Danny Katschke is alive today because his life was saved once by a stranger and a second time by the watchful eyes of his family.
Katschke’s five-month trip to recover from a heart attack and a brain injury is nearly over. It included a six-week stay at Toledo Hospital, a trip to Columbus in an ambulance to undergo a special brain scan, an in-patient stay for rehab at The University of Toledo Medical Center and out-patient therapy. Through it all, a family member has been with him 24/7.
Katschke’s story began when he suffered a heart attack in front of ProMedica Bay Park Community Hospital. He was working as a hospital valet at the time. When his heart stopped he collapsed, hitting his head on the concrete. Fortunately, an employee looking out the window saw the fall and called for medical help. Katschke was transported via Life-Flight to Toledo Hospital where he was admitted to the neo-intensive care unit. That fast action saved his life the first time, but it was the brain injury from the fall that kept him in the hospital for so long and nearly accomplished what the heart attack didn’t.
His daughter, Danielle Joss, explained that the blood thinners used to aid blood flow to the heart worked against his body’s attempt to stop the bleeding in his brain. The pressure caused by the bleeding created a critical situation and Danielle called her two sisters home from North Carolina where they live and told them to prepare for the worst.
The three siblings, Danielle, Lisa Katschke and Michelle Jenkins, as well as their mother, Sherry, rotated shifts at the bedside. Those who suffer brain injuries experience memory loss and can do unpredictable and dangerous things. For instance, Danny tried to get out of bed when he had neither the strength nor the balance to stand. A fall could be dire in his weakened condition, so the family felt this 24/7 vigil was necessary. Sherry quit her job of 29 years at The Gathering Place and Michelle sent her husband and children back to North Carolina. She stayed at the hospital for a month, working long-distance via her computer and cell phone and slept in a room the hospital provided for her.
Danielle said the family attended a seminar sponsored by the Brain Injury Association of Ohio to learn how to detect behavioral changes that could signal a relapse. That information proved crucial one day when Danny’s condition deteriorated. Danielle said her father couldn’t open his eyes one night despite Sherry’s persistent attempt to wake him. The next morning Danny’s condition hadn’t improved so Michelle contacted the neurologist. At first, Danielle said the doctor refused to order a CT scan. But, Michelle persisted and the doctor relented. The new scan showed another clot had developed. Danny was rushed to surgery for a craniotomy, but it would be five more weeks before he could be transferred to a rehab center to work on his speech and physical therapy.
The family’s vigil continued from January 16 to June 1, when doctors told Sherry that Danny had progressed to the point where he could safely be alone.
Today, Danny walks with a cane. His speech is back, but he’s still working on his memory and fine motor skills. His mood is upbeat. “I was very fortunate in that as bad as I was when I got hurt I’ve come so very far in that I’m walking again and I pretty much function as I can expect to function. I’m really excited that I’ve come back as far as I did,” he said.
With the worst behind him, the family is looking forward to a fundraiser to help with medical bills. Sherry said that while the heart attack happened at work, the Bureau of Workers Compensation denied their claim. Danny’s insurance, through his union, covered most of the bills, but Sherry said there are co-pays and deductibles to wade through. The Bob Evans restaurants on Lemoyne in Northwood and on Navarre in Oregon will host the fundraiser on Wednesday, July 25 from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant will donate 15 percent of each check to the family provided the diner brings in the ad located in The Press.
Danny is 62. After a 30-year career as a bricklayer and foreman with Rudolph Libbe, Danny took a less physically demanding job as a valet for Bay Park. He also worked as a carrier for The Press delivering 2,600 papers in Oregon and Jerusalem Township. He says he will enjoy his unexpected early retirement and hopes to get back to playing competitive pool in the American Poolplayers Association league in Toledo.
One of Danny’s teams, sponsored by The Pool Room in East Toledo, advanced to the 2009 national tournament in Las Vegas. His daughter Danielle was one of his teammates.
Sherry is looking forward to spending life in the slow lane with her husband of 43 years.
At a time when the news is filled with horrendous examples of dysfunctional families such as a son stabbing his mother for a burger or a mother pimping out her daughter for drug money, the Katschkes show us how a close-knit family can help save the life of someone they love.