Tarver in coma at St. Mary’s
March 1, 2002
Aspen businessman Charlie Tarver was in a coma in a Grand Junction hospital Thursday, suffering from brain hemorrhages that are affecting his brain stem.
St. Mary’s Hospital spokesman Jeff Kirtland said the condition of Tarver, who owns the Hub of Aspen bike shop, hasn’t changed.
Tarver’s wife, Kim, said he was in a coma, the result of his mountain bike crash during a speed exhibition for the U.S. Speed Skiing National Championships at Snowmass Ski Area.
Kim Tarver said he also suffered a broken rib, a partially collapsed lung and a broken clavicle, all on the left side of his body where he hit the ground. She said he was on a respirator.
“Those things are relatively minor in nature compared to his brain injury,” Kim said. “It’s a waiting game with his brain.”
She said Tarver’s doctor believes his brain was shaken violently during the crash, resulting in many small hemorrhages. Although he remains in a coma, she said doctors have noticed that he does react when they treat his other injuries.
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“There is absolutely no way right now for anybody to say he’s going to wake up in a week, in months, tomorrow or in a minute,” Kim said. “It’s so hard to see him lying perfectly still, not making a sound. He can’t discuss his injuries with the doctors or make decisions, and that’s probably bothering him.”
The brain hemorrhages are causing irritation on the surface of Tarver’s brain, Kim said, which is “collecting” on his brain stem.
A local surgeon described the brain stem as controlling the body’s basic functions, from breathing to the beating of the heart.
“It’s not something you’d wish to injure,” said Dr. Bill Rodman, a general surgeon. “It’s a very serious injury.”
In a closed head injury, the skull itself has not been affected by an impact, but the brain is impacted when it strikes the skull. Rodman said there are several levels of the resulting injury – different places in which the brain can bleed and increase pressure in the skull.
To control brain swelling, Rodman said doctors elevate the head of the bed to improve drainage and drain pressure in the fluid-filled sacs in the center of the brain to gain space.
“Depending on what structure is injured, we don’t know how [the injury] is going to progress, and it takes some time to find out how the body prepares itself,” Rodman said, speaking of brain injuries in general, not specifically of Tarver’s. “The options available at this point for treating someone surgically are still somewhat crude and limited. We have to give the patient supportive measures to see where they settle out.”
Dr. Rodman said there are some brain injury patients who never recover, and some who stay in a coma for a long period of time and awaken with some body functions.
“Medically, there is always a bell curve,” Rodman said. “There are some people who will [recover completely], but the numbers are few.”
Kim Tarver said since Charlie is in a room at the hospital’s ICU, he cannot have visitors. She encourages all those who are concerned to call the Hub of Aspen for information about his condition, since she will be updating the employees every morning and evening.