(Updates on Gigi Day’s progress. Reported by Bill Day; written by Patric Hedlund)
UPDATE (Wednesday, Dec.17 at 7:45 p.m.)—Bill Day was driving one of the last vehicles allowed on the Grapevine after the Interstate 5 was closed today due to snow. He had been in Frazier Park to pick up mail and take care of errands. When he got back to Kern Medical Center he received a report about what had happened in Gigi Day’s treatment today: "They gave Gigi two more units of blood today. That perked her up. They don’t know if if she may be still losing blood internally. They are doing tests to find out. Her red blood count is in a steady decline. Low blood count is like anemia. It makes her tired. They brought in a hematologist to study the situation." Bill says he asks a lot of questions and feels very comfortable with the quality of care Gigi is receiving at Kern Medical Center: "I see the concern the people here are showing. The level of care appears to be the very best. I feel good with that." Bill said he will check back in with us if there are any changes.
UPDATE (Tuesday, Dec.16 at 1:45 p.m.)—"Changes are coming fast and furious," Bill Day reported today. Gigi is still having some problems. Her red blood cell count is going down and she is getting an additional nutritive drink. "Kaiser said they would transfer her to San Joaquin Medical Center, but a conference between Dr. Martin and Kaiser led them to decide to leave her at Kern Medical Center ‘for the foresseable future,’" Bill says the doctor in charge told the Days today. "Gigi’s blood sugar is going high again, enormously high, so they are giving her insulin shots again. The reading has exceeded 300, it should be about 100," Bill said. They have taken her off of morphine and vicodin, now using motrin and Tylenol, "And that seems to be doing the trick," Bill said. "She is still very tired, and sleeping alot, taking a lot of naps. She seems exhausted, just pooped out, when they move her into the Cadillac chair…I’m not sure why…it could be because of the low red cells and because she is not eating," Bill added. Gigi is a patient of the Direct Observation Unit at KMC but still physically in the ICU.
The final report has been submitted by the California Highway Patrol about the accident’s cause. "Even the driver said that he hit a shiny spot and veered into her lane," Bill Day reports, speculating that the armored vehicle hydroplaned. "A witness behind Gigi and one behind the armored truck confirmed, as did the passenger and driver of the armored vehicle too that the armored truck went into her lane. Everyone agreed the driver was not going over the speed limit, but he was cited for traveling faster than safe for the conditions," Bill said.
UPDATE (Sunday, Dec.14 at 7:00 p.m.)—Bill Day reports that Gigi Day "is getting a healthy glow back today. The doctors commented she is looking healthier." The staff is making an effort to let her sleep for longer periods uninterrupted."She is still not eating well. She decided she might want shrimp from a Chinese restaurant today. I know she likes fried shrimp. They looked great. But she ate only one fried shirmp. She ate a cup of pudding and later a popsicle." He says the nutritional drinks are keeping her going. "She is still not quite able to make it without the oxygen, but today the staff loaded her into her Cadillac Chair and gave her a tour of the area, then took her down the elevator to the front of the hospital. She was able to sit out in the sunshine today. She loved seeing outside."
Gigi will be staying in the Direct Observation Unit for a few more days. They have her on a minimal pain medicine. They are trying to adjust the medication. Last night she had a bad reaction to the morphine with hallucinations. "The other night they called me at 5 a.m. I was there at 5:09 a.m. She was seeing things." Bill says he is doing well. "There is a rumor that if I am here another week the cafeteria will paint my name on the back of the chair where I like to sit," he laughed.
Bill says he is coming up to Frazier Park on Wednesday. He’ll pick up any cards and letters that are left at The Mountain Enterprise office. He says he hasn’t been thinking about Hanakkuh or Christmas, "for me it is still the day before Thanksgiving." That Wednesday, Nov. 26 is the day when the collision occurred that put Gigi into the hospital in critical condition.
