Saturday, October 23, 2010

One Year

I'll start by saying, Ellen reads this blog often and is so grateful and feels so touched by the outpouring of love and generousity everyone has shown her.

A year ago today, which was a very cold Friday morning around this time, I was dressing my 2 year old daughter (at the time) in a winter jacket as we were running late for story time at the library. If anyone knows, it's not easy getting a toddler in a car seat, let alone one who is now wearing two extra layers of clothes. Of course, my phone rings right at that minute as I'm struggling to get her into the warmth of my car. I, myself still haven't put on my jacket and am standing in the driveway freezing. Ben calls just to chat but he hardly got a chance to say hello, when his call waiting beeps. He clicks over and shortly clicks back to me and tells me Ellen was in a car accident. As we all know, Ellen has been in a few car accidents before and my first response is she'll be okay, what happened? Ben, didn't know much or say but his voice was nervous, shaky almost. I felt instantly something was wrong. I asked if he knew anything and he said it's serious and she's en route to the hospital. He said someplace in New York and that was it. Hung up. I called everyone and tried to piece together as much information as I could. Isabella and I are now back in the warmth of our home but I felt colder than ever. It was cold, but it wasn't the coldest day ever but I just couldn't get warm again. I think I stayed cold and shivering for two weeks straight. The reason I went into all this detail about this morning, one year ago today, was that life was going one way, normal, routine as usual and in an instant the whole day changed and Ellen's entire life changed.

I'm not going to re-hash all the details of the rest of that day and the many days and months to come. Everyone who loves Ellen, remembers how they felt, what she was going through just to stay alive and what she goes through on a daily basis to keep getting better.

Today, I want us to celebrate Ellen, her life, her miracle, her accomplishments, her tenacity.

Ellen has come a long way. First, she defied all the doctors and not only is alive but has come farther along than any science/medical professional could imagine. I believe and so does Ellen, that it is not without all the love and prayers from all of you.

It's amazing to speak with Ellen. She speaks about her hopes, her dreams and everything she plans on doing with her life. She looks for the good in every situation. Ellen is so thankful for everyone who has helped in her recovery and she works hard in everything she does. Ellen's road to recovery is still an ongoing process and I know she gives all she has to continue her progress. When we talk, I remember how precious life is, how grateful I am for life and having Ellen in our lives and what a strong, beautiful woman she is.

During the holidays last year, I presented Ellen with a journal. Maybe she hasn't used the journal yet, but I hope she uses those pages to write her story. What she's going through day to day. She's an amazing, positive, beautiful human being. The things she says are so bright, so intelligent, so thoughtful, so meaningful, so enlightening. Sometimes heartbreaking but a true story of prayer, hope, miracles and dreams. Ellen can help herself and so many other people with her will to live.

Today, I celebrate Ellen. Not the anniversary of her accident but the miracle of her life, her positivity, her courage, strength and beauty inside and out.

Please post your comments today.

With love,

An explanation

I've taken a long break from writing any posts for many reasons. I started this blog almost like therapy for myself when I was dealing with so many emotions and also to let all the people that care so much about Ellen know what was going on day to day. Obviously, I haven't kept up with updates as Ellen was blessed with a miracle. Ellen can speak with all her loved ones and explain personally about her day to day progress without a third party (me) speaking for her. Today I'm back. This week has been a bit emotional for me personally. Remembering the days before Ellen's accident, remembering exactly what I was doing when my husband, Ben called me to told me Ellen was in a car accident and how this year of prayers, miracles, hopes and dreams flew right by all of us.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A New Year's Update

