Editor’s Note: Chad Brooks is a graduate of Mary Free Bed’s Brain Injury Program. His wife, Sarah, agreed to write a guest blog about his recovery.
Precisely four months before our wedding, the only thing on my mind and on Chad’s mind were invitations and party plans. But on April 24, 2013, everything changed.
Chad was involved in a single-car accident. He flipped his Jeep and was thrown from the vehicle into a farm ditch, where he laid in a puddle of water for an unknown amount of time. He was taken by ambulance to MidMichigan Medical Center – Midland, where ER doctors told me, his then-fiancée, that if he made it out of trauma surgery to repair his internal injuries, including a torn diaphragm and collapsed lung, his brain probably wouldn’t recover because he had gone without oxygen for an unknown period of time. In fact, initial brain scans showed very little activity, and I and other members of his family were told to expect the worse.
Even though there wasn’t much hope for him, Chad was given the best care that we could have asked for at MidMichigan. With that care and a whole lot of hope and prayers from friends and family from around the world, Chad began to show signs of improvement. After two weeks at the hospital, he started to respond to doctors and nurses when they checked him for brain activity. Slowly but surely, Chad came around. Eventually, his brain was strong enough to allow surgery to repair his shattered femur. Once this surgery was complete, we knew it was time to find a place for Chad to recover.
My family had had an experience with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in the past and knew it was where Chad belonged. After talking with social workers at MidMichigan and Mary Free Bed, we decided that Chad would be taken to MFB. Once the decision was made, everything moved very quickly. Within a couple of days, arrangements were made for the trip. I was right there by Chad’s side, starting with the ambulance ride to Grand Rapids.
Chad was allowed to rest the day that he arrived to MFB, but starting the next morning, it was full speed ahead with rehab. Chad was introduced to a physical therapist, Melissa, who was there to get him back on his feet; a speech therapist, Allison, who was there to help him learn to swallow again and get his brain thinking critically, and an occupational therapist, Kate, who was there to help Chad resume eating, writing and getting through his days.
One of the best things about Chad’s stay at Mary Free Bed was how everyone encouraged his family to be involved. A cot was rolled into Chad’s room so that he had companionship at night, whether it was with me, Chad’s mom or his step-dad. We were also given information about The Inn at Mary Free Bed, where we stayed because home was so far away.
Without a doubt, (besides the day he went home), Chad’s best day was the one where he was reunited with his dog. After having been in the hospital for more than a month, recreation therapist Steve and I arranged for a space where Chad could sit with his pug, Bernie, for a few hours. So much was done by all the staff at the hospital to make Chad happy, but this, by far, made the difference in his morale.
Chad pushed through all of his therapies faster than expected. He arrived by ambulance unable to walk or feed himself and he was in a very hazy state of mind. He left as a passenger in my car and chatted the whole way home – after we stopped for a fast-food breakfast.
Chad’s journey didn’t end when he left Mary Free Bed. Social workers helped arrange for a home nurse and outpatient therapy for Chad. It made the transition almost seamless and allowed the focus to be on Chad’s recovery, not on making phone calls to set up appointments.
As originally scheduled, Chad and I got married on August 24. Chad danced with me, just like he told all of his therapists he would. Chad and I and our families know none of this would have been possible without the outstanding care and therapy he received at Mary Free Bed. While we hope we never have to, we won’t hesitate to recommend MFB in the future to our loved ones who find themselves needing rehabilitation care.