Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series about the stroke and recovery of Orient-Macksburg graduate Daniel Barnett, his wife Ann and their twin sons Jason and Clinton.
Missouri State Trooper Daniel Barnett ended his shift just after 11 p.m. Jan. 5 and returned home to Bethany, Mo., where his wife Ann — who was seven months pregnant with twin boys — was already asleep.
The 2004 Orient-Macksburg graduate and track and field standout had been on the force for three and a half years and had worked many late shifts similar to that night.
He crawled into bed and slept until about 4:30 a.m. Jan. 6.
“I woke up and there was nothing on the right side,” Daniel said. “No pain. I had just lost the right side.”
Daniel had suffered a brain clot on the left side of his brain causing him to have a stroke, hindering his speech and mobility on his right side. For the next two months, Daniel bounced between intensive care units and hospital rooms fighting for his life.
Since then, he is working to regain the motor skills the incident had stripped away and find normalcy in a new daily routine that revolves around the couple’s twins, Jason and Clinton, and his rehab.
Assessing the damage
After being rushed to Kansas City in an ambulance, Daniel had surgery to remove the blood clot from the left side of his brain around 7 a.m. Jan. 6.
“But it wasn’t long after that he started to decline,” Ann, a 2004 Creston High School graduate, said. “They would ask, ‘Where are you?’ and he couldn’t tell them or they would say, ‘Raise your arms,’ and he couldn’t raise the right arm as much.”
The doctors performed another CT scan as a precaution and found the spot on the left side of Daniel’s brain had re-clotted. He was prepped and sent back to surgery soon after the discovery.
“When they took it (the clot) out the second time, they must have nicked the vessel, or something, and it was already weakened (from the first clot) so his brain began to bleed,” Ann said. “The extra blood caused a lot of the damage.”
The extra blood caused Daniel’s brain to swell, forcing doctors to put a drain tube into his skull. He was kept heavily sedated for several days to allow the swelling to subside.
Meanwhile, Ann’s and Daniel’s parents had arrived at the hospital. The two families — who have grown close through their membership at First Baptist Church in Creston and the marriage of their children — went to work pulling shifts to stay with Daniel and try to keep Ann from over exerting herself while carrying the twins.
“At that point, we felt it was important to be there at all times,” Daniel’s mother Deloris Barnett said.
The Missouri State Troopers added support by keeping at least one trooper present at all times for the first 72 hours after Daniel’s incident.
Ann said the outpour of support from family, friends and coworkers was appreciated and encouraging, but the timeline of Daniel’s recovery made it hard to accept the kind gestures.
“All we knew was Daniel was going to be there for an indefinite time, so we told them you do not need to put your lives on hold for this,” Ann said.
But when reality set in as the days turned into weeks in the hospital with Daniel, Ann said it was that showmanship of love and kindness that helped get her through.
“There were days in the hospital where I thought I should really be miserable right now,” Ann said. “I should be hopeless and really worried and scared, but I never felt that. I think I had a couple moments where I was really, really sad or scared, but I could count those on one hand. I just remember thinking I have to be this calm because I have people praying for me, because there is no other way I could be getting through this.”
Road to recovery
While waiting for the brain swelling to go down, Daniel and Ann’s family continued to be at the hospital as often as possible to support their children.
“There was a time period when he was not registering yet that the right side didn’t work like it used to,” Deloris said. “We made sure that someone was there in Daniel’s room at all times just to be there to help and encourage him.”
Daniel’s father, Dale, his brothers Dave and Dean and Ann’s father, Dr. Dan Walker, all helped out by taking overnight shifts to stay with Daniel.
The tube used to drain Daniel’s brain was able to come out Jan. 13 and he was able to move out of the ICU Jan. 18. By Jan. 22 he made another room upgrade to rehab.
As Daniel started to recover, Ann was able to stay at a home nearby the hospital in Kansas City at night so she could sleep in a comfortable bed.
“I tried to help make sure she was taking care of herself,” Ann’s mother Susan Walker said.
The plan had been to have the twins in Maryville, Mo., but with Daniel in Kansas City recovering, Susan helped shuttle Ann to checkups.
“We had to go back to the house (in Bethany) and she had a hard time going back into the house,” Susan said. “It was still like they had left it the night the paramedics had come to take Daniel to the hospital, so it brought back all the real memories of everything that was happening.”
Daniel had been taken out of the intensive care unit and was starting his speech, occupational and physical rehab assignments. The first sessions focused on balance and simple tasks like safely getting up out of bed.
The therapists worked on training Daniel’s muscles to work the correct way so he could rebuild the strength he lost.
“It was hard, but I didn’t have another choice,” Daniel said. “If I wanted to walk again, I had to practice.”
Daniel experienced a small hiccup in his recovery when his appendix flared, forcing doctors to take him back into surgery to remove it Feb. 12.
By Valentine’s Day Daniel was back in his rehab room and was able to attend an ultrasound session with Ann where they learned the boys were healthy and had grown to more than five pounds each.
Clinton and Jason
The morning of Feb. 21, Ann went in to have an ultrasound during a checkup for the twins.
“The tech said, ‘Are your bags packed?’ and I said it is in the car,” Ann said. “She said, ‘Good, because you are going to have these babies today.’”
They could not find any fluid around Jason, so the decision was made to induce Ann in Kansas City in the same hospital Daniel was staying.
“It was kind of a blessing because he was there,” Ann said.
Early on Feb. 22, Daniel and Ann welcomed Clinton and Jason into their family.
“That weekend after they were born, the therapist brought Daniel down from his room to my room and did occupational therapy with the boys,” Ann said. “They showed him how he could feed them and how he could change a diaper.”
The personalized therapy session gave the new father a glimpse of how he could still be an active part of caring for the twins.
With therapy going well for Daniel and everything going well for Ann and the boys, doctors decided the quartet could return home together Feb. 24.
“They have done such a great job with those boys,” Susan said. “It has been neat to see Daniel learn at the same time as Ann how to feed a baby and how to burp a baby. He has participated in that from the minute they got home.”
But returning home offered a whole new set of challenges as Daniel and Ann worked to establish a schedule full of therapy sessions, hours of phone calls with doctors and insurance companies and two baby boys.
“You don’t see the big picture of what God’s plan is in all of this right now, but you just have to trust that it is going to be worth it in the end,” Ann said.