UPDATE (Saturday, Dec.13 at 2:30 p.m.)—Everything is looking good today, Bill Day reports, adding that Gigi may be promoted to the third floor Sunday. "She will be able to rest more on the third floor. It is a beehive of activity in the Direct Observation Unit and ICU all the time." The hospital will try taking her off oxygen later today. "They say the fluid in her lungs is almost gone. She is progressing very well." Her white cell count is back down to normal. It spiked after her hip surgery. "They didn’t figure out why," Bill said, but as of Friday "her blood oxygen levels, pulse and blood pressure are all in the normal range. They’ve taken the draining tube from the hip incision. She is still very tired and has a sore throat from the breathing tube they put in during surgery, which impedes her ability to talk. She’s napping a lot today."
Friday, while Gigi’s brother was there, her son Edward came in again from Seattle and Max of Los Angeles visited along with their stepsister. Max brought new photos of Gigi’s granddaughter, Isabel. Kern Medical Center doctors met with the family. Dr. Kathleen Murphy of the orthopedic team and Dr. Martin, head of surgery, answered their questions. "Dr. Bench showed us the MRIs so we could see the various injuries," Bill reports. "They used a metal band wrapped around the socket to hold the hip back together. That will take about 10 weeks to heal." A cast on her right foot will also stay on for about 10 weeks.
Bill is still concerned about Gigi’s lack of appetite. "The food doesn’t taste good to her," he says. The doctors explained that morphine can deaden the taste buds and said they would look into modifying her pain medication. "She can eat food from outside now if she wants it. She told Edward she wanted a bagel and cream cheese with Starbuck’s coffee this morning. She took a few bites of it. She feels full she says. Now they are trying to get her to drink nutritional formulas. They are also getting ready to rig a rack over her bed so she can pull herself up to exercise a little and to shift her position," Bill reports.
At the end of next week, if all goes well, Gigi may be transfered to a skilled nursing facility to heal in anticipation of starting physical therapy. The family is asking for recommendations for nursing facilities in Bakersfield. They are looking for an attentive staff and good medical attention. "We don’t care much about a fountain in the yard…Gigi’s world is going to be the convalescent room and the nursing staff for a while." He said that so far he is pleased with Kaiser’s actions. "The medical director at Kaiser said her injuries were so severe that they were going to leave her at Kern Medical Center. That wasn’t bean-counters running things; that showed caring and compassion," Bill said, adding that they expect to learn about Kaiser’s suggestion for a nursing care facility next week.
News Flash: Houchin Blood Bank has issued its final report and finds that seven and a half gallons of blood were collected during the blood drive in Gigi Day’s name Saturday Dec. 6. Thank you to a generous and caring community. The blood drive to benefit Gigi Day Saturday, Dec. 6 was such a success that the crew of Houchin’s Mobile Blood Bank doubled their anticipated four-hour visit to a full eight hours in The Mountain Enterprise parking lot. Over 77 Mountain Community residents registered, and 16 more showed up spontaneously to donate blood—in fact, there were more volunteers than the staff had time to process, so Houchin personnel said they would be willing to make another trip to the mountain in March. Many who participated were first-time donors.
UPDATE (Thursday, Dec.11 at 7:30 p.m.)—Gigi Day received two more units of blood Thursday as she heads into recovery from a complicated hip operation on Monday. Her red blood count was low. Her body temperature is nearly back to normal now however. She is still taking oxygen. Bill Day reports: "Her body is still trying to expel fluid. She didn’t bounce back from this surgery the way they were expecting her to. She seems a little weaker. Her blood pressure went lower. My ‘Dr. Bill’ theory is that she was putting out a lot of energy to bounce back from the crash and to live, now with this big operation her reserves are a little drained." .
Bill said he is sounding a bit like the proverbial "Jewish mother" as he urges her to eat more. "She ate one slice of roast beef and a bite of peaches for dinner today. She’s barely eating." Gigi has been removed from receiving nourishment by IV now, but, Bill added, "The doctor says they were giving her this blood and some kind of protein along with it that may help."
