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Vehicle after the accident

Lucky to be alive: Pete’s Chevy Cavalier after the accident

by Linda Truong, Mary Free Bed writer

In 1999, a propane truck smashed into Pete Cook’s car leaving him with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). An emergency medical technician witnessed the accident and came to Pete’s rescue, caring for him until a trauma team arrived. Pete was airlifted by helicopter to Spectrum Hospital in Grand Rapids for its excellent critical care.

Pete was in an induced coma for four days with a subdural hematoma (a collection of blood on the surface of the brain). He sustained several fractures in his leg, pelvis, and neck. He also had a piece of glass lodged in his eyelid, a partially collapsed right lung, a deep cut in his fractured leg, and suffered hearing loss in his left ear.

Robert and Martha, Pete’s parents, were devastated.

In a recent letter sent to Mary Free Bed (MFB), Bob and Martha shared the story of their son’s recovery and rehabilitation.

The doctors said Pete’s brain would most likely swell. Fortunately, it didn’t. Doctors also predicted Pete would get pneumonia. Again, Pete got lucky. With many serious brain injuries, such as Pete’s, brain swelling or pneumonia often leads to death.

In their letter, Pete’s parents stated, “We believe that there is a great power in prayer, and God heard and answered those prayers.”

When Pete finally awoke, he was unaware of how he got there, how severe his injuries were, or the long path to recovery that lay ahead.

One week after the accident, Pete was transferred to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. While at MFB, Pete had occupational, physical, speech, and psychological therapy. He made remarkable progress.

Hard work: Pete works with a physical therapist to regain mobility and strength.

Hard work: Pete works with a physical therapist to regain mobility and strength.

Not only did Pete find healing at Mary Free Bed, but so did Bob and Martha. They shared their experience with other parents, and found solace in their new friendships.

As is often the case with traumatic injuries, Pete suffered from anger and resentment; he felt he caused a great inconvenience for everyone. He wondered why God spared his life.

Pete attended a church service where a series of sermons on The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren, were presented. It was then Pete realized God spared him for a reason.

Events led Pete to Chicago, where he held several jobs. He worked at a fitness center and met a client who became the love of his life. As talks about marriage and a family became serious, Pete thought about having a steadier job. He came to a conclusion that God saved his life so that he could be for others what they had been for him.

Pete decided to become a physical therapist.

Happy days return: Martha and Bob with their beloved son Pete on his wedding day

He’s pursuing his goals and will graduate from Chicago State University this month with a degree in pre-physical therapy (with a 3.91 GPA, no  less!). Pete plans to get his doctorate in physical therapy, with a minor in psychology. Today, Pete is happily married.

October 28 marked Pete’s eleventh birthday, a day that signifies the restoration of hope in his life. He’ll be 32 in chronological years this month.

During the past 11 years Bob and Martha have kept in touch with Mary Free Bed. “Everyone was like family,” their letter states. “The doctors were top notch, caring and compassionate. Thank you, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, and all of the wonderful people who work there. From the bottom of our hearts, we are so grateful for all you have done, are doing, and will do for the many who suffer such life-changing traumas.”

Has a severe illness or injury changed your career plans? Did a hospital stay make you realize you wanted to be a medical professional? Share in the comments.

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