Happy New Year!!!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and hopefully we’ll all enjoy a happy and healthy new decade. Sorry for not keeping up with the updates. So much has been going on I haven’t had an opportunity to write. For everyone who hasn’t had the chance to get an update on Ellen, I’m happy to write that Ellen has made so much progress and is doing really well considering what the doctors thought her outcome may be. She awoke in mid December from being in a coma for about 2 months. Ellen has a loss of short term memory at times and has moments of confusion but overall knows and understands a lot. Her memory will come and go over the next year but should get better with time. Ellen was told by her therapists the details of her accident when she started to awake. It was very traumatic for her to comprehend what happened. Each day she battles with her emotions, still Ellen has made tremendous improvements and continues to fight. Her trach and the feeding tubes are out. Ellen is re-learning to eat on her own, walk on her own, read and write. She started with liquids and is now eating solid foods. She also started taking her first steps last week and is doing amazing. She’s working with therapists to read and write. When the therapists say she can’t do something, Ellen says she only wants to do it more and faster. She’s working and fighting extremely hard to get herself back to the Ellen we all know. Her voice and laugh is coming back and when we talk, I hear her personality come through. Some moments she’s in good spirits and other times she gets very sad and asks why me? I can’t even imagine how she feels. She says how hard it is to re-learn everything and be in a hospital for so long. She says we don’t know how it feels. She’s right and my heart breaks for her. I told her that we are all so proud of her and that she has made it this far because of her fight and her wanting to live. She has so many people praying for her full recovery and she is so grateful. The doctors are amazed at her progress. The doctors talked about her making a miraculous recovery. Ellen still has a long road ahead. We are still dealing with the one step forward two steps back brain injury recovery. About a month ago, an open bruise was found on the back of her head. Each Monday she gets transported to Nyack hospital and her doctor performs a painful procedure to clean the bruise and measures the bruise to see if it’s healing on its own. So far it is healing and plastic surgery is on hold. She has massive migraines every day, which is also common for brain injury survivors. Ellen has lost some of her vision and hearing. At this time the doctors do not know what the outcome will be. Ellen will have reconstructive surgery on her ear drum in February or March. This procedure should help with her hearing. Her right eye which was infected for quite some time is now half way open. Hopefully once it heals it’ll be fully open and will help with her vision. Ellen will be in rehabilitation for the next year and possibly longer. In the next couple of days, her doctors and therapists will be evaluating her progress and making a determination if she should be moved to a sub-acute rehabilitation facility. There aren’t many choices of local facilities and this is a tough decision for Ellen’s parents. Whatever the decision will be we just have to pray it’s the best decision and Ellen continues to make progress for a full recovery.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Photos of Ellen and Friends

Thanks Dani for sharing your photos!!

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I think it would be great to add some pictures to this site of Ellen and her friends. I'd also love to bring some of the pictures to Ellen. If anyone wants to share pictures they have of Ellen, please e-mail them to and I can post them.

Also, if anyone wants to e-mail a personal note to Ellen, you can e-mail and I can read it to her when I visit. Please let me know if it's okay to post your letters online or if you want them private.

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A time for us to be thankful

Ellen has made lots of progress in the last couple of days. She is officially off the ventilator for over two days. The trach has been removed but hasn’t been closed up yet. The doctors will see how much progress she makes in the next 1-3 days and will determine whether to insert a small trach or close it up. Ellen is now sitting in a wheelchair which is great for her lungs and recovery. The lung infection is clearing but she still has the eye infection. Ellen’s x-rays came back positive and her neck is not broken. The neck brace was removed yesterday and Ellen was very happy about that. She's getting a cat scan next week at another hospital for further tests on her brain. When I saw her the other day she waved hello and goodbye and even tried to blow a kiss. The best news of all, Ellen spoke her first words…She said Mom, hello and she wanted to speak with her twin sister, Amy and a couple of friends. She speaks very quietly but it’s not a whisper. At times it’s hard to understand her and she does get frustrated. She started swearing after every other word which was to be expected and the staff also thinks she will ask a lot of questions over and over again. All good signs!! She knows how old she is but was confused about what year she was born. Ellen is still in semi acoma and state of unconsciousness. She won’t remember most of what she is doing and saying but everything she is doing is part of the waking up process. Diane limited her visitors and Ellen was well rested over the weekend. Diane has been reading Ellen her favorite books and she’s listening to her favorite music, which all helps the healing process.

We are all very happy with Ellen’s progress. Even her doctors and nurses were surprised at the speed of her progress in the last week. If only they knew Ellen the way we all do then they wouldn’t be so surprised. She’s such an independent, strong, positive girl with a zest for life (as Brenda has said many times). We still need to take everything day-by-day. TBI injuries are 1 step forward, possibly 2 step back process to recovery. We are constantly reminded of this and are praying the next couple of days will be good days for Ellen.

We have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Let’s all give thanks for our loved ones, for good health and for Ellen's accomplishments. Let’s all take the time to pray for her continued progress and full recovery.

I'm also very thankful for everyone who has supported us with their generous donations, has taken the time to visit our site and write the most heartfelt comments for our family to read. This website has truly helped get me through the roughest days.

Thank you and God Bless.

Friday, November 20, 2009

One Month..

I didn’t get a chance to write notes on all the information that was passed along to me this morning so please understand if I miss something or I’m not 100% accurate with my words. Also, from the time I get this info to now, some information may have changed.

Today Ellen is in a coma for 28 days or one month. The doctors have given us a lot of information on her injuries and finally have agreed that she has made some progress. When she was admitted to the acute hospital she was considered not stable enough and a decision would be made within 5 days if they would move her back to a medical hospital. After 5 days, the doctors decided to re-evaluate at 30 days and now with Ellen’s medical condition improving they will re-evaluate at 60 days. Depending on her progress, she will be moved into a sub-acute hospital.

