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Driving home from a Deschutes River fishing trip on June 15th, 34 year old John Baumann was eager to spend his first Father’s Day with his wife, Annie, and their 3 week old daughter, Harper. He had no way of knowing that he would not see either of them for 7 weeks. A serious car accident suddenly and dramatically changed all his plans for the summer.
“I don’t remember anything about the accident” says John. But Annie, who remembers the unexpected knock at the door and the grave look on the sheriff’s face, knew it was serious. “John is alive,” the sheriff told her, “but you need to get the hospital right away.”
John was life-flighted to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend. There, he was treated for the life-threatening head injury that put excess pressure on his brain, and significant bruising to his lungs. After 21/2 weeks in the ICU, John was stable but continued to require mechanical ventilation. He was transferred to Vibra Specialty Hospital of Portland because of its excellent outcomes in liberating patients from ventilators.
“My first memories are of being at Vibra and learning that I’d been in a car accident,” said John. “I understood that I had a tracheostomy and couldn’t walk or talk, but that’s all I knew.” John’s brain injury impaired his thinking abilities, leaving him unable to discern improvements to his condition. He worried if this life at Vibra was his new normal.
As the swelling in his brain subsided, John began to piece together the events of each day. Vibra’s experienced clinicians worked tirelessly to restore John’s health, and he was eventually freed from the ventilator and his tracheostomy was removed. “That was a huge turning point for me,” John later recalled. “That’s when I really started to believe that a return to a normal life might be possible.” Over and over a phrase ran through John’s mind: “I guess we’re almost done.”
Shortly before being discharged from Vibra, Annie brought John to Vibra’s courtyard to feel the warmth of the summer’s sun. He smiled broadly when one of Vibra’s staff mistook him for a visitor. “It felt so good to be seen as a person, not a patient.”
Today John is at home in Bend with Annie and Harper, embracing each new day with hope. The small things that were taken away for 7 weeks are now special moments. “I’m so happy to be here, to change my daughter’s diapers, to cook dinner…. All these small tasks of daily living are what now bring me joy.”