"At the beginning she had to fight hard to get as recovered as she was. I think that hip surgery jerked the rug out from under the energy she had left. That would be major surgery even if you came into it healthy. The doctors are aware of that and are dealing with it. I’ve arranged for a meeting with the doctor tomorrow when her brother and her sons are here and we can look at MRIs and test results and get a fairly good idea of where we are and where we’re going in the near future. Maybe they will ask questions I haven’t thought of yet," Bill said, promising to keep us posted with updates.
UPDATE (Wednesday, Dec.10 at 9:30 p.m.)—Gigi had a quiet day today. Her brother and his wife are visiting from the east coast. She is still recovering from the hip surgery received Monday. Husband Bill Day said the improvements Gigi made immediately after the crash made her strong enough to undergo the hip surgery. "Hip replacement would have been much easier, but there was too much damage to do that. This repair took a lot of screws and plates and is pretty major," he said. He describes the incision from the hip surgery as being about 14 inches long, up her thigh and across her hip in back. "Now she needs time to recover from that," he said.
She is still in the ICU area and still receiving low flow nasal oxygen. Her white blood cell count "is a little high today—they are looking for a possible source of infection. They did cat scans of the fracture on her face, her chest and abdomen. We don’t have results yet. Her body temperature is still sort of low." Bill describes her as being swaddled in a "bear hugger," which is "like an air mattress with hot air flowing through it—that is wrapped around her."
He said they also put her into what he called a "Cadillac chair" for a little while today. It allows her to change position "so she can sit up for a little bit, which helps with her circulation." He says, "She isn’t eating enough to keep a parakeet alive…but she is drinking a high nutrient formula along with a little food." He says she is still very weak: "Even lifting her arms is a major job." Her staples and stitches are gradually being removed. Each new day brings another bit of progress with the healing of the cuts and bruises she received in the crash. "Most of the stitches in her face have been taken out and she’s looking much better," Bill said.
UPDATE (Monday, Dec.8 at 5:30 p.m.)—Gigi came out of recovery about 3:45 p.m. from surgery on her injured hip. She is entubated again and is sleeping. She received transfusions so her body temperature dropped. They have a warming mattress under her. The surgeon explained the surgery in this manner: "If you form a cup with your two hands, the fingers together, to represent the hip socket, the thumb was broken off and the index finger was bent backward, The hip joint was still in place." They put a metal band around the injured area to hold it all in place, Bill Day reports, adding she will probably be fully awake again tomorrow.
"It’s a tough job sitting in a chair watching someone sleep," Day laughed, adding that he had lunch with an anesthesiologist who joked that the sign of good work in his trade is when the anesthesiologist can wake up before the patient does. With too much time on his hands, Bill has begun spinning theories on a number of issues. Here’s one: "My theory is that natural foods are dangerous. You always read about people dying of natural causes, so keep me away from that stuff. I want all the preservatives I can get."
UPDATE (Monday, Dec.8 at 11:30 a.m.)—"They just now took Gigi into surgery for her hip and said it will be a two to three-hour surgery with an hour recovery time. About 4 p.m. she should be coming back up," Bill Day reports. "She was in good spirits. They asked where the accident happened and gave her the shot. She started out sensibly and within 30 seconds she was in babble mode, then quiet. I’ll update you when she gets out this afternoon," Day said.
UPDATE (Sunday, Dec.7 at 3:30 p.m.)—Today Gigi is in the Direct Observation Unit. Her son Aaron Kipnis is visiting. While they visited, husband Bill Day called us with his observations. "She’s not an 80-year-old lady, she’s a healthy person with a good attitude who has some serious injuries; but every day she’s getting better," Day said in today’s report. "The tubes and monitors running in and out of her are decreasing, so her plumbing is getting simpler each day." She’s down from three trees of intravenous lines and monitors at her bedside to one. She’s now eating solid food and is no longer on intravenous feeding. "She is eating very lightly—sampling more than eating—but her intestinal injuries seem to be healing well," Day said. She is still on insulin while her pancreas is getting better and medications are altering her blood sugar balance.
