (lungs are still healing), and he is getting extra oxygen through a new contraption. All the contraptions, of course, are driving him crazy and we're not sure he actually comprehends yet what has happened or where he is. Today, the speech therapist is coming in to test his ability to swallow (something that can be affected by ventilators) and we hope the test will lead to that soda - or, really, food and drink. He waved to me through the glass panel of his ICU room with a hand wrapped in a fat white mitt (to prevent pulling out wires). I'm sure he's waving to all of you, with thanks."

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I stopped by the hospital this afternoon. Not having been there since Friday, and knowing that I'm going away this weekend, I was very much looking forward to spending some time with Bob. However, when I arrived, the nurse flagged me down and told me that it would be better if I didn't go in. Apparently, Bob's now greater awakeness and awareness are causing him to be increasingly agitated and confused, and he was trying to pull out his breathing tube. Understandably, of course - even the strongest and most coherent of people would reach a point where they just couldn't take it any more, and Bob appears to have arrived there. This morning, she said, the staff gave him two breathing trials (meaning they turned off the fans in an attempt to determine whether he could breathe on his own if they removed the breathing tube); due to his extreme agitation, though, he failed both. Therefore, for the rest of the day, they were just trying to keep him calm and quiet, showing peaceful images on the television, and after I told the nurse that it was in there, playing Enya on the iPod. He was being kept under light sedation when I arrived, and while I was there she gave him a little more. As they had to rerestrain his wrists to prevent him from pulling out the tubes, he would periodically struggle against them, and every now and then try to sit up. As Melanie and I sat there quietly so as not to attract his attention and upset him, we watched him pulling on them and felt very sad.

In spite of all this, his greater cognizance is really actually a hopeful and positive sign; this morning, in fact, he was encouragingly responsive, wiggling his fingers and toes on demand for the nurse, and I heard that yesterday he even gave the thumbs up at one point. She said that they plan to give him another breathing trial in morning and that they anticipate that it will be successful. The expectation is that things will improve for him greatly once the breathing tube is removed. Our family is making plans to ensure that for as long as is necessary there is someone there with him during the days so that he won't be overly frightened and won't have to be alone.

Many thanks, as always, to everyone who has posted loving and healing wishes and thoughts on this site. We will continue to relay them. Please don't stop spreading the word and checking in. Love to you all!

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Up and Down...

Two days of updates today, folks. It's been a roller coaster couple of days for Bob and his family; following the surgery on Friday morning he seemed set back some, with less eye contact and less responsiveness. Barbara reported on Sunday, "Bob still opens his eyes and looks at us with feeling when we speak to him - though most of the time right now he's asleep. The iPod by his bed keeps the beat of his favorite songs - we feel sure it's helping." She related a story to me about one of his nurses who was very excited about his love of music and brought in her own recordings of reggae. "She played it loud and clapped and danced, and reported that when she did, his blood pressure went right down. The doctors tell us he is stabilized and that everything will take time."

Yesterday Kevin wanted to go down and see him, so Susie, George and Barbara all went down with him and were thrilled and relieved to see a whole new Bob from the day before. From Barbara, "Bob was much more responsive today - opening his eyes with every new voice, squeezing our hands, even seeming to try to raise his body (and free himself from the maze of tubes going everywhere). We felt very encouraged and thankful for the good care he is getting. Also, thankful to all our dear, wonderful family and friends who have sent us and Bob so many loving messages. Please continue to send email notes - the days are so exhausting, it can be hard to talk by phone right now. Love to all, from Bob and all of us."

So El Dobbo (as bro-in-law George calls him, a loving mutation of his nickname "Bobbo Dobbo") does seem to be fighting his way back to us. His love of his family, his music, his friends, and his life must be his strength through this terrible trial. And strong he is...and loved! His very, very dear friend Keith drove to visit him yesterday as well, which we know had to have been a huge boon when Bob heard his voice.

As we are traveling this road, Bob's family is grateful for all the well-wishes and calls of concern. We have been inundated with people who want to reach out to us and to Bob, hear how he's progressing, send their love and caring over the miles. As you can surely imagine, though, in the face of moving more than 40 years of their lives from one house to another and the upheaval of Bob's accident (all of which happened in the span of three days), Barbara and Walter cannot handle the volume of calls that they are receiving. Therefore, on their behalf, Susie and Jenny are gratefully requesting that all contact be made through them or through this website. Susie's cell phone is 240-672-3431, and Jenny's is 301-580-9386. It's also possible for anyone to leave comments on this website - the bottom of each posting has a place where comments can be left, and we promise to relate every word to Bob and Barbara and Walter.

Click here to send Bob a note!

Hopeful News

The report from Barbara and Walter today:

"The doctors are encouraged by how soon he began to awaken and look at people. They are now very slowly trying to wean him from the ventilator and reduce the amount of oxygen his is receiving - all very gradually. Jenny brought an iPod and he has the music he loves pouring into his head. His nurses have been terrific, and are now turning on the T.V. to add to the stimulation. The hospital he is in - Suburban - is a major trauma center, and the trauma surgeon who saw him as soon as he arrived - Dr. Westerband - is a man of great heart. He performed heroic, life-saving surgery immediately. We are thankful to him, to all the staff, and to all of you for your hopes and love. Please send your messages to him on this website, or by mail to our new address: 16513 Hampton Dr. Gaithersburg, MD 20877. We'll bring them all to him, and we know they will help."

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"Bob was hit by a car."

We didn't hear about Bob's accident until 2:30 p.m., over seven hours after it occurred. In fact, it was total fluke that we heard about it even then. That Wednesday happened to be the same day, by some cruel coincidence, that Bob's parents were moving out of their house in Bethesda, where they'd lived for over forty years. The movers were zooming around the house carrying boxes, and Bob's sister Susie and his niece Jenny had already unplugged and packed both house phones. After Jenny left, though, Susie noticed that her cell phone, which she'd been using almost non-stop all morning, was almost out of juice. So she turned it off and plugged back in one of the house phones. And it was that phone that rang with the news, delivered from one of Bob's colleagues. Imagine if her phone battery hadn't gotten low. Bob had no emergency identification on him about who to notify in case of an accident. The police had no idea of whom to call. The only clue there was hung around his neck on his office identification tag, so that's where they started.

Susie immediately called Jenny, and between them they notified immediate family members and within the hour everyone began to arrive at the hospital. Bob's room is in the Intensive Care Unit, and he is hooked to life support systems that aid his breathing and stabilize his battered body. The major injuries he sustained were two broken legs, a punctured bladder which was repaired by emergency surgery when he arrived at the hospital, bruised lungs, two broken ribs, and bruises to his brain. A second surgery was performed on his broken legs. He was taken in for a third surgery, also on his legs, this morning (Friday, 4/17), at 9:00 a.m., called Intramedullary Nailing. Prior to this surgery, another procedure was done, successfully, to put a filter into him in order to prevent blood clots from traveling to his lungs and brain.

Yesterday he opened his eyes periodically and looked at us, held our hands when we took his, and a couple times he turned his head toward someone's voice when they spoke to him. His whole family is here - even his sister from Philadelphia and his brother and sister-in-law from Florida.

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