Patrick Callihan of Springboro has always been an aviation enthusiast. Ever since he was a kid, he has been fascinated with flight. That’s why it is such a disappointment, joked Callihan, that he doesn’t remember his helicopter ride to University of Cincinnati Medical Center last November.
But in July of 2015, eight months after the fall that sent Callihan to UC Health’s Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit with a severe brain injury, he flew with his two sons, Riley (13) and Aiden (5), over Butler County in a UC Health Air Care & Mobile Care helicopter after being reunited with the UC Health professionals who saved his life.
“It was an experience I won’t soon forget,” said the 46-year-old network engineer, who holds a pilot’s license for non-motorized aircrafts. In agreement with his wife, Susan, Patrick resigned from his hobby of hang gliding after Riley’s birth due to the dangerous nature of the sport. “I’m surprised at how little an area they (Air Care crew) have to work in, but I’m glad they do it!”
Callihan’s story started the previous November, when he was in the garage, most likely gathering holiday decorations from the storage attic. Aiden was in the driveway riding his bicycle when he heard a big crash. He rode back toward the garage to investigate only to find his daddy lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Aiden rushed into the house, where Susan was reading, too upset to speak. He repeatedly signed with his hands, “cry, cry, cry,” and pointed to the garage. Susan went out to take a look.
The fall left Callihan with multiple skull fractures, bruising and bleeding on the brain and high intracranial pressures due to brain swelling. A temporal bone fracture involving the auditory canal could have also damaged his hearing. The University of Cincinnati Neuroscience Institute engaged specialists from neurosurgery, neurocritical care, ear nose and throat and other specialties to collaborate on Callihan’s case.
“Fortunately, we were able to control the swelling of the brain with medical management so surgery was not required,” said Norberto Andaluz, MD, director of the UC Health Neurotrauma Center.
UC Medical Center’s Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit recently upgraded its monitoring equipment, so doctors were able to get real-time, multi-modal readings of critical metrics such as intracranial pressure, cerebral blood flow and cerebral oxygenation.
“We are the only hospital in the area to have this technology, as well as continuous electroencephalography (cEEG), which reads brain wave activity. Together, these technologies allowed us to develop an individually optimized treatment that helped Mr. Callihan’s body heal,” Andaluz said.
But Callihan wasn’t out of the danger zone yet. The UC Health team quickly spotted and treated numerous complications, including lower extremity blood clots, pneumonia and respiratory failure. After 18 days, Callihan was finally stable enough to be discharged to the UC Health Daniel Drake Center for Post-Acute Care.
At Drake Center, Callihan continued his successful road to recovery. As his brain healed, he was able to follow commands and answer questions appropriately, walk with assistance, swallow adequately and eat and drink on his own. His trach and PEG were removed, as well as his neck brace. Re-learning to manage his impulses was a little more difficult, because he temporarily lacked insight. Callihan was at high risk for getting out of bed without asking for assistance, and falling. This was of concern because he was on a blood thinning medication to treat his blood clots. Another fall and hit to the head could result in death.
Susan brought some of the objects he had designed using his 3D printer to his window at Drake as a familiar reminder to help keep him oriented and inspired. She, too, was there often, providing him with love and encouragement. After just 11 days in post-acute care, Callihan was well enough to be discharged to home—just in time for Christmas!
In February, Callihan returned to work at his network engineering job at Ardent Technologies. He has resumed all of his usual responsibilities.
“It was such a stressful time. Never in a million years did I think this would happen to us,” said Susan. “But through it all, I felt like the UC Health staff truly cared about me and Patrick. At our first follow-up appointment with Dr. Andaluz, he introduced himself to Patrick and said, ‘You don’t know me, but I know your body.’ That is the kind of charm he has. He spent so much time just talking with us answering all of our questions.
“And I don’t know if I could have gotten through it all if it weren’t for our nurse navigator, Amy. She was always there when I was overwhelmed, stressed out, or didn’t know where to turn for help. She was my angel, keeping me strong so that I could be strong for my family.”
“I think I’m going to be a pilot now when I grow up!” remarked Aiden as he leapt down from the Air Care helicopter after his ride with dad and older brother. Callihan, chatting inside the hangar door with a crew member, looked at Aiden with a great big smile, and his face lit up like it was Christmas in July.
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Hope Story Disclaimer – This story describes an individual patient’s experience. Because every person is unique, individual patients may respond to treatment in different ways. Outcomes are influenced by many factors and may vary from patient to patient.