After her husband, Jim, suffered a traumatic brain injury, Barb Irvin found herself in a whirlwind of paperwork and doctors - and not exactly sure what to do.
After realizing that she wished she would have had an "instruction manual" on what to do when a loved one suffers a traumatic injury, she decided to write her own. Her book, titled, "Actions, Balance, and Caring for TBI Patients: A Guide for Family," details what loved ones should do for their family members when dealing with traumatic brain injuries.
"I wrote this book because my husband fell on Sept. 24, 2011. They had to remove his left side of his skull and he was in a coma for several days. They didn't expect him to live," Irvin said. "I did a lot of reading. It was difficult because there's nothing that says 'do this, now do this.' "
With Irvin's background in special education, she was able to piece together exactly what she needed to do to restore their lives back to normalcy.
"I can explain things a little differently because of my background. It's like having your backpack, and your books and notebooks go everywhere. It's like a puzzle. All the pieces are there, but they aren't hooked up," Irvin said. She was a learning support teacher for several local school districts, including East Lycoming and Montgomery.
"I wrote my book in sections, what to do in the ER, what to do in intensive care, just all of the little things. For example, I didn't have caller ID, so whenever the phone rang, I thought the worst. So I got caller ID so I knew who it was," Irvin said. She also gave other pointers, such as recognizing when the doctors have their rounds so you can be there to ask the important questions.
"You have to get all the doctors' reports. You should start that while they are in the hospital. Every week I had to get a doctor's report. By the time my husband came home, I had everything in place," Irvin said, adding that her husband did not come home until January 2012.
"I can't describe how overwhelmed you are when dealing with this. You're terrified for your loved ones," Irvin said. "I had a really great support group. I kept saying that I wanted to write this in case it happened to someone else."
Irvin details instructions such as keeping a notebook of doctors' reports and medical information for tax return purposes.
Irvin also said detailing where your loved one was helps them understand what was going on when they were not conscious.
Irvin said that she was told without her detailed log of her husband's hospital stay, his recovery may not have been as successful.
"I don't think I'm special. I think any loved one - parent, spouse - who has the right tools can help their loved ones reach a level of rehabilitation that wasn't expected," Irvin said.
Jim Irvin also has been working locally with Living Unlimited, which helps individuals who have had traumatic brain injuries.
For more information, Irvin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Actions, Balance and Caring for TBI Patients: A Guide for Family" can be bought at Amazon.com.