The staff is still trying to wean Ellen off the ventilator. Each day she is taken off a little longer and she seems to be doing well. During the day she is almost breathing all on her own. The ventilator is on at night but only to 30% so Ellen’s breathing is 70% her own. Ellen had her 3rd tracheotomy procedure today to give her a smaller trach which is a sign that she may be breathing completely on her own and hopefully waking up soon.

After numerous tests, the doctors will not be doing any cat scans, mri’s, tests for a couple of weeks to give her a rest. Ellen has an obstruction in her stomach but the doctors feel this will resolve itself with medication. There will also be a procedure to reconstruct her ear drum that ruptured during the accident. The lung infection has improved but they will continue to drop dye to see where her fluids go to prevent further infections and problems. She has numerous skull fractures which will take approximately one year to heal.

The doctors believe Ellen is in an agitated state which could mean that she may wake up within the next couple of weeks. This is amazing news! Ellen is moving around inconsistently and they believe involuntarily which is a sign of an agitated state. She has her days and nights confused. She’s most awake between 5pm and 8pm so the nurses encourage visiting during these hours to tire her out. They hope she will then sleep through the night and will be most awake when the doctors evaluate her in the morning. So far she is in her deepest sleep when the doctors visit. The nurses pre-warned us that the next phase of agitated state is yelling and cursing but she doesn’t know what she’s saying, doesn’t mean it and will not remember it.

One of the evaluations the doctors use is called Glasgow scale which diagnosis symptoms of TBI. The scale is based on a 3-15 point scale. When she arrived at this hospital she was scored at a 3 which is considered sever disability. Yesterday she was scored at an 11 which is categorized as moderate disability. She’s almost there but we still need to get to 15.

Ellen continues to amaze me each day. I’ve always admired her grace and attitude toward her life and life in general. She has shown us all how much she wants to be here and LIVE. She has chosen to live. She fought through almost unbeatable odds to stay with us. I’m so proud of Ellen. I love her so much and I continue to pray for her miracle.

Let's all take the time to pray tonight for her miracle. To continue to make progress, come back to us and have a full recovery.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday Update

Ellen continues to be stable and in a coma. In most traumatic brain injury cases as serious as Ellen’s, there’s a lot of one step forward and two steps back to recovery.

Ellen has multiple fractures on her face, a dislocated jaw and no response or movement in her right eye at this time. It’s my understanding the fractures will eventually heal and the jaw will be corrected when it’s time. The doctors have not given us a conclusive diagnosis regarding Ellen’s eyes or on her other injuries. The doctors will not be able to give their complete analysis until she wakes up and more tests are done. At this time the doctors are informing Ellen’s parents of all scenarios so we are prepared.

Ellen continues to do well in her therapy sessions and she tried lifting her body off the bed a little bit. She even gave her mom Diane a hug. Diane has been showing Ellen pictures of the family to try to see what/who she remembers. She showed pictures of Isabella, Colin and Leland (Ellen’s niece and nephews). Ellen always called them the “little people” in a cute voice when she spoke of the babies in our family. Diane asked her if she recognizes the “little people” and she seemed to respond with blinking her eye and a happy face. Diane feels she remembers them. Ellen tried giving thumbs up and thumbs down. She also made a very angry face which was noticed by all the staff that was on hand to remove her earrings. Diane promised her as soon as she gets out of the hospital they will go get new earrings.

It’s easy to get discouraged after hearing what the doctors say and it’s easy to get overly excited when seeing Ellen doing something new. I learned the key is to keep a balance with your emotions. The doctors HAVE to give you the medical facts and prepare you for the reality of all situations, but we NEVER give up hope. There is always a chance for a miracle. It’s happened before and it will happen for Ellen.

I want to ask everyone to continue to keep Ellen in your prayers and thank you so very much for all the donations to our fund. Please pass on Ellen’s story to as many people as you can. We believe in the power of prayer and we know it will help Ellen.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I want to extend a special thank you from all of Ellen’s family to the people that helped Ellen at the scene of the accident. Some miracles did happen that day. Within minutes of Ellen’s car accident, Micah Katz, a physician’s assistant pulled over and administered first aid to open up her airwaves which helped save her life. We were informed that a couple of nurses, a fireman and an off duty police officer also pulled over to help Ellen. They were integral to helping keep Ellen alive in the most critical moments. All of Ellen’s family and friends want to express the deepest, sincerest thank you and gratitude. Words cannot even express how we feel toward these kind, caring and courageous people.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Update

Saturday night was a rough night for Ellen but Sunday was a better day. She only had therapy in the morning and had a chance to rest this afternoon.

