Lynne Thomas
by on June 20, 2012

In the blink of an eye….

On July 7th, 2011 life for the family of Josh Thomas changed forever. We are now a family who is more familiar with Traumatic Brain Injury than we ever hoped or expected to be.
It started out as a typical day, husband was gone to work, one son just coming in from a third shift job, I had the day off and Josh was just leaving for work at WKU for the 7am shift. At 7 a.m., I got the phone call that no parent ever wants to get, a message saying one of your children has been involved in an accident, he’s critical and is being life flighted to Vanderbilt. Get there quickly….and in the blink of an eye, life changed.
As a family we drove to Vandy, arriving at the same time as the helicopter. My sister was already there to meet us after my frantic phone call and when we were briefed on his condition the longest wait of our lives began.
When we were finally allowed into the trauma bay, my son had to be pointed out to me because there was nothing recognizable about him. All we knew for certain is that on his way to work, Josh may have had a seizure. According to a witness, he had his seat belt on, both hands on the wheel and was not on the cell phone. He used his turn signals to pass a vehicle and used them again to come back into the right hand lane and just kept going right, never braking and hit an embankment and went airborne. He flipped his truck twice, took out a telephone pole and flipped it 3 more times and every time he flipped his head smacked the drivers side door frame causing irreversible brain damage to the left side of his brain…and in the blink of an eye, his life changed too.
The next vivid memory I have as a mother is the trauma surgeon saying, “Mrs. Thomas, you need to call in your family.” My reply was obviously not what he was expecting. I said, “No sir, I don’t think so. You don’t know my son and you obviously don’t know my God because neither of them has given up and I would appreciate it if you didn’t either.” Josh’s injuries were severe. He had some major brain damage that caused his brain to swell so 1/3 of his skull had to be removed to allow for space for his brain to swell, he broke every bone in his face, fractured his clavicle and his left arm in three places that required a huge amount of pins and plates to put his arm back together and he had deflated both lungs from the force of the accident. He looked like he had taken a severe beating.
And so our journey into the world of T.B. I. began…. 17 days in a straight back chair at Vanderbilt where they struggled to save my sons life.17 days that would stretch into 7 long months at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Select Specialty Hospital as our son struggled to survive this horrendous accident. As a result of his injury he was in a coma for 2 months, when he awoke from the coma, we were soon discovered that he could not walk, talk, sit or stand. The doctors say probably never, I say not yet. NOT YET, because you never stop hoping and you never stop believing in the power of prayer. This was our son, how could we give up…how could any parent just give up without giving it all you have. Realistically, our son, brother, cousin and nephew was injured in an accident that most would have called unsurvivable. But he did survive many months of setbacks and surgeries to try and repair the damage that was caused, in the blink of an eye.
Josh has had 4 brain surgeries and 2 major reconstructive surgeries to repair the damage that was caused on that day. As a family we had to accept a lot of things that we didn’t want to accept. The support from our families, our church, and our hometown friends has been phenomenal but nothing less than what I would have expected from these people who all love Josh. I stayed with him in Nashville but life had to go on. Dad and twin brother Corey had to return to work, we had bills to pay and animals to feed and responsibilities to be met so I stayed and they came on weekends and during the week whenever possible. Sisters came in when they could to help from half way across the country. My sisters and brothers as well as the Thomas family came to give me an occasional break and check on Josh. Always positive, no negative thoughts allowed, we encouraged Josh every step of the way. There is no greater love than that of a father for his child or a brother for his brother. They helped Josh with Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy and took care of things that a guy does better, like shaving and haircuts and they loved him unceasingly and we began to see improvements and the room was filled with hope and renewed faith.
Josh’s progress was great but every time we got him to a good level of progress he had to have another surgery and that knocked him right back to square one so we just started over. Time and time again, we thought we were going to lose him but he always bounced back to us. The power of prayer is an amazing thing to witness.
The other amazing thing to witness was a father’s love for his daughter. Josh has a 4 year old daughter and when he was finally stable enough for her to come visit, we knew what he had been hanging on to life for. His eyes lit up and he followed her around the room with his eyes and she fed him ice cream and bought him a stuffed animal and helped give him medicine saying, ”Nana, I made my daddy’s head feel alllll better” and I cried with a heartbreak that only a mom could know.
Being optimistic isn’t always easy in the face of adversity, there were days I sat in the hospital room for 16 hours and cried. I wept for the man my son would never be, I wept for his pain, I wasn’t sure there was enough air in the room to draw another breath and I longed for the sound of his voice. I watched old videos just so I could hear him speak again and I cried. Dad and siblings dealt with their own emotions too and this was the hardest thing we had ever dealt with in our lives but this wasn’t about us, this was about Josh and what was best for him.
And in the blink of an eye, way before I was ready, it was time to make some choices. We made them as a family, Dad, Corey and I. Nursing home or bring him home and care for Josh ourselves. The choice was easy; there would be NO nursing homes for our 23 year old son and brother. We learned a whole new way of life; we went from Dad, Mom, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, to caregivers.
I fought more fights with bureaucratic red tape than I ever thought possible. Josh needed things, not wanted, needed…and I fought many fights and stayed on the phone for many hours to make sure we would have what we needed when we got home.
7 months to the day of his accident, we were discharged from the hospital in Nashville and life hanged for us again. They tell me change is good, and being home was certainly good for Josh and for all of us. Major progress was being made and we have had a few setbacks since our homecoming that required hospital stays but still he perseveres .Being the parents and family of a TBI victim has changed us all for the better. We have pulled together for Josh, because that’s just what you do; you take care of your own, no matter what, no exceptions, no excuses. The question I am most often asked is, “How’s Josh, Is he ok?” I have to smile; I guess it depends on your definition of O.K. Josh still doesn’t sit without support, or walk or stand or speak but our son is still home with us, the Lord has let us keep him one more day. He smiles at me and he reaches for his brother’s hand and arm wrestles with his dad and ALWAYS wins. He gives “smooches” to his sister and eats ice cream with his daughter, he loves to watch Looney Toons and WWE and UFC …and for us…that’s ok because things could have been so different….in the blink of an eye.
Posted in: My Journal
1 person likes this.
Brenda Bell
Thank you for sharing your story! It is true that you never stop hoping and never stop believing in the power of prayer. God has never lost a battle! Look at Josh,God is faithful! God does not forsake you.All you have to do is trust in Him.What a story. Hey Josh!
Like June 21, 2012
Bernadette Coleman
These stories of Victory keep's us Moms going... Thanks for sharing
Like June 22, 2012
Raven Vela
Thats such a great and inspiring story especially the part about his daughter. You never know what could happen to someone, and he is so lucky to have such loving people to care for him and support him no matter what. There are so many people that would have just turned their backs.
Like August 13, 2012