Coley Todd has always been physically active. He works as an Excavator in construction and helps run the family construction business. Through his youth he was active in basketball and motor cross, racing dirt bikes. He had stepped away from racing dirt bikes, but in his 30s picked the sport up again. He considered himself a “weekend warrior” and participated in the Phoenix Motor Cross Series racing dirt bikes. One of those weekend races changed his life.
Coley and his wife Victoria shared the day in April 2022. Coley explained, “I don’t recall much from the accident or the days at the Phoenix hospital or the first week at Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona (RHNA), “I slept a lot. My wife has had to fill in the missing pieces.” Victoria, who is a physical therapist by trade, stated, “He wrecked on a wet track on a jump. I was there and when I got to him, I saw that he had cracked his helmet. I had a gut feeling there was a head injury. There was an ambulance on scene, but we had to wait for another ambulance to transport him to the hospital. He didn’t know who I was.” Coley was transported to a hospital in Phoenix.
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He was diagnosed with a right scapula fracture, back fracture, a right acromioclavicular joint (AC) separation of his shoulder, a right elbow fracture, pulmonary contusions and brain injuries. Coley suffered a bifrontal parenchymal hemorrhage and left parietal hemorrhage which likely were to be a diffuse axonal injury (DAI). Diffuse axonal injury is the shearing (tearing) of the brain’s long connecting never fibers (axons). That happens when the brain is injured as it shifts and rotates inside the bony skull. This type of injury has also been referred to as ‘Shaken Baby Syndrome’. Coley states, “The broken bones and other injuries were nothing compared to the brain injury and what I went through with that. I would take broken bones any day over a brain injury. It was probably around mid-morning of the third day that I knew who my wife was.”
When discussing with both Coley and Victoria their decision to come to RHNA, Victoria stated, “I knew that he needed rehab and in a timely manner. We live in Flagstaff and I wanted him to go to rehab where we lived. I had to be persistent with the hospital in Phoenix that we wanted to return to Flagstaff for his rehab at RHNA. [RHNA] really worked with us to get him back home. [They] helped with arranging transport to get him back to Flagstaff and it was so appreciated. There was something so comforting about looking out the window of our room and seeing Buffalo Park.” Coley stated, “I had a lot of confusion and didn’t always know where I was especially at night. During the day it was better, but at night it was really hard. I am so glad that [RHNA] let my wife stay with me, it helped so much because she helped calm me in those moments.”
At RHNA, we allow what is called Family Attendants to stay with certain patients. The family attendant is a family member approved by the leadership team to stay with the PT in their room overnight. These individuals provide a source of comfort, help in redirecting the patient in instances of confusion and for family training on the patient’s needs as a result of their condition, so they are better able to care for them in the home environment.
As Coley reflected on influences that helped the most in his recovery, he whole heartedly stated his wife and family. He stated with a little laugh and nudged his wife, “My wife is the ‘bulldog’ in the relationship. This is a good thing. She really gets things done and advocated for me every step of the way. When the Phoenix hospital was trying to influence us to stay in Phoenix, it was her persistence that got me back home to Flagstaff to go to rehab. She was always by my side, our family, too. They were so supportive.”
At RHNA, as part of our Brain Injury Program, a family meeting is held within five days of admission. The multi-disciplinary team, who have earned advanced certifications to treat and manage brain injuries, works with the patient and the family to create an individualized, progressive treatment plan to offer the patient the best success at recovery. “Dr. Balouch was so attentive,” Victoria stated. “The family, being new to brain injury needed a lot of education on what to expect, tools on how to help recovery, and we were allowed us to ask so many questions. We needed a lot of education and Dr. Balouch and Colleen, case manager, were so patient. The family conference helped us to understand the brain injury better so we could support Coley in his recovery.”
Coley knew his motivation for recovery was determination in the fact that “I didn’t want Victoria to have to take care of me forever. I had to keep pushing myself.” Coley has made a significant recovery from both his physical injuries in addition to his brain injury. There are still sometimes that he feels he has lapses in memory, but overall feels he is pretty much back to himself. Six months after his injuries, Coley started playing basketball again. He has thought about one day getting back on his dirt bike, but for now is not going to take any chances. Coley and Veronica are expecting their first child in April of 2023. Coley states, “I have a kid on the way and I’m not going to take any chances. We are so grateful for this upcoming experience of having a child.”
Coley was asked what advice he would give to others that are recovering from a brain injury and stated, “Sometimes people don’t realize how bad an injury can be when there is not a visible injury. There can be sort of a ‘mind game’ that happens with brain injury. You ask yourself, ‘Am I forgetting something because I’m just human like everyone else or is because of the brain injury?’ Be kind to yourself. Remember to keep trying, there are days that you don’t want to, for sure, but keep trying. Don’t give up on yourself. Keep up that drive to get back to where you were to get to your goals and keep moving forward. Recovery of your brain injury doesn’t end once your leave RHNA.”
Coley is excited for the new adventure of becoming a Dad. He and Victoria expressed that they didn’t know when or if it would be possible to have a family; and now, here they are expecting their first child about one year after his accident. Coley stated, “I believe that it was harder on my wife than it was on me having a brain injury because there were many times I could not remember. It was our journey, not just my journey in recovery from a brain injury, and I’m so grateful for her and our opportunity to grow our family.”