After his first meetings with his neurologist, everyone was feeling appropriately optimistic. Austin would be able to have surgery soon, and after reviewing his CT scans and speaking with Austin, the family was told that he was recovering at a good pace especially considering the extent of his injuries. His father Gerhard says, “he stated that Austin’s capabilities and how he looked were comparable to what he would see in a patient about 3 months post-op.”
“Then, after about four and a half great weeks of almost daily progress came the rough spot we were warned of many times,” says Tina. Austin had severe difficulty sleeping, unable to sleep more than an hour or two at a time, and going for many days with less than ten hours sleep total. This means that his parents, who are caring for him 24/7 also were not sleeping.
Austin had two visits to the emergency room in one weekend, the second via ambulance after experiencing his first seizure since his surgery on August 4th. Austin returned home after extensive examination and testing – with some medication changes and the need for even more attention -- his equilibrium was skewed and he had lost a great deal of the cognitive progress he had made in the past 3 weeks. But he was finally able to get the sleep he needed, and his surgeon determined him ready for the cranioplasty on September 20th.
Austin’s neurosurgeon reported that the synthetic piece used to replace the piece of his skull, missing since the surgery following his accident, had a good fit, and that it “went very well technically.” Everything went so well that the doctor has already released Austin from the hospital. There still remains some loss of cognitive skills, but not to the point he was at directly following the seizure. His motor skills are improving, his vision has enhanced again, especially in his right eye, and his balance is improving as well throughout the course of the day. The swelling from the surgery is going down, and Austin will soon resume his outpatient therapies.
The cranioplasty is an important milestone of recovery on many levels: physically, the brain becomes protected by the skull; and psychologically, patients often report feeling whole again. Up until this point, the emphasis has been to love and care for Austin and help him prepare for this surgery. Soon, the family will learn more about what lies ahead for Austin as he continues his intensive physical, occupational and speech therapies.
It is hoped that Austin will ramp up his recovery now that he has completed this phase, and that the journey will be smooth. All of the prayers and well wishes, all of the love and financial support, have been very much a part of Austin’s road to recovery. With so many people supporting him and his family, Austin will be able to continue his mantra of “Get work done – then have some fun,” with the hope, patience, and persistence needed to fully heal and joyfully celebrate his accomplishments.