"The healing capacity of the human body is what we are leaning about," Day said, "It boggles the mind. I was sure it would be a long time before she would be able to eat or even get off all these intravenous drips."
Dr. Gomez, head surgeon of the orthopedic team, gave the couple a revised description of the hip operation anticipated for Monday or Tuesday. "They will go in from the back with a large incision and put in metal plates and screws around the socket of the hip," Bill Day explained, adding, "so it is a much more serious, more intrusive, operation than previously explained." She will be getting transfusions on the operating table.
The physical therapy plans for her legs, ankles and foot will be assessed after she recovers from the hip surgery. The orthepedists expect she will be able to bear weight on her left hip, but her left ankle has a great deal of soft tissue damage, Day says, like a sprain. The right foot has a crushed heel. The family doesn’t expect to have any definite information for about 10 days regarding whether she could be coming home for some additional recovery or whether she will be sent directly into physical therapy.
"She’ll be dancing the merengue," Bill Day laughed. He was referring to a Dominican Republic step said to have became very stylish after a wounded war hero limped and slid his feet along the floor with the rhythm of the music, moves copied by the adoring public to create a dance floor rage.
Gigi’s brother Nelson and sister-in-law B.J. will be coming in next week to visit until Friday. Sons Max and Edward Hechter will be up on Friday from Los Angles as well.
UPDATE (Friday, Dec.5 at 6:30 p.m.)—Gigi Day is receiving a promotion today to the Direct Observation Unit from the Intensive Care Unit at Kern Medical Center. Her spirits are very good. Doctors are now using the word "amazed" about her progress toward recovery, her husband Bill Day said. She is scheduled for hip surgery Monday, but orthopedists said today the hip replacement will not be possible until the hip bone heals. X-rays indicated it would be preferable to place a rod in her hip, which will be inserted as a minimally invasive surgery through "a small hole near the hip and another one near the knee," Bill Day reports. "With skills like that, these people could probably change a tire through a keyhole," he laughed.
A culture showed that Gigi does have a mild case of pneumonia, but doctors said they felt it was minor and that a simple course of antibiotics will be adequate. Dr. Bench, a trauma doctor, said that the fibula in her right leg is broken but the main "shin bone," the tibia, is intact. Her heel bone is shattered however. That is a sensitive area where the muscles attach. "They decided to put a pin in from one side to the other to form a hinge. The doctors hope that the bones will heel back. The tendons are all shredded but they will grow back and attach. They said they think she will be able to walk on it…not dance, but walk," Bill Day recalls the doctor telling Gigi, her son Max and him today. "Gigi was disappointed, but she’s absolutely happy to be alive, and believes she’s alive for a reason; they can’t predict if she’ll need a cane or a walker," he said. An orthopedist said they wiill want to start physical therapy at the hospital as soon as they finish the hip surgery.
Bill Day says when they come home to Frazier Park this winter he may be looking "for a wheelchair with snow tires," but that he hopes Gigi will be able to navigate. Day said he was able to talk with the head surgeon toay, Dr. Martin. "She said the surgical team did not expect her to pull through that first night," he says Martin told him. "Right off the bat, the first time I talked with them, I said ‘don’t give up on her, she is not like any 80 year old you’ve met before,’" Day said. The surgical and orthopedic team say her physical conditioning as a dancer has made a great difference in her ability to recover.
Bill said he’s heard "lots of reports from people, incuding family back east, who are checking about Gigi on the website." He plans to be at the blood drive tomorrow at The Mountain Enterprise office. A reported 72 people have signed up to donate blood.
