This update comes from a regular email sent out by NPTS to students. We’ve made no attempt to edit the report. Please pray for our brother, the professor, Michael Van Horn.
Saturday morning, January 2, 2010
From Michael’s father: Mike is responding to light. He closes his eyes when they shine a light into them. He blinks when you move your hand toward his eyes. He squeezed my finger slightly yesterday and today (Thursday and Friday). However the doctor could not get the same response. He seems to be more alert also.
Verlin Van Horn
Wednesday afternoon, December 30, 2009
Michael was transferred from the ICU of Detroit Receiving Hospital to Select Specialty Hospital in Kalamazoo, MI late this morning. Select Specialty is a sub-acute rehabilitation center, which specializes in weaning patients from oxygen support. While Michael is able to breath on his own, his blood gas (oxygen) tends to slip below acceptable levels. Consequently, he has required near constant oxygen support. This dependency on extra oxygen needs to be eliminated before Michael can be considered for more traditional rehabilitative care. Select Specialty Hospital occupies the second floor of Bronson Methodist Hospital and is located at 601 John Street. Subsequent to successful weaning, Michael will be transferred to either an acute rehabilitation center (perhaps at Bronson Hospital) or to a more traditional nursing care facility.
The doctors at Detroit Receiving Hospital have repeatedly commented that Michael responds to those people he knows. While he may not yet be able to speak to us, it seems evident that he recognizes us and is “excited” when we are there. These interactions are good for Michael and may actually aid in his neurological healing. I would encourage each of you to schedule time to visit Michael in the weeks and potentially months ahead. At this writing there is no information available on visiting hours or policies at Select Specialty. The phone number is (269) 341-7134.
Wednesday evening, December 23
Michael’s physical condition continues to improve. His lungs appear to be clearing, he remains fever free, and his heart rate and blood pressure are stable and within “normal” parameters. He is able to keep his eyes open many minutes at a time and frequently turns his head from side to side. The color in his face is good, and he looks much more like himself. He has been receiving low-level, non-pressurized oxygen support, as it appears difficult for him to maintain his blood gas oxygen at desired levels over time. While this and some other minor issues exist, he is considered ready for transfer from the ICU.
As Michael is still receiving oxygen support, he is not currently a candidate for transfer directly to a rehabilitation facility. As an intermediate step, he will be transferred to a special section of the Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, either tomorrow or the Monday after Christmas, where they will focus on weaning him from all oxygen support. Subsequent to being weaned, and contingent upon signs of significant cognitive recovery, he will be transferred to the acute rehabilitation wing of Bronson Hospital for follow-on treatment and therapy. If his cognitive recovery is somewhat slower, he is likely to be transferred to a long-term care (nursing) facility in St. Joseph, Michigan.
Some confusion exists about the word “comatose.” Many of us tend to think of comatose as a state of being where a person is completely unconscious and non-responsive. And of course the opposite is a state of being where a person is lucid and in control of their body. You’re either one or the other. Michael’s doctors do not make this sharp distinction. Rather, they describe a continuum where the transition from one state to another is marked by the ability to respond to command. Even though Michael is able to keep his eyes open for minutes at a time and turn his head from side to side, he remains unable to respond to his doctors’ commands to blink his eyes twice or squeeze their hands. Consequently, he is regarded as still being comatose, even though he appears to be “awake.”
Special thanks to Kathy Kitzmann (cello), Rae Hoekstra (violin) and Mark Wallace (violin), who played Christmas carols for Michael and the others in the ICU this past Saturday. When the first strains of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” started, Michael immediately opened his eyes, and his heart rate and blood pressure jumped noticeably. Clearly, he heard; hopefully he enjoyed it. All the staff present, as well as other visitors to the unit expressed their thanks. And the hospital has asked for a return visit.