On Tuesday, Robb was working at the University of California's Department of Theater and Dance. He was working as a carpenter, and was taking down some lights in the trap room under the stage. He and another worker were on ladders, the light started to get away from them, and Robb realized that if he didn't do something, the light was going to bash the other worker in the head. Unfortunately, that "something" pulled the ladder off balance, and Robb fell from near the top of a twelve foot ladder, and landed on his back on a concrete floor.
He was taken by ambulance to Highland Hospital, the main trauma hospital in the East Bay. I was called by his supervisor and was able to stay with Robb in the emergency room, until he had surgery. Robb's neurosurgeon was Dr. Castro-Maury. Prior to surgery (and prior to my arrival), Robb had a ct scan, and Dr. Castro-Maury walked me through the scans.
(I must say that these are amazing! Being able to visualize the human body in the manner is phenomenal.)
In very non-scientific terms, Robb had crushed the top vertebra of the lumbar region of his spine (L1) and the bones had crunched into his spinal column. The bones were pressing into the spinal chord.
When surgery began, I went home to feed the cats, change my clothes, and send out some emails. This is how most of you probably heard about all of this.
I went back to the hospital, and it seemed like half of Berkeley Repertory Theater was there to support me. Madelyn, Amanda and Wil were waiting when I arrived. Ashley came later, as did Jim. I was just vibrating and talking a mile a minute, and it was so wonderful to have everyone around. They really helped keep me in good spirits.
When Robb got out of surgery, I had a very informative conversation with the neurosurgeon. And I got to see an image of what they had done in surgery. In addition to removing the bone fragments from where they shouldn't have been, and replacing shattered bone from a donor (If you aren't already, become an organ donor!!!), they inserted two titanium rods in each of the vertebra above and below the damaged bone (T12 and L2, respectively). These screws were then attached to a sort of scaffolding to keep the bones in position so that the bones wouldn't shift around and cause further damage to spinal chord.
Comparing the images of Robb's damaged bone to what I saw prior to surgery was astonishing. they had un-squashed a bone that had been really crushed just hours before. Amazing.
I was allowed to see him in the recovery room. The staff was wonderful, and Robb was awake and in remarkably good spirits. He drifted off to sleep, and I went home to get some rest.
(I'm getting tired here, so this will be a bit less detailed)
We met with the neurosurgery team, who did another assessment of Robb's condition. Apparently, everything is normal for this sort of case. He has a lot of trauma so there is a lot of swelling in the area of the spinal chord. Time will reduce this. And then healing will begin. It is going to be a long recovery, but we are optimistic.
Robb was transferred to a private room on the transitional care unit (one step down from intensive care unit). He shares a nurse with two other patients, and it seems like someone is always (discreetly) coming in to check up on him.
In the afternoon, Robb took a ride (on his bed) to get another ct scan. I was able to watch the entire process, and was just amazed at the way they can see into his body. The scans looked at all sort of different angles, while Robb stayed in one place. The CAT scanner is like a giant donut, that Robb slid in and out of on a moving table.
The images showed that the surgeons had removed all the bone fragments, and I could see the hardware as well as the fractures. I could also see the blood vessels in his bones, and gas in his inside. The technicians were so nice, and answered millions of questions for me.
Robb returned to his room, and Ashley brought us dinner that Jill and Chris had cooked (Madelyn and Amanda brought lunch). Thank you, everyone! Robb had dinner, which was more Jill cooking than hospital food. (We're allowed to feed him outside food.)
Lots of other things were happening, too. I'll try to get back to all of this at some time. But I've told all the major things.
Today was a busy day. Robb saw some of his neurosurgery team in the morning. (I actually came to the hospital a bit late in the morning -- 10am -- because I really needed to clean up the house, and feel like some part of my life was in order.) Unfortunately, they had a fourteen hour surgery today so we didn't see them again. I'll be calling them tomorrow to be sure I see them.
Yesterday, Robb was fitted for a brace (his external spine), which was just like a costume fitting, except that he was flat on his back. The cool part was the plastic tape measure threader that the brace guy slid under Robb to get the tape around his torso. Today, the brace arrived. We're trying to decide if it looks more like Roman armor, or Star Wars Storm Trooper gear (white plastic) or like a turtle shell. The brace goes from his collar bone to his pelvic bone, is hard plastic, and velcros on the sides.
Robb also had his first meeting with a physical therapist today. I think she was with us for almost three hours. Like everyone at the hospital, Deborah (the physical therapist) is wonderful, thoughtful, encouraging and caring. She took a lengthy assessment of Robb's mental and physical state. Mentally, Robb is Robb. Thank goodness. Physically, he's got a long way to go. He has spotty (and in some areas total) loss of sensation in his feet and legs and pelvic area, and loss of motor control in parts of his legs and feet. The therapist and I got Robb into the brace, and she got his sitting up, with his feet on the floor. This is a first. She is an amazing spirit, and gave Robb a lot to focus on. At the end, he told her that she gave him the gentlest excruciating pain he had ever experienced. Like I said, Robb is Robb. Same sense of humor, and wonderfully creative way of looking at the universe.
Friends have been stopping by with foods and kind wishes. And food! Can I say enough about the amazing meals that everyone has been bringing? I couldn't have gotten through this without the wonderful support of all my friends. Thanks to everyone.
Please, if you have a moment, send Robb a get well card!