UPDATE (Thursday, Dec.4 at 3:30 p.m.)—Gigi Day went into surgery and came back to the ICU at Kern Medical Center by 2 p.m. today. “They did a cleaning and closing operation on her ankle,” Bill Day reports. He describes this as a “holding action” with internal bracing, surrounded by an external splint. She is awake now and “feeling good,” he said, adding that her right eye was scratched but the doctor said it will heal and she will be able to track and use it. She is currently sporting a gauze patch over that eye. Gigi is expected to be in ICU through the end of the week. They are watching closely for signs of pneumonia. She is getting stronger and the doctors have gained confidence in her ability to continue to improve.
UPDATE (Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 a.m.)—Doctors cancelled hip replacement surgery yesterday after orthopedists examined Gigi Day’s smashed right ankle bones. They discovered the tibia of her right leg was broken and put it into a cast Monday, then worked on a strategy for reassembling the ankle. She will go into surgery today. Bill Day reports: "They say they will entubate and sedate her again. There will be pins and a rod in her ankle, sort of an external jungle gym around her ankle for awhile." She is having some breathing problems this week, "so they have kicked up her oxygen," Day reports, adding, "but her smile is fully recovered." He noted that her whitle blood cell count is up and hospital staff are checking for signs of pneumonia. "But she’s still scheduled for surgery of the ankle today between 11 a.m. to noon, after which she will be in the Intensive Care Unit again for observation.
Bill Day was able to make a quick run up to the towing yard in Lebec to see her car Tuesday. He found the car keys crushed from the impact and took some photos to show her the car. "Just looking at the keys and the photos, she says it is a miracle she is alive. Despite all her injuries, Gigi keeps telling the nurses and all the medical staff how lucky she is."
UPDATE (Monday, Dec. 1 at 3 p.m.)—Gigi Day was taken off the respirator yesterday (although she is still receiving oxygen) and has been scheduled for hip replacement surgery on Thursday. Her hip was broken in three places, according to husband Bill Day. Gigi is responding remarkably well as she comes back to consciousness after being heavily sedated. She is now able to smile and even joke a little with the ICU nurse and her husband. Her pancreas is injured, as is her liver, according to Day. Doctors attended to those problems in surgery on Wednesday and are hopeful that the organs will return to normal function as she heals. Stitches will be removed from her face today, but there is a cheekbone fracture that may require additional surgery. A team of orthopedic surgeons will be checking to develop a strategy for mending a crushed ankle and she has a patch on one eye, which will be examined by a specialist on Wednesday. Bill Day reports the medical staff told him they had doubts about Gigi making it through the night last Wednesday, but they are now gaining confidence in her ability to recover. Bill just smiles and says, "Good. They are coming around to our way of thinking…."
UPDATE (Sunday, Nov. 30 at 10:20 a.m.)—Gigi Day continues in serious but stable condition today. Bill Day arrived at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. He says Gigi was taken off the respirator just now, Sunday, Nov. 30 at 10 a.m. "That was a big sign I was waiting for; that means that she is breathing on her own and is getting good oxygen transfer," Day said. Gigi is intermittently conscious, and aware that her sons and husband are there with her.
Bill Day and the family said they are excited about the community’s blood drive. Bill will try to be in Frazier Park Saturday, Dec. 6 to donate blood and talk with people. He will also try to attend the Thursday, Dec. 4 AARP meeting to give an update on Gigi’s progress.
Gigi’s son Edward Hechter wrote this in a note last evening: "Mom is doing better…they now consider her serious but stable. Internal bleeding is under control, and her vital signs are stable. This morning, she was truly awake for the first time since the surgery. She was able to recognize my voice, and held my hand. You could see her attempt to smile in response to the words I was speaking The doctors, nurses, and technicians at Kern Medical Center are doing a great job, and we are truly blessed that she has received such great care.
