Good to be Alive

A fall from a roof almost took Andy’s life. Now he’s thankful for every day.

Andy Finch of Lapeer spent 23 days as a patient at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, but he doesn't remember a minute of it. Last May, Andy, 29, was working as a roofer and fell from the second story of a house—about 30 feet up. His head hit a marble handrail before he landed on concrete. Andy had a seizure as the roofing crew called 911.

An ambulance rushed him to Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, a verified Level II-Adult Trauma Center, where a trauma team met him in the Emergency Department. The impact of the fall caused a basilar skull fracture, a traumatic brain injury that caused pressure in his head, a broken collarbone, five broken ribs and broken thoracic vertebrae, among other injuries.

A surgical team put a temporary shunt in Andy's head to help drain fluid and relieve the pressure, then sent him to the ICU. The first few days, he was unresponsive.

His prognosis was uncertain, to say the least. "There were days when we didn't know if he would live," said Chris McEachin, RN, manager of the Trauma Program.

A small army of family and friends took turns visiting the ICU to keep watch over Andy. When he finally came to, he was sometimes incoherent but "young, strong...and determined to get out of bed"—challenging his patient sitter and nurses at times.

He was eventually transferred to the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, where he spent an additional three weeks regaining his strength and working through the effects of his brain injury. He did require another hospitalization for permanent placement of a shunt that will continue to drain extra fluid from his brain. He then went home to complete his recovery.

After cognitive testing, he has been cleared to drive and to return to work. "I've always been a 'ballerina' on the roof. This was my first fall in seven years. But there are plenty of jobs that will keep my feet on the ground," said Andy. "My family is pretty vocal about that."

He has no permanent signs of brain injury, other than some memory loss and problems focusing.

Andy recently came back to visit Henry Ford Macomb to meet some of the doctors and nurses who cared for him and to deliver some hugs.

"I owe them my life. It's because of them that I'm still here. They worked miracles," said Andy. "I thank God. Every day is a gift."

The care that Andy received highlights the range of specialists and the teamwork required to deliver trauma services. The coordinated care that begins with EMS and the ER specialists continues through Surgery, the Intensive Care Unit, other specialized hospital units and outpatient services.

"Days like these when you see a patient come back whole are very rewarding. It's why we do this job," said Mike Manczyk, RN, a nurse in the ICU.

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