After five weeks at UC Davis, Michael was moved to Kaiser Hospital in Sacramento. At first he was in the ICU, then transferred to a "transitional ICU" room. His friends still came to visit, although not in the numbers they came at first. I think for some of them it was more difficult to visit with Michael awake, and semi-alert, but not able to communicate with them. He was getting Physical and Occupational therapies every day, from two of the best therapists ever! They were very patient with him, and didn't expect more than he could provide. As with UC Davis, there were a few "glitches" in his care, a few caregivers who were less than expected, but we were there every single day, to keep an eye on how things were going. We bought simple toys at Target, to help Michael hone his reaction skills. Lindsay and I had both left our jobs to be Michael's advocates -- when he moved to Kaiser, we moved to a nearby motel. Not luxury accommodations, for sure, but we had a roof over our heads, and were near Michael.
After about a month at Kaiser, a doctor came in one day to "evaluate" Michael's progress. I was in the room, and the doctor would ask him to perform some simple task, and was asking him questions. When he was done, he sat down with me, in the room, and said that he was evaluating Michael to see if he was eligible to go to the Kaiser rehab facility in Vallejo. He told me about another patient he'd treated, with similar injuries to Michael's, and how happy his family was that he could finally, after years of treatment, use a fork to spear his food and eat. This doctor told me this... verbatim... "In my professional opinion, the best you can hope for, is that Michael will be a step above a vegetative state..." I gave myself a few seconds to take that in, and then turned around to look at Michael... who was looking right at us, and had heard everything the doctor said.
I prayed, I cried, and I told Michael I was going to go get Lindsay and bring her back. We came back to visit with him a little bit more, and then went to have dinner. On our way onto the elevator, we ran into Adam, Michael's friend, who had been driving the car when the crash occurred. We told him to come and have dinner with us, because we had things to talk about. Over dinner, we told him what the doctor had said... he sent some texts on his phone, and came back to the hospital with us. We were all walking towards the front door, when Adam said, "I'm not going in, I'm going to go home." He wasn't going to come in to visit with Michael, he was going to go home and drink. So Lindsay and I went up to visit with Michael, until he was getting tired, and then we went back to the motel.
The next morning I woke up REALLY ticked off! Ticked that that doctor would have such low expectations for Michael's recovery! I went back to the hospital, and told the nurses I wanted the doctor to be there when the therapists came to work with Michael. He did come, and watched Michael sit on the side of his bed (with one of the therapists behind him, so he didn't fall backwards), and me standing in front of him, repeatedly telling him to lift up his head and look at me (his neck muscles were very weak, and it was difficult for him to hold his head up). Then my husband walked in the door, and Michael "tracked" him, with his eyes -- couldn't move his head to follow him, but followed him with his eyes. Which, I found out later, is HUGE with brain injuries! At the end of the therapy session, the doctor again sat down with me and said, "I'll have to change my prognosis!" I shook my finger in his face, and told him, "Don't EVER tell someone 'the best you can hope for...'! I can hope for anything I want -- I can hope that Michael will be walking and talking one day!"
Two days later, Michael was on his way to the rehab facility in Vallejo...
Another motel change for Lindsay and me... And new medical staff for us to meet and get used to. On our first day there, we met the Occupational, Physical and Speech therapists, and also the doctor in charge of Michael's care. They all described what they would do for Michael, and I remember telling the speech therapist, Adrienne, "Oh, Michael doesn't speak..." And she responded, with no hesitation whatsoever, "Oh, he will! No one leaves here without speaking!" I was, again, there every day. There were emergency middle of the night surgeries, for MRSA (contracted by one of the nurses), difficult physical therapy sessions, and frustrating occupational therapy sessions. After about a month there, during one of his speech therapy sessions, Adrienne asked him, "Michael, who's sitting in the room with us?" He looked straight at me, and said, "Mom." Sweetest sound I've ever heard, and when I KNEW he was going to do well!