Brandon’s story by Kimberly Callaway

March 1996 – Brandon Ulmer (who is the son of Tad Ulmer – my fiancé) was involved in a horrific accident which changed his life and those who love him. Brandon, 15 ˝ had the world at his fingertips – an honor roll student, actively involved in the high school theater department, carefree and full of life. In one split second, this horrendous accident became the worst nightmare any person can imagine. Below are pieces from Brandon’s medical records received from the hospital.

DIAGNOSIS:  Multiple trauma.

 HISTORY: 

This is a 15-year-old male who was the driver involved in a motor vehicle accident from which he required prolonged extrication. He was brought in with the ambulance personnel bagging him for ventilation and he was in obviously severe hypovolemic shock upon arrival with remarkable embarrassed respirations, although he was not cyanotic. He was totally unconscious. There was a flail right arm. There was blood from the meatus – the abdomen was obviously distended closed by plastic bag technique. There was blood coming out of his mouth. He was taken to the operating room and underwent a splenectomy. He developed significant cerebral edema requiring pressure monitoring. 

An EEG was done. Note worthy was the absence of any posterior dominant alpha rhythm and the presence of diffuse theta/delta slowing of the background activity (approximately 30-70 microvolts in amplitude). There was minimal, if any, reactivity to painful stimulation. There was evidence of a sleep-wake cycle. This patient presents with typical finding of a chronic vegetative state. This carries a poor prognosis for significant neurological recovery. As explained to the family, there has been no interaction with his environment which is typical of a vegetative state. He does not fix and follow. He does not follow commands. The movements demonstrated are simply reflexes of a pathological nature. The family has been encouraged to talk as a family and discuss Brandon’s wishes and to discuss as a family, as well, what they consider a quality of life.  

To discuss the fate of your child is a very heart wrenching, terrible thing to have to do. Needless to say, Brandon’s mother and father would not give up on him. Brandon, whose soul had a strong will to live along with the incredible love his parents have for him would see him through his next 5 years of what can only be considered as a living hell. Brandon was moved from the hospital to a nursing home, which a psychiatrist stated is no where for a young man to live as it is a place where our elder’s go to die.  

His father would visit him on a daily basis from 3-4 hours daily as would his mother. Brandon would leave the nursing home on Saturday’s and go home with his dad and then on Sunday’s going home with his mom. Keep in mind, this continued for 5 years! Brandon’s parents were racked with grief each and every time they left Brandon to go home. Brandon was very bitter and unhappy with his living arrangements in the nursing home where his only friends were his caregivers and roommates who were 90+ years of age.

 Due to his injuries, Brandon’s motor skills on the left side of his body no longer cooperated therefore being in a wheelchair in addition to no longer talking, he was at the mercy of his caregivers to take him places rather than be captive in his room lying in bed. His parents tried on several occasions to get Brandon into an electric wheelchair which the Nursing Home would not allow, as they felt he would be an endangerment to the other residents in the nursing home. Tad even offered to purchase a remote for the nursing station to hold - where they could control his every movement if need be but they would not budge on their decision. It was visible that Brandon was not making progress towards his road to recovery, so Tad made the decision to renovate his house to be handicap accessible and bring his son back home where he belongs. Once this decision was made, Brandon was put into his electric wheelchair which was the stepping stone for his courage’s battle ahead of him.

 Tad was able to receive 24 hour in home care, which along with the comfort of his own home and love from his family gave Brandon the strength and inspiration needed to prove - that yes - his life was worth saving. Brandon still has a long road ahead of him, but to be diagnosed at one time as living a life in a vegetated state to what he’s accomplished to date is so incredible, how can you not believe in the power of God, love, and the will to survive?  Brandon is so happy and content now that he is at home - his progress has been remarkable. Brandon now eats solid foods where at one time a feeding tube was his only source for receiving fluids/nutrients/medication. He communicates with his family by writing on a dry erase board, shows emotions accordingly and brings such joy to all who are fortunate enough to meet him. Slowly but surely, one day he again will have his life’s dreams at his fingertips!

 Please do not take away any future opportunities for him to live his life as he did before 1996

CHN wishes to thank Kimberly Callaway for her letters to CHN and sending us the photos to share with you our visitors.  We encourage all media to contact us if you wish to talk with the family and we will forward the information. 

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