Here is a brief description of our journey through the hospitals since the accident and the steps we made to return to Berlin from Cape Verde.
After the accident happened, I joined Jan and the ambulance crew on the ride to the hospital in Mindelo. At this point, Jan had no sensational on his left side from the middle of his chest, lower than his elbows. He noted that he felt pain only in his neck.
Cape Verde, Sao Pedro island, Mindelo hospital
At this time, we find out that Jan broke his neck. It was c4-c5 spinal cord injury which made him paralyzed down from the middle of his chest. Immediately after diagnosis, on the same evening that we arrived, doctors stabilized Jan’s neck. They advised us to organize for Jan’s transportation back to Germany as soon as possible for additional neck stabilization operations. For the first few days in the Mindelo hospital, Jan was breathing by himself, talking clearly, and was fully conscious all the time. The fever started on the second day.
Las Palmas, University Hospital of Gran Canaria – Dr. Negrin
On the second day after arrival, Jan received a neck stabilization operation. At this time he was breathing through a tube installed through his mouth. This was extremely uncomfortable and Jan instinctively kept biting into the tube which was very dangerous as he could potentially bite a hole in it. Doctors decided to give him a medication to make him calm and sleepy.
Jan’s colleagues Joerg and Ben organized flights for us to come to Gran Canaria and follow the process with Jan. Jan’s mother and brother Max joined us. We arrived on the day that Jan was operated on, so in the afternoon we visited him in the hospital. He seemed to recognize us and was smiling when listening to our voices. Over the next few days, he was more in a sleeping mode. When I ask him now if he remembers this time, he doesn’t say much.
Berlin, Charité hospital
Jan finally came back to Berlin. However, he looked very weak. A lung infection was at its peak, he suffered from a high fever, and breathing through the mouth tube was irritating Jan. At some moments in this period, Jan would remain awake and generally looked conscious. His moods varied. Sometimes he was very lovely and giving smiles to all of us and sometimes he was very intense, angry, or scared.
In Charité he received tracheostomy, which is a surgically made hole that goes through the front of his neck into his trachea. This released some of Jan’s stress, as he was breathing more comfortably.
Later on, doctors diagnosed Jan with delirium tremens. Jan’s conscious was confused after a long period of aggressive medicating and drug treatments. To observers, it was clear that he was hearing and seeing something more than us around him. I wish the doctors could have made this diagnosis earlier and that we could have been better prepared. His body needed time to clean up all the foreign chemicals. One thing was clear, Jan still did not fully understand his condition and therefore was struggling to manage with his emotions.
At this period of time, the complications were:
- Lung infection. There was bacteria in Jan’s lungs and the few antibiotics that were being prescribed were not effective.
- Lungs filling with liquids from the mouth and lungs because the body was not moving.
- Heart Arrhythmia. Doctors explained to us that after an injury like Jan’s, the body experiences a huge stress and has to adapt to a new situation. This can take around one to two months, depending on the patient and an injury.
31 July – 9 August
Berlin, UKB (Unfallkrankenhaus) Hospital
Here some obvious progress starts. In the first few days Jan was still very weak, but after some time he was spending more and more time awake and were finally getting clear responses from him. Although Jan’s heart stopped briefly on two other occasions at the hospital, all was well at the end.
He practised breathing on his own every day. In the beginning, it was not for longer than 15 minutes and later for a couple of hours. He was still unable to speak. He first needed to become fitter and then he would be switched to another machine that would support his breathing and thus would allow speaking function.