Yesterday, Barb Farrington shared the terrible accident that left her daughter Katie fighting for her life. Today, in Part 2, Barb describes the next steps in their journey.
From Hospital to Home
Katie was at St. Alphonsus Hospital for about a month, where she began to come out of her coma. She was moved to Elks Rehab in Boise, Idaho, where she was weaned off the ventilator. It was around this time that Barb began to notice encouraging signs of awareness in Katie. A friend of Katie’s gave her a little dog. When they put it in Katie’s hands, she would look at it. On a trip out of the hospital, Barb saw Katie watching the trees go by the van window.
But she couldn’t get the medical staff at the rehab hospital to give any credence to these small but significant changes. One day they announced to Barb that they had done all they could and that they were going to release her. They planned to discharge her on a Friday, leaving Barb and Ron scrambling to find a place for her.
They fought for a few extra days at the hospital, while Barb looked for another hospital for Katie. Ron began to get his house ready for Katie’s inevitable discharge home. The hospital in Burns, Oregon, which was near Barb’s home, graciously consented to take Katie until Ron’s home could be readied to accommodate their daughter.
“This girl’s trying to work with me.”
Finally, a doctor noticed her new awareness. He told Barb, “This girl’s trying to work with me. I know a doctor she needs to see: Dr. Josie Fitzsimons.” Dr. Fitzsimons became a good support for the family. She had them move Katie to Bend, Oregon, so they could work with her every day.
But Barb could only be there on weekends, because of her job as a K-3 library tech at the Burns school. When she did go to see Katie, Katie would turn her head away from her and toward the wall. Barb knew Katie was terribly unhappy. “I knew I had to do something different.”
When Ron’s house was ready, Katie was discharged home. Ron and Barb took turns caring for her. Finding respite care was hard. Barb’s marriage began to crumble.
“Oh, Katie, what have you done?”
When did Barb truly realize that Katie was still there, locked inside her body?
“I always knew that. Here’s one instance: When she was at the Burns hospital, my sister and I were dressing her one day. We knew she was tracking things, and hearing things, but we weren’t seeing facial responses. My sister got after me and said, ‘You’re just too rough when you’re dressing her. You need to be gentler.’ Katie laughed, because we got to arguing about it. It was her first laugh.”
“That did it for me. From then on, she started expressing emotion.” One day while Katie was living at Ron’s, Barb gave in to the exhaustion. She broke down into tears and said, “Oh, Katie, oh, Katie, what have you done?”
At that moment, Katie cried. Barb felt really terrible. She’s never mentioned it again in Katie’s presence.
Still, Barb grieved over the changes happening in Katie’s body. Before her accident, she had been a fairly athletic girl. It hurt Barb to watch Katie’s legs atrophy. “A piece of me was dying. Someone has said that when a woman chooses to have a child, that child is her heart walking outside her body forever. It’s so true.”
Greater love has no man than this…
“It was the first time in my life when things didn’t work out right away. I could not believe it. It was the nightmare that you wished you could wake up from.” Barb’s mother came to stay with her and told her, “You cry at night in your sleep.”
Katie’s world had become hers. “And there,” she says, “I think I made a mistake.” Her marriage to Rex dissolved–not surprising, since statistics reveal that few marriages survive the stress of dealing with a child’s disability.
Throughout 1998 and into 1999, they tried taking Katie to various rehab hospitals in a futile effort to help her improve. In 1999, Barb and Katie resettled in Lewiston, Idaho, to be nearer to her family. Of her decision to care full time for Katie, Barb says, “I couldn’t bear to be away from her. God spoke so softly to my heart this Scripture: ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life….’ (John 15:13 KJV) And I just knew.”
Barb now operates a certified family home through the state of Idaho’s Medicaid program. She also cares for another client, Ted, who is protective of Katie. The state pays for fifty-six hours of nursing care a week to help Barb with Katie’s extensive caregiving needs. Barb calls it a “miracle provision.” Ron comes down every other weekend to help. Katie adores her dad, and they love to watch golf together.
Barb feels that God prepared her long in advance for this new job of caregiving. Before she was a library tech, she worked in special education for eight years. “Talk about God preparing me for what was ahead,” she says with a smile.
Today, at age thirty-four, Katie very much understands humor and sadness. She knows her grandma has passed away. She has favorite people. She shows disapproval by wrinkling her nose and frowning, or yelling. She appears to understand some of the subtleties of relationships and displays jealousy.
She likes giving gifts. She loves to help choose them and watch the recipients’ reactions as they open them. It really pleases her if they like it.
Katie communicates by blinking once for yes and twice for no. Sometime she blinks three times. The doctor says she is messing with them.
Tomorrow, Part 3: A New Season and A Story of Forgiveness
Photos courtesy Grace Thorson