First of all, I apologize for the essay like nature of this post. The fact of the matter is, I have got way too much time on my hands, so I apologize. If you are a super busy person, you should just skip this one. Did I mention that we are in isolation? Yup…we are. When you transfer from another hospital that you have been at for more than 24 hours, you are put in isolation to make sure you don’t have other-hospital cooties. They have taken swabs from Ben, and we will remain in isolation until those swabs come back negative. Being in isolation in a hospital is sort of like being the fat awkward girl that talks too much at a school dance…people avoid us like crazy because they have to gown up and decooty (yes – that’s a word) themselves every time they come in the room. I feel like we are standing next to the punch bowl and only the seriously thirsty come by.
Alright….the halo! The idea of the halo was credited to an orthopedic surgeon named Frank Bloom. Frank (or Frankie as I like to call him as I’ve gotten to know him in the last 24 hours) used something like this during WWII on pilots who had severe facial fractures with skin burns (ballert.com – the halo system part 1). He patented this device and called it the “skull clamp” …wow Frank – imaginative nomenclature (I used a big word there because I suspected you might be questioning my literacy after the whole decooty thing)!
Dr. Vernon Nickel and Dr. Jacqueline Perry took this skull clamp idea and ran with it. Drs. Nickel and Perry first used their halo on polio patients who were unable to hold their heads up. Because of their paralysis, their heads would sort of lay on their chests and make breathing a problem. The halo was a steel circular contraption that attached to the head with a bunch of connecting rods and clampy things hanging off of it. These clampy things were then attached to the full body cast to make holding up one’s neck a breeze. Although I haven’t come across it, I have chosen to credit Dr. Jacqueline Perry with naming it the “halo” device. I know this seems sexist, but I feel pretty confident that I am correct. During my grueling research (half an hour) I couldn’t help but notice that men (yes – I’m generalizing) like to name things either after themselves or after obvious characteristics ie: skull clamp. I think women, on the other hand, like to take horrific things and name them something nice like halo, which makes you think of nice, fluffy angel jewellery instead of a skull clamp, which is more appropriate. I personally might go with the Frankenhelmut, but that’s because I can’t help noticing the GIANT SCREWS STICKING OUT OF MY CHILD’ S HEAD!!! Anyways, I’m handing over the naming credit to Jacqueline with absolutely no historical backing. And now that it is officially on the internet – that makes it true. Interestingly enough, the article above (ballert.com – the halo system part 1) states that “modern materials and design features…make the earlier halo look ancient”…really??? Did I mention the GIANT SCREWS IN THE HEAD! We have technology people!!! Does Dr. House know about this?
Anyways, that’s some of the halo history – part fiction/part truth. That describes the thing that clamps onto the skull. In Ben’s case, his Frankenhelmut is attached to pulleys and weights. These weights will pull up on his head 24 hours a day and 7 days a week until his next surgery – they will even be used during the surgery to manipulate his head. Ben has pulleys and weights on his bed, his wheelchair, and next week he will be given a little walker with pulleys and weights on it. They are very serious that this pulling force should not stop for even a minute. The second it stops, the spine will begin to contract. This means that even when he is going to the bathroom or getting out of bed he needs someone to hold his head with about the equivalent amount of pulling pressure as his current weights. It never lets up. We started on Thursday with 5 pounds of traction. We will attempt to add half a pound a day until the doctors decide to stop or we see signs of spinal cord stress. Currently he has about four to eight neurological exams a day to keep an eye out for signs of this stress. We will also have weekly x-rays to see how everything is progressing. And that is what we are working on now. Today, we are having a quiet, lazy day reading books, watching movies, and playing games. He is feeling much better today – only mild pain and a touch of nausea this morning.