We applaud the incredible courage and fortitude of our patients. Their success stories of determination, grit, and success are all unique—just like our patients. Read on for stories from real people about their their brain injury journey and road to recovery while at Pate Rehabilitation. There is, indeed, hope.
Johnny Van Horn, age 38
“I couldn’t have done it without the team at Pate. They were kind and comforting even when things were challenging and frustrating.”
During a surgery to remove a brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM), Johnny experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that left him with memory deficits, the inability to move his left hand, and balance issues. He chose Pate Rehabilitation because of the neuro program partnered with occupational therapy, which was important because he wanted to get back to work as soon as possible. In order to help Johnny reach his goal of returning to work, the team went to his workplace and collected the tools he would need to use on a daily basis in order to incorporate them into his therapy. Despite the times that it seemed there was no improvement, Johnny says he kept working and fighting to do as much as he could on his own. His desire to get back to his life, along with the love and support of his family, helped him persevere and meet all of his goals.
Johnny’s advice for new patients
“My advice to new patients is to work and continue to work even on your own at home. Don’t let your fear distract you from your therapy.”
Nia Kelley, age 37
IT Project Manager/Business Analyst
“The support from the Pate team and other patients was everything to me. I have met people at Pate who have impacted my life and I view it as a blessing. I see this as not as a disability, but an opportunity that was put before me.”
While sleeping one evening, Nia experienced a stroke that left her with paralysis in her face and arm. She was unable to talk when she admitted to Pate, not even make sounds. Her therapist worked with her on sounds and ennunciation, and celebrated with Nia as she began to say words and form small sentences. Nia found that doing the extra work at home and not quitting even when she reached a wall was what made the difference for her recovery and accomplishing her goals. With a deep sense of faith and purpose, Nia and her husband, Jasen, found a way to overcome any obstacle set in their path.
Nia’s advice to new patients
“You must have an open mind and know the progress will come if you work at it. There are no guarantees, but give your all and you will be surprised by your progress. We are all put here for a purpose whether we understand it or not.”
One day, Jack suffered a stroke that affected the right frontal lobe of his brain. Once he was medically stable, Jack’s doctors decided he was ready to leave the hospital to begin rehab at Pate.
When he first started rehab, Jack could carry on slow, normal conversations, but he would often say inappropriate comments to women. At the same time, although Jack was fully capable, he would also refuse almost all physical activities, including daily showers and attending meals.
To those with an untrained eye, Jack’s lack of physical activity was mistaken as laziness. However, Jack’s neuropsychologist immediately began to suspect that his unfiltered comments and, what appeared to be a lack of motivation, were both results of his brain injury. She believed Jack wanted to do all the right things, and that he wanted to take care of himself, but couldn’t because a crucial part of his brain was affected.
Jack’s therapists and neuropsychologist helped him regain his ability to perform these functions. At first, his therapists had to physically touch the body part he needed to begin an activity.
For example, when the staff would tell him that it was time to brush his teeth, they would hand him the toothbrush and touch his elbow to help him get started. Over time, Jack needed fewer cues and eventually needed none at all. He could once again begin his daily activities on his own.
Jack’s neuropsychologist also worked with his team to help him “filter” his inappropriate comments. This learning was accomplished by Jack identifying a nonverbal gesture staff could use to let him know what he said wasn’t appropriate, while being respectful and not embarrassing him in front of people. In private, therapists would review the inappropriate comment with him and practice better ways to say what he was thinking.
After about four months of determination and dedicated work with his treatment team, Jack made significant strides in his rehabilitation journey. He improved enough to go home with his wife, was able to personally take care of his basic needs, and eventually obtain employment.
Jack’s story is a shining example of the importance of a neuropsychologist in brain injury rehabilitation. Without a neuropsychologist as a member of his team, Jack’s story may have been dramatically different and it is likely that he may not have progressed to his current level of independence and command of social skills.
Rocky suffered a severe brain injury when his motorcycle wrecked into some escaped livestock standing on the road.
