On October 29th 2016, an artery in Jose’s brain burst around 8:30 in the morning. It caused a hemorrhagic stroke and made him fall to the floor as the left side of the body went numb. I (his little sister) found him on the floor shortly after and called an ambulance. Jose was rushed to UCSD Hillcrest where he went through the emergency room doors around 9:00AM. There, the doctors worked on him and had the assistance of two or more neurologists from the neuro-critical care unit.
The paramedics walked me away from my brother, there wasn’t much else I could do anymore, it was up to the doctors and surgeons. I waited outside for my mom for more than half an hour (in a rush and panic, she got lost coming in and had to run three blocks from her car to arrive) and had to make several calls telling our loved ones that Jose was dying. Periodically nurses and paramedics would come up to me, giving their condolences. Even then I didn’t realize how much danger Jose was in.
Eventually I was called into the E.R again to sign the first of many, many consent forms to perform lifesaving surgeries and procedures on him. The first being the insertion of a catheter through his skull to drain all the blood before it went in the brain.
In the middle of this, nurses and doctors came out to keep me up to date. The stroke was caused by my brother’s high blood pressure, which was at a deadly 300+/100+ (exact numbers weren’t given). All his doctors, even up to now, said they have never seen anything like his blood pressure in their careers. He had to be induced into a coma with a drug (propofol) that shuts down all the senses. With that came intubation; he had to be on the ventilator for the duration of his coma. He experienced kidney failure and multiple other things that were also caused by his stroke.
Jose had only been given a 25% chance of life. We were told every day to not have much hope and to take things hour by hour, just in case.
A week after his stroke, the neuro team had to preform emergency brain surgery (skull removal) to save his life. The blood from the burst artery had gotten inside of his brain and coupled with the swelling, could’ve led to permanent brain damage. I remember asking the surgeon what would happen if we didn’t perform the surgery (which was something they left as a last resort and had made it clear it wasn’t what they wanted to do), he said it was either do the surgery or have him die.
I signed the consent forms while he was being prepped. The surgery was successful with no complications. Half his skull was missing for three months, until his surgery on January 24th 2017.
Although the surgery created no complications, Jose was experiencing dangerous episode (autonomic storming) where his blood pressure would shoot up to over 200 without cause. When a patient storms, one part of their brain isn’t talking to the other which triggers episodes of unbalance. His neurologist, Navaz Karanjia, had said that this was the worst storming she’s seen in any patient. My brother was something you read about, a scenario, not an actuality.
Jose was awoken from his induced coma after 29 days. During that month, he had a feeding tube inserted through his nose (eventually moved to his stomach), contracted some drug resistant pneumonia, had the breathing tube removed and replaced with a trache – the list can go on for hours.
After about 3 to 4 weeks in intermediate level care (a step down from ICU) he got his pneumonia back and experienced many complications. On December 27th 2016, Jose had a mucus plug that stopped his breathing. The hospital called a code blue immediately after his oxygen levels shot down and performed a lifesaving bronchoscopy. We were sent to the ICU again and began our 4 to 5 week stay there. In between we were shuttled up to the fifth floor and back down due to complications/negligence. Now after about 3 and a half months, we are due for discharge.
Unfortunately, our family needs a lot of help. More than we even imagined needing. We had thought his insurance covered everything, but all the doctors he needed weren’t covered. On top of owing over $46,000 to the hospital for all the doctor visits and care, we need to cover our current rent in a house that needs to be condemned, find another house (and cover that rent and down payment) to move into, and fix the only car we have (it’s not running anymore).
Thank you for taking the time to read this, my family and I appreciate it.