Six months ago, I woke up to a phone call saying Trevor was being rushed to the hospital. Again. After I thought all this chaos was over. I was told that there was a good chance he wasn’t going to make it and that I should say my goodbyes.
Six months ago, Trevor was taken into emergency surgery where they removed a mass of damaged brain cells and an 11-centimeter chunk from his skull. A newborn baby could fit through the hole in Trevor’s head. He was bloody, sweaty and swollen. His eyes were glued shut and his lips were puffy and lopsided. His entire face was orange from the iodine used during surgery. The left side of his head was completely shaven with about 50 staples in a curve around his ear, looking just like a baseball. The right side of his head was covered in thick, curly brown hair. He had blood seeping out the orifices in his face. There was a bag of what looked like cherry Koolaid being drained from his brain. He was wearing only a hospital gown with his hairy chest, arms and legs visible.
Six months ago, there were beeping machines everywhere with numbers that I had no clue the meanings of. Trevor looked like a robot with hundreds of cords and batteries keeping him barely running. He had a feeding tube in his nose; a ventilator in his mouth; 2 drains in his head; probes and electrodes all over his head and chest; IV lines; a catheter; a temperature tube in his throat; and circulatory leg cuffs on his ankles. He was tied down to the bed like some sort of wild animal, in case he miraculously woke up out of his comatose state and tried to escape. But Trevor wasn’t moving; he wasn’t even a person. He was completely brain-dead.
Six months ago, I had no idea what Trevor's future looked like or if he even had a future.
Today, Trevor is relearning how to walk and talk. He’s going to therapy and improving more and more each day. He is driving a boat, exercising and remaining extremely positive. The stubbornness we’ve always complained about is without a doubt what has pushed him through this recovery full-throttle. He is now able to lift his right arm, which we were told was paralyzed. As of a few days ago, he can now lift his right leg up a few inches as well. The fact that he can do this means there’s a chance he will get his right side functionality back.
Today, Trevor’s main struggle is communication. He still has a hard time finding words. The only full sentence he can say is still “My name is Trevor Rhoda.” He still repeats the same few words over and over again. He still can’t order food at a restaurant or tell us what he wants to do. But he can respond to normal conversation semi-accurately. If you ask him “what’s up?,” he’ll respond with something along the lines of “good” or “nothing.” If you hand him a lemonade, he’ll say something like “alright” or “yep.” When cued, he can finish the lyrics to songs such as “I like big butts and I cannot lie,” “Happy birthday to you,” “Honky Tonk” and “Just a Friend.” As far as we’re concerned, he understands the majority of what we’re saying, he just can’t initiate or come up with words on his own. However, as we all know, verbal communication isn’t the only way to communicate. Trevor finds other ways to tell us what he wants and needs. He can still nod and shake his head, high-five us, push us away and flip us off. He still has the same goofy expressions and sense of humor as he always has.
Today, Trevor and I were home alone. I said, “No parents, no rules, let’s party!” jokingly. He looked at me, pointed to the door, said “well” and expected me to somehow interpret what he was trying to say. I followed him out to the garage, where he opened up the mini-fridge, handed me an ice-cold PBR, said “drink” and laughed. I didn’t drink it, of course, but it’s things like this that make me believe he’s still the same Trevor and that nothing, not even six brain surgeries, can change that.
Today, Trevor wakes up every morning and goes to the gym with our stepdad, where he lifts weights, rides the recumbent bike and does leg exercises in the pool. He then watches a few minutes of several different movies on TV until he has to go to therapy. During therapy, he works on his speech, writing and coloring. After therapy, he comes home, watches TV until dinner time and then after dinner, watches more TV. Throughout the course of the day, he takes a couple walks down the street and back. At any given time, if you ask Trevor what he did all day, he will respond with, “sit there.” The sad thing is he’s right; while he’s at home, all he does is sit there. It’s painful to watch my brother, who used to be one of the most active people I know, have no motivation to do anything. And even though I am so, so proud of his progress, it’s still heart-breaking to see him like this. I wish things were different. I wish he flew through this recovery as quickly as the last one. We’ve been told over and over again that this recovery is going to be a marathon. However, patience is something necessary for a marathon, and patience is a virtue I’ve never been blessed with.
I still don’t know what’s in store for Trevor’s future but I do know that he has surpassed my expectations in every way possible. The past six months have by far been the longest, most difficult and draining months of my life but they’ve also been the most exciting, fulfilling and miraculous. Trevor continues to amaze me with his dedication, positive attitude, stubbornness and sense of humor. I can’t wait to see where he’s at six months from now!