I got a chance to see Ellen this evening. Even though she's now sharing a room with 3 other patients, she seems to be in a much better place. The doctors and nurses are treating all issues as they come up. Ellen has a lung and eye infection. More medical examinations still need to be completed and we are waiting on results of tests that were completed late last week. Ellen is still in a coma but has made some progress.

Ellen smiled today, she opens her left eye and it seems like she sees all of us. She is trying to move both arms and legs. When we talk to her, she seems to understand some things and answers with a blink of the eye or a movement of her right hand. The nurse tonight said she seemed to follow a one word command. These actions are not consistant. The doctors are still giving us worst case scenarios and are not letting us get overly excited with Ellen's accomplishments. We believe these are all positive things. Ellen still has a long road ahead to recovery.

What I've learned about being in a coma is that it's not like what movies and tv shows potray. Brain injury/coma patients do not just open their eyes and wake up. It's a slow, gradual process and we are praying that Ellen is trying to wake up and come back to us. The doctors request that we don't overstimulate her and try to not let her get agitated. Tomorrow begins a rigourous week of therapy, examinations and getting used to her daily routine.

Let's all continue to pray for Ellen to heal, fight off the infections and have a full recovery.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Dear Family, Friends and Colleagues:

My sister in law, Ellen Raabe was in a life threatening one car accident on October 23, 2009 as she was driving to work. She suffered traumatic brain injury and has been in a coma since the accident. Ellen is a beautiful, warm, outgoing, smart 26 year old woman.

There’s a long rode ahead for Ellen and for all who support her. We’ve been told she may be in a coma for three to six months and we are praying for a miracle that she wakes up sooner. Medically, her team of doctor’s, are still trying to get her stable enough to begin therapy and care at an acute long term hospital.

In the meantime, while we pray and wait for progress, we have been handed additional obstacles with Ellen’s insurance, legal fees and possible future medical care. Together with her family and friends, we have found that we need all the support we can get from everyone we know in our communities.

This is how Ellen’s Prayer has been found. We are asking two things of everyone who is reading this letter. First, we believe in the power of prayer. We ask that you pray with us for Ellen’s full recovery. Second, we are asking for a donation to Ellen’s Prayer. This donation will help with Ellen’s medical, legal and financial expenses and care.

You can help support Ellen by making a donation using Paypal. The funds go directly into Ellen’s Prayer account at Wachovia Bank. You can use a credit or debit card by logging onto and click on the Donate icon. Please visit our site often for updates on Ellen’s progress and recovery. Feel free to leave comments for Ellen and our family.

You may also donate by mailing a check made payable to Ellen’s Prayer Fund or Ella Goykhman (trustee). The mailing address is Ellen’s Prayer, P.O. Box 7083, West Orange, NJ 07052.

In the future, if Ellen no longer needs the support of donations, we will donate all the funds to a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) organization of our choice and/or hospital of our choice.

Please send this letter to all your family, friends and colleagues in your communities and share our story. The more people who pray and donate will truly help Ellen get through this time. If you have any questions please feel free to e-mail or call me. My contact information is printed below.

Thank you for your prayers and your support.

Warmest Regards,
Ella Goykhman
973.517.2831 Phone

An update on Ellen

A couple of days ago, Ellen's team of doctors at Nyack Hospital felt she was medically stable enough to be moved to an acute long term rehabilitation hospital. The team of therapists started her physical and occupational therapy which is good news. The doctors are evaluating her medically each day and are doing additional tests. As they learn more about Ellen's medical condition they are treating her. There have been concerns that she may not be stable enough medically and may need to be transferred back to the hospital but no decisions have been made at this time. The rehab hospital is the 3rd best in the country but is not equipped to handle all medical issues. We were told it is common for patients to go back and forth numerous times between hospitals until the patient is fully stable for rehabilitation. If she does stay in the rehab facility the first goal is to get Ellen off the ventilator.

Let's all pray that she makes some progress, becomes medically stable and can be breath without the ventilator.

Thank you again for all your good thoughts, prayers and support.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why this blog was created

I'm Ellen's sister in law, Ella. I created this blog for everyone to check on Ellen's progress and recovery. All the outpouring of love, generosity and support has really touched our family in a way we never imagined. Our family believes that all the prayers and support, have helped Ellen survive in the most critical of days and is helping her every day.

With the help of family and friends, we are working on setting up a fund for Ellen's upcoming medical, legal and future care expenses. Details on how to donate will be updated tomorrow.

Please check this blog often for updates on Ellen. Feel free to leave comments for Ellen and our family. We'd love to hear from everyone. If you'd like to personally email me you can do so at

Thank you again for all the love and support!