A 25th anniversary trip interrupted – far from home
One year after suffering a devastating brain injury and spending three weeks at Cape Cod Hospital, Bill Ewing and his wife, Laura, were back recently to thank all those who had cared for him during his ordeal.
“I cannot tell you how wonderful everyone was,” Laura said, during an interview on the same floor on the hospital’s Mugar patient wing where Bill recovered. “It was such a comfortable place to be during such a tragic time.”
The Houston, Texas couple were back to resume their 25thanniversary celebration that had been so terribly interrupted last year.
The trip last October had started out on a positive note. The Ewing’s were staying with friends in Orleans and were enjoying the sights and catching up on each other’s lives. After spending the morning at the beach one day, they paid a visit to another couple’s home in Orleans, and that is where the trip took a turn for the worse.
As Bill was walking across the yard, his blood pressure suddenly spiked, causing him to topple onto the grass and hit his head. The blood pressure condition would later be diagnosed by Hyannis neurosurgeon Gordon Nakata, MD as Posterior Reversible Encephalopathy Syndrome, or PRES, which can cause headache, dizziness or seizures. The PRES event was what caused Bill to fall.
The blow to the head then led to bleeding in the brain and Bill was in rough shape. He was rushed to Cape Cod Hospital, where he spent four days in the intensive care unit before regaining consciousness long enough to be moved to a patient floor. But, he then suffered a seizure and returned to the ICU before finally moving to the sixth floor on the Mugar wing, where he remained the rest of his time at CCH. He spent a total of three weeks at the hospital.
Laura, aside from a quick trip home to get some warm clothes, spent the entire time by her husband’s side. She moved from her friends’ home to a hotel room in Hyannis to be closer to the hospital, and was joined by their children who each took turns flying in from Houston Austin, Texas, for part of the time.
Gradually Bill, who works in the security business, was coming back from the injury, but Laura had been told he would need rehabilitation after he was released from the hospital. She was considering facilities on Cape Cod because the expense of transporting him back to Houston was prohibitive. But a co-worker at United Airlines, in passing, asked her if she had signed up for personal accident insurance on her insurance. She checked the policy and found that she had the coverage.
“That changes everything,” Cape Cod Hospital ambulatory case manager Elizabeth “Libby” Merritt told Laura. The insurance allowed Bill to be airlifted on a medical transport plane to TIRR Memorial Hermann rehabilitation center, a brain injury center in Houston.
Bill spent 3 weeks at TIRR, receiving physical and occupational therapy before finally returning home in just a few days before Thanksgiving. Still not cleared by his neurologist to return to work, he worked with a friend trained in brain exercises, gradually strengthening his cognitive abilities so he could go back to work.
Today, Bill has fully recovered, but has little memory of his time at Cape Cod Hospital or his trip home.
“I have maybe a two- or three-minute memory of getting on the (medical) airplane, and being on the stretcher going into TIRR,” he said. “But I don’t remember the first couple weeks (at TIRR).”
His brain injury was deceptive to his family and friends, said Laura, because he appeared to be carrying on conversations with people who visited him, but later had no recollection of them.
“Every couple days I hear something I did that, I didn’t know,” said Bill.
While Cape Cod Hospital and the sixth floor on Mugar were all new to Bill, Laura wanted him to meet some members of the care team that treated him. They were able to see a few people during their recent visit. Laura said she wished to thank as many people as she could remember, including:
“I wanted Bill to meet everybody here because the memories I have were so great,” she said. “I felt such peace here.”
The Ewing’s dodged a second bullet in August when their house was spared during Hurricane Harvey, while their neighbor’s house across the street had extensive flooding.
“We keep feeling so blessed,” Laura said.
Featured Photo: Bill and Laura Ewing reconnect with Mugar 6 Clinical Leader, Wayne Paini, RN.