Adjust Text Size: A A A

Growth and Progress

In July 2009, Kevin Masters and a few friends were enjoying a motorcycle ride on a summer afternoon. Having ridden a motorcycle for many years, Kevin was an experienced cyclist, but when his bike hit a patch of gravel, he was unable to control it. Kevin’s bike fell to the side, skidding into the curb, and flipped, throwing Kevin into a tree. Lying on the ground with a broken femur, he was bleeding profusely from a main artery in his leg. Ike, a veteran of the Iraq war and trained in handling medical emergencies, quickly came to his friend’s aide, applying pressure to Kevin’s life-threatening injury until emergency personnel arrived. 

Kevin was transported to a trauma center where he underwent eight hours of surgery to repair his main artery and femur.  A CAT scan revealed no apparent injury to his brain; however the scuff mark on the right side of his helmet indicated to doctors that he most likely had some brain bruising.

After two weeks in a coma, Kevin slowly came around.

“My husband, Jim, and I were incredibly anxious,” Kevin’s mom, Norma Masters, explained recently. “Kevin had a ‘deer in the headlights’ look about him. He wasn’t focused and he didn’t know who we were. He had no memory of the accident and he was talking randomly, like he was dreaming out loud. At one point, he was talking and cheering and based on the details, he must have thought he was at a White Sox game. Though we were told by the ICU nurse that this was normal behavior as he was coming out of his coma, we were very worried.”

Due to Kevin’s injuries, his kidneys failed, and as his body began to swell. Kevin needed to have ongoing dialysis treatments and was transferred to a specialty hospital. After a few weeks, he completed his dialysis and was well enough to eat a normal diet again. His physicians began to discuss his need for an intensive physical rehabilitation program to continue his recovery.

“When he was ready to go to rehab we didn’t bother with getting information on any other facilities,” Norma states. “There were family members of ours who had been at Marianjoy. We knew about its wonderful reputation. It was where Kevin needed to be.”

Still in a wheelchair and unable to walk, Kevin was transferred to Marianjoy. His parents were concerned about his injured leg. Would he ever feel sensation in it again? Would he be able to walk? His memory and cognitive abilities also remained an issue even though his memories, including those of the accident, were slowing returning.

With the help of his Marianjoy therapists, Kevin’s progress began almost immediately.

“I asked if I could come to the therapy sessions with him and his therapists encouraged it,” notes Norma. “On the second day at Marianjoy, they stood him up from his wheelchair and with his therapist holding him, they coaxed him to take small steps. I was following behind him with the wheelchair, crying the whole time. I was elated! Even though they were small steps, just like when he was a toddler, they were steps none-the-less! I realized he was going to have a long recovery ahead of him, but at that point, I saw hope.”

Kevin’s cognitive issues required intensive speech therapy. Working daily with his therapist, Kevin learned tips and techniques, like word associations and making lists, to help him regain the use and function of his memory while overcoming his cognitive issues. Slowly, his memory began to improve.

After six weeks of inpatient therapy, Kevin was discharged from Marianjoy’s inpatient program and headed home. He required an additional surgery on his leg and once it was healed, Kevin returned to Marianjoy for outpatient therapy. He continued to receive physical, occupational and speech therapy and after six weeks, he was discharged. Today, Kevin has returned to work and is even driving again.

“Once I realized the extent of my injuries, I knew I had to work really hard to get my life back,” Kevin stated recently when asked to recall his long journey toward recovery. “When they stood me up out of my wheelchair on that first day, it was a turning point for me. I was filled with hope. And when they helped me walk a little bit more everyday, and I could see the progress as I made it further down the hallway, I realized I was going to be okay. I knew I could be like everybody else again.”

Kevin explains how he dealt with his cognitive issues.

“At first, I know I was clearly in denial,” he confirms. “But once I kept an open mind about what they were teaching me, I saw improvement. They enforced the need to write things down and taught me how to associate one object with another in order to remember tasks. For example, if I know I need to call someone about my work schedule when I get home, I associate that with my work boots. Before I take them off, I make the call so I don’t forget to complete the task. We also did a lot of repetitive exercises in speech therapy to help me improve my memory.”

Kevin has also decided he will no longer ride a motorcycle. He is just thankful for all he has, including his ability to walk.

“I’m a bit clumsy but at least I’m walking,” Kevin states. “I’m getting back to where I want to be. I’m living at home, saving some money, hanging out with my friends. I’m very pleased with my progress.”

“Everyday while he was at Marianjoy, we could see improvement,” Norma confirms. “The staff was very helpful, knowledgeable, and caring. They do fantastic work there. It is an excellent facility. I know we made the right choice.”