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Comebacks and Comfort Food: Lee’s Story

August 4, 2021

Baked chicken and mashed potatoes are what’s for dinner tonight and the meal is being prepared by Lee, as his therapist stands by his side. But this is more than a cooking class. It’s another step Lee’s taking to regain the life skills he lost after a motorcycle accident

Life changed in an instant, for both Lee and his family. Following the accident, Lee was rushed to the emergency room as a Level 1 trauma patient. His injuries were substantial—a traumatic brain injury and multiple facial fractures, plus other trauma no person should have to endure. In the weeks after, as Lee was stabilized in a coma, questions swirled around his future.

When Lee came out of the coma, he confronted the reality that others around him already had. The young man who could once outrun his peers on the football field and endure the physical demands of the U.S. Army had a long recovery journey ahead of him.

After spending four months in the hospital, Lee was finally able to return home, but he struggled with common behavioral issues that interfered with his rehabilitation. Then, in September 2019, Lee moved into the inpatient transitional program at Hope Network Neuro Rehabilitation.

Upon arrival, Lee required 24/7 supervision and nursing care for daily living activities. Because of his injuries, Lee communicated by tapping his feet and fingers and making other non-verbal gestures. Some days were really hard, but one goal kept him motivated—increasing independence.

Despite all the things that were shattered in the motorcycle accident, Lee’s competitive spirit wasn’t one of them. “What I remember and appreciate most about Lee was his drive and motivation,” said Stacey Grody, Lee’s Recreation Therapist at Hope Network. “He always wanted to beat you whether it was playing a game of UNO or Wii bowling.”

Lee’s athletic drive hadn’t diminished either. “The first time I asked him to ascend the full flight of stairs, he pretty much ran up the stairs. Then he immediately turned around and quickly came back down,” said Lynn Urban, Physical Therapist at Hope Network. “Once we got to the bottom, he admitted he was afraid of heights and was terrified of our flight of stairs, but he was still willing to prove that he could do the stairs despite his fear.”

During his time at Hope Network Neuro Rehabilitation, Lee’s endurance, language, mobility, and functional communication skills improved dramatically. His rehabilitation team was inspired by the progress and so was his mother, Gwendolyn, who visited often with Lee’s sister, Catrice. “He’s a good kid,” Gwendolyn repeated over and over.

Today, back at home, Lee is doing really well—and dinner is almost ready. Not long ago, Lee couldn’t chew a piece of chicken. Now, he’s the one preparing it.

Gwendolyn is proud of her son and how far he’s come. We’re proud, too.




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