Road to recovery

Fisherman battles back from wharf accident

Published on December 22, 2010

Upper Island Cove — Within an instant, Upper Island Cove fisherman Randell Drover’s life changed dramatically. While unloading crab from his boat at the Harbour Grace wharf, he was struck and knocked over by a forklift.

Four months after the Aug. 13 accident, Drover is still recovering from a variety of injuries at the Miller Centre in St. John’s, but the progress he’s made since then is something his wife Janice Drover and others have called a miracle.

It was initially thought that he had only suffered a concussion, but when he was brought to Carbonear General Hospital it was found Randell had bleeding on the brain, a broken jawbone and a fractured skull. Since then he has developed lung problems.

“His prognosis was bad,” says Janice. “They didn’t think he was going to live to get to St. John’s, and they didn’t think he was going to live to get out of ICU.”

For a time, there was limited brain activity due to three separate bleeds on the brain, leaving questions about whether he would be able to eventually communicate with others or remember loved ones. It was a hard pill to swallow for Janice, who watched her husband live on life-support for 42 days at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s. She visited him daily.

A tracheotomy was performed after the 42nd day to help Randell breathe, a procedure that had been delayed for weeks to allow his condition to stabilize. Around this time, a hole was drilled into his skull to release pressure on his brain.

He was relying on a tube for food, and Janice says his temperature was close to 40 C for the first eight weeks. Ten to 15 IV bags hung from the ceiling, helping keep the 62-year-old Drover alive.

“Every day, they’d be pinching his fingers, and the prognosis was not good,” says Janice. “Probably what you see is what you get, they’d say. And he defied the odds, and now they call him a miracle.”

The turnaround in his condition was first noticeable 10 weeks in, when Randell was moved from the ICU to special care. Sitting with him one evening, Janice asked Randell if he had a headache.

“My niece saw it first, as we’d been talking for 10 weeks and there was no movement. She said he definitely responded, and I asked then whether he had a pain in his belly, and there was a little movement.”

Fluid was removed from his lungs shortly thereafter, and following the procedure, Janice asked Randell another question, to which he nodded his head. She then asked for a kiss, and Randell puckered his lips.

“From that time on, he started to come around,” she says, adding there have been people praying for Randell all over North America.

“There’s no way he was supposed to survive,” says Janice. “Someone was looking after him.”

On the mend

According to Janice, doctors didn’t think he would make it out of the ICU at the Health Sciences Centre. Initially, Janice did not expect he would be in the Miller Centre before Christmas, but on Dec. 13, he was moved to the rehabilitation facility.

“Now he’s moving all his limbs, his mind is good, he knows his family, and his long-term and short-term memory is good, and they weren’t really expecting him to move his eyes or know anybody.”

However, Janice says he does not recall the events from the day of the accident.

Randell does not have the strength in his legs to move yet and relies on a wheelchair. Now staying at the Miller Centre, Janice expects things will continue to move in a positive direction for her husband.

“He’s on his way to recovery,” she says.

Attempts were made to speak with Randell, but he could not be reached between various rehabilitation exercises.

The whole ordeal has been hard on his entire family, including his children and grandchildren. Granddaughter Noelle Drover, 11, wrote a letter to Santa Claus this year asking for a variety of gifts. But she didn’t forget her grandfather.

“I would like for my Pop Drover to make to make it out of the hospital for Christmas,” she wrote. “I really miss him. Every year my nan and pop come to my house and watch my family open our presents every Christmas morning. It will be different without him there.”

Janice says support from the family, as well as friends and staff where he has been cared for, has been greatly appreciated.

“His medicine is his grandchildren,” says Janice, adding he smiles when they arrive. “When he sees his grandchildren, you can see the relief on his face.”

While it’s highly unlikely Randell will be home for Christmas, Janice says he will have plenty of visitors, and she will sit by his side that day.

“I’ll be there day and night. I haven’t even put up any Christmas decorations this year (in Upper Island Cove). I figure if he doesn’t get out until July, which hopefully he’ll be out before then, we’ll have Christmas then.”

The Compass