In 2002, Matt was struck by a hit-and-run driver, which caused a traumatic brain injury. He came to Marianjoy for therapy, where he made tremendous recovery. He got back into the athletics he loved, and he found a new career path in occupational therapy, which he is currently studying in college. Matt is a previous Marianjoy Scholarship winner.
Matt Wilcox is one of this year’s Marianjoy Scholarship winners, but his history with Marianjoy actually began ten years ago. In September 2002, he was celebrating the end of his football season with his team at a restaurant. In the parking lot, he was struck by a hit-and-run driver at 40 mph. The impact vaulted him into the air and left him in a nine-day coma with a traumatic brain injury. He underwent multiple surgeries and was completely unresponsive.
After a few weeks in an acute hospital, Matt had recovered enough to transfer to a rehabilitation hospital. His family chose Marianjoy, because of the good things they’d heard from friends about its intensive program and convenient location. When they visited, they weren’t disappointed. “You just feel that you’re at a great place,” says Matt. With his family visiting him every day, “it felt just like being at home,” Matt says.
Dedicated to his recovery, Matt made quick and thorough progress as an inpatient. Athletics were always important to Matt, and he approached rehabilitation with a positive attitude: “I enjoyed therapy,” he remembers. “I was always smiling.” Although he was discharged as an inpatient on Thanksgiving Day, he continued as an outpatient for two years, and he pursued further therapy through his school after that.
Matt was also dedicated to his studies, and he worked hard to get where he is today. In high school, he won many awards and achieved a high GPA and ACT score. He was involved in several extracurricular activities and was accepted to every college he applied to. Incredibly, all of this was without any accommodations for his disability.
Matt decided on the University of Missouri, where he chose to pursue an advanced degree in occupational therapy. The field seemed a natural choice for Matt, since he’d always been involved with sports and wanted to help people. “I want to help people who are going through the same thing that I did,” he says. He applied to Marianjoy’s Scholarship Program, in which he was a great fit for the Clara Pfaender Fund, established specifically established for students in healthcare-related fields.
Currently a sophomore, Matt is also a member of the Alpha Gamma Sigma fraternity at his university. He is still close with his family, but he is living independently away at school and making the most of his college experience. He has never forgotten Marianjoy, and when he’s home, he volunteers in the patient transfer program here. Patients look forward to Matt’s cheerful disposition, and Matt enjoys giving back. Sometimes, he even gives pep talks to patients who are having a hard time. “Have a positive outlook,” he says. “Know that anything can happen, and you can try and get through it. Miracles do happen.”