After the accident, Rocky was diagnosed with “diffuse axonal injury,” which means the axons (long parts of his brain cells) all over his brain were damaged and couldn’t communicate well with each other – and he was in need of intense brain injury rehabilitation.
When Rocky came out of his coma, his therapists in the hospital taught him how to perform everyday skills, such as walking, talking, and feeding himself. Rocky also began to learn basic information about his brain injury and his orientation in society, such as his name and his current location. To do this, his therapists would ask him the same questions, in a quiet therapy room, every day, such as:
- “What is your name?”
- “What is today’s date?”
- “What city are you in right now?”
- “Why are you in the hospital?”
With daily repetition of these questions in the same room, Rocky started to learn how to answer these questions correctly. Because he was functioning better physically, Rocky’s doctors said he was ready to leave the hospital and begin his next phase of treatment at Pate Rehab.
When Rocky arrived at Pate, his therapists noticed some strange behaviors and inconsistencies in his ability to talk about the date and where he was located. His therapists reported this to Rocky’s neuropsychologist. Rocky could answer all the orientation questions correctly inside a quiet therapy room, but when he was in a different setting he was no longer oriented to location and why he was there.
For example, when walking outside and his therapist asked where he was, Rocky started to walk away from Pate property to go “home” which, he believed was “just over the hill.” Rocky would say he was in Anna, Texas, but at the same time he was sure his own home was “just over the hill.” In reality, “just over the hill” was miles away in another town. Rocky’s neuropsychologist was able to describe this condition as “reduplicative paramnesia,” a condition which causes Rocky to believe that his home was “duplicated” and existed in two places at the same time.
Rocky’s repeated attempts to leave the Pate campus were his brain’s way of trying to make sense of where he was and what was happening to him. In a quiet room, Rocky could say where he was and what happened to him, but when distractions increased and he saw outside landmarks, he could not figure out where he truly was. This made it unsafe for Rocky when he would go outside.
With the help of Rocky’s neuropsychologist on the treatment team and awareness of his “reduplicative paramnesia,” they were able to develop ways to help Rocky overcome this condition. The diagnosis also allowed the team to provide education to his family on how to transition him home safely.
Within a month, Rocky was more oriented and his behavior dramatically improved. He no longer tried to unsafely leave the campus, and he was able to discharge home with his parents and continue to help raise his children.
Tish, a successful makeup artist, one day contracted a severe infection which ultimately spread to her brain, leaving her with a brain injury. On the day of admission to Pate Rehabilitation, her therapists recognized that Tish had trouble with visual memory – a fairly common problem after a brain injury.
But her visual memory issue turned out to be much more complex – Tish’s therapist and neuropsychologist quickly realized that Tish wasn’t able to recognize faces, even those of her husband and child.
Although, as a professional makeup artist, she was trained to be able to identify facial features, her brain injury now prevented this; because she could no longer recognize facial features, a disorder known as “prosopagnosia,” she could no longer recognize her friends, family and clients.
Tish’s neuropsychologist and therapists discovered a way to help Tish learn how to remember people again. First, Tish learned how to tell whether or not a person was a staff member by looking for staff name badges. She then studied staff photos of her therapy team and was taught how to write down identifying features next to the photos.
For example, Tish noted that her therapist, Lisa, was “short and had her hair in a ponytail.” This practice extended to the rest of her therapy team, and with repeated practice and support, Tish learned how to focus on other identifying features such as hair style, perfume, height, etc., to quickly recognize people.
In an effort to help her quickly recognize her son, she learned how to remember all the clothing in which she had dressed her son for daycare. Tish even learned to identify her clients without facial recognition, and many of her clients are still unaware that Tish does not recognize them by their faces alone.
Even though Tish was devastated at her initial diagnosis of prosopagnosia, her treatment team helped her through the emotional reactions so she could successfully beat the odds and return to work as a makeup artist.
Here we share just a few of the many miracles that happen at Pate Rehabilitation and some of the mutual admiration staff, patients and families express for each other. These are updated each month so you can see the latest feedback.