Our Storydrhayden

In October 1974, I was studying for my doctoral exams in neuropsychology when I received news that my 12-year-old son, Ben, had been hit by a car while riding his bicycle. He was rushed to the hospital with a severe head injury. At the time, it was very difficult to save the lives of people who had suffered traumatic brain injuries, and despite the doctors’ best efforts, Ben passed away that evening.

Brain injury rehabilitation programs were in their infancy when my son died, and research on brain injuries had just begun. I became committed to improving the success of brain injury rehabilitation and outcomes. After I earned my doctorate in neuropsychology, I began conducting research in the field.

Improving Outcomes

After studying the latest innovations in brain function analysis, I partnered with Dr. Dan Morrison, a physician specializing in rehabilitation. We launched an inpatient brain injury rehabilitation program at Del Oro Hospital in Houston, where we were aided by research from Dr. Roger Sperry, the 1981 Nobel Prize winner in medicine for split brain research. Dr. Sperry provided great insight into how people think, reason, remember and make decisions. Our program adopted a team-centered approach with professionals from traditional medical disciplines including physical medicine and rehabilitation; nursing; social work; and physical, occupational, speech and language therapies.

While we were realizing successful outcomes, there was a void in outpatient therapy. In response, an outpatient program was launched that mirrored the Del Oro inpatient model. I soon noticed, however, that though patients continued to improve in the clinical setting, they seemed to struggle in other environments.

Why would patients appear to improve in the clinical setting, but not be able to maintain their outcomes in the real world?  We discovered that the treatment environment should mirror the one the patient would be returning to. For example, speech therapy and physical therapy needed to be integrated, rather than conducted in separate sessions, because in the real world, people often talk and communicate while doing physical activities.  The program was adjusted and honed to achieve the proven approach still utilized today.  The hallmark of this approach is the customization of treatment to each patient’s ability level and tolerance of distractions.  As progress is made, therapists introduce greater complexity into the treatments while reducing structure – a model that helps assimilate individuals to the outside world.

Not Just a Job at Pate

For more than 30 years, Pate Rehabilitation has been dedicated to improving brain injury rehabilitation and enabling patients to thrive in the real world.  With an emotional tie and a deep interest, Pate’s mission is to ensure successful treatment and the best possible outcomes for those with acquired brain injuries. Throughout our history, we have been committed to treating the people we serve with compassion, dignity, hope and respect.  I know how important it is to live by these values since it is what I would have wanted for Ben and the rest of my family.

Mary Ellen Hayden



Mary Ellen Hayden Ph.D., ABPP