"It’s exceptionally difficult to see her in such pain—she’s always been larger than life itself. This is so tragic—I just can’t put my emotions into words….She’s got a very long road ahead of her in terms of recovery, but with the support of her family and friends, I’m sure she will flourish. The doctors and nurses are very impressed with her strength and her will to live.
"She’s not really able to accept visitors (except for immediate family)—not sure how long she will be in ICU. We’ll update you as things continue to progress. Please tell folks to continue to send notes, emails, etc.—I’m 100% sure she’ll appreciate each one."
UPDATE (Saturday, Nov. 29 at 10:15 a.m.)—Gigi Day continued to improve this morning and was described by her family as "more awake and now responding to voices." Her son Edward said she smiled when she heard his voice. He said doctors are waiting for her lung strength to return before taking her off a ventilator. Day’s husband Bill expects to arrive at the hospital today from Arkansas.
UPDATE (Friday, Nov. 28 at 3 p.m.)—Gigi Day’s condition improved further by Friday with the rate of internal bleeding reduced significantly, although she is still in critical condition. Doctors have begun removing her from sedatives and a CAT-scan revealed no concussion or brain trauma that doctors could see. Nurses reported that she has become aware of people who enter her Intensive Care Unit room and that she "indicated discomfort from a collar that is around her neck," which nurses then adjusted for her comfort. Day was fighting for her life Wednesday and Thursday after the Wednesday accident in Frazier Park. Family members have indicated there will be need for assistance to Day’s husband Bill as he will need to remain focused on her daily recovery.
UPDATE (Thursday, Nov. 27 at 10 p.m.)—Gigi Day is still in the Intensive Care Unit of Kern Medical Center. Her vital signs have stabilized and the first 24-hour critical period has been passed with modest improvements which are hopeful. She is still sedated and is not yet conscious. Day’s children have all arrived and are taking shifts at the hospital. Bill Day is driving in from Arkansas via Missouri, equipped for a long stay near the hospital in Bakersfield. Friends are starting to discuss what they can do to help support the family’s vigil.
Gigi Day is a beloved figure in the Frazier Mountain Communities. She is the president of AARP, a Rotary Club member and well-known as a talented dancer who loves jazz festivals. She has been a consistent beacon of community service, including reviving traditional celebrations among the Jewish families of this region.
UPDATE (Thursday, Nov. 27 at 12 noon)—Gigi Day’s condition improved Wednesday early evening prompting doctors to change her listing from "critical" down to "serious." Within three hours, however, complications returned and she was again listed as "critical," according to a family friend at the hospital. Since late Wednesday evening she has made small improvements with a slight slowing in the rate of internal bleeding from her injuries. Doctors have said that the first 24 hours should provide much information about whether Day’s condition will worsen or improve.
FRAZIER PARK, Calif. (Wednesday, Nov. 26 at 5 p.m.)— A head-on collision involving an armored transport truck and a passenger car has left Gloria ‘Gigi’ Day, 80 of Frazier Park in critical condition.
Day was traveling eastbound on Frazier Mountain Park Road at 12:40 p.m. when an armored car vehicle, traveling westbound, lost control, according to CHP reports and collided with Day’s Subaru Outback. The armored truck reportedly rolled over and landed on top of the Subaru. The airbag in Day’s vehicle was deployed, according to firefighters at the scene.
Day was taken via ground ambulance to Kern Medical Center where family and friends went to stand by for any available information. Husband Bill Day, was in communication with family and friends as he began his trip back from Arkansas via Missouri to reach the hospital. A helicopter enroute to the accident scene had to be canceled due to weather conditions.
Gigi Day is an active community participant, volunteering with numerous non-profit groups, including AARP, Rotary Club, Mountain Shakespeare Festival and others.
Two occupants of the armored car were taken to Kern Medical Center with minor injuries.
Check back at this page for updates as they become available.
(updated 11/30/08 at 4:08 p.m.)
This is part of the December 12, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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