March 2021 Update
Since his rehabilitation at Hope Network, Charlie has accomplished many major life milestones and is living a full life post-TBI – including riding his bike.
He graduated college, earning his Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Accounting from Davenport University, and is working full-time as a tax accountant with aspirations to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the next couple years.
He is engaged to his fiancé Autumn with plans to be married next year, they’ve purchased a home together, and have four kittens who keep them very busy.
Original Story: July 20, 2017
He had just graduated from high school, won a state championship cycling road race, and had travel plans in place before beginning college.
Little did he know just how much of a crossroads this time in his life would actually turn out to be.
While visiting family in California, Charlie – an experienced cyclist – hopped on his cousin’s bike to explore the California landscape. So he’s told. He doesn’t remember even going for a bike ride that day.
Charlie was only 18 years old. A positive, determined young man who now faced an uncertain future. However, it may be that positive, adventurous spirit that saved Charlie’s life.
“I remember feeling rather safe,” Charlie says now as he reflects upon his time at the hospital in California. “I knew I was in the hospital. My parents told me that if I did what the doctors told me, I would get better.”
So that’s exactly what he did.
After nearly two months of acute inpatient rehabilitation in California, Charlie’s condition stabilized enough to allow him to move back home to Kalamazoo, MI. It was then that he met his new treatment team at Hope Network Neuro Rehabilitation.
Despite the progress made in California, Charlie still faced significant obstacles: he struggled with balance and cognition, he was no longer able to safely perform activities of daily living such as cooking or driving, and facial fractures left him blind in one eye. Plus, he had to wear a helmet to protect the area of his head where his skull was removed to accommodate brain swelling.
But, it was his lack of memory that Charlie recalls being the most challenging consequence of his accident.
Charlie attended therapy three days a week, where he received physical, occupational, and speech therapies. His therapy team recognized his strong work ethic and positive attitude, and was not at all surprised to watch Charlie begin to heal within months of his accident.
“No matter what we were doing in our sessions, Charlie gave 110%,” says Jacque Dauch, Speech-Language Pathologist and part of Charlie’s treatment team. “I bombarded him with homework and things to work on at home, and he never fell short. It was incredibly rewarding to watch him find himself and his strength again, and to witness his perseverance to return to life as Charlie knew it.”
Despite the odds, in January 2015 Charlie enrolled in college. He finished the semester with a 4.0 grade point average; a significant achievement for someone who was on life support just six months earlier. He believes the strategies he learned in therapy – saying things out loud multiple times, using acronyms, writing things down – helped him early on to overcome memory limitations that may have impeded his academic success.
Today, Charlie continues to attend college with plans to graduate with an accounting degree from Davenport University. He has his memory back. He can drive. He can do everything he did before the accident.
“I remember the day when Charlie signed up for his first college courses,” recalls Jacque. “As well as the day he began riding his bike again. I remember thinking what an inspiration he was to not let his accident slow him down. To not be afraid to continue moving forward doing the things he aspired to do.”
And that’s what comeback stories are made of.