Editor’s Note: In January 2016, while Brett was on a winter break from Indiana University, his family vacation in northern Wisconsin turned tragic when he went off a ski jump and fell sideways, landing on his head and shoulder. He broke his clavicle and nearly died. After receiving cardio-pulmonary resuscitation from his dad, Brett was transported immediately to a local hospital. Later, he was diagnosed with a severe traumatic brain injury that affected memory, comprehension, speaking and mobility. The injury also affected his daily activities such as breathing, eating, walking and reading.
At the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Brett received intensive speech, occupational therapy and physical therapy. He had to relearn how to breathe, swallow, eat, sit, walk, talk and balance. On March 18, 2016, he walked out the clinic’s front door on his own. View a video about Brett’s rehab at RIC.
Because additional physical therapy required me to live at home, I had to delay my return to Indiana University. Therefore, I decided to attend CLC for the fall 2016 and spring 2017 semesters. The quality of teaching at CLC is amazing, and there are a lot of kind people here. My brain injury affected my ability to multi-task, such as listening and taking notes at the same time. I worked with the Office for Students with Disabilities to figure out which accommodations that I would need. One of the accommodations that I am provided is a note taker for my classes. This has allowed me to pay attention to the instructor and focus on the course material.
CLC is playing a major role in helping me move forward and transition back to Indiana University in the fall of 2017. The Office for Students with Disabilities has written a report that includes information from my doctors and a summary of which accommodations are in place at CLC—and especially, which ones have helped me. This is invaluable information that will be used by the faculty and staff at Indiana this fall.
After nearly dying, then facing the possibility of living in a permanent vegetative state, then seeing myself regain the ability to learn again and re-enroll in college, I’m now thankful for everything—large and small. My advice for students is to believe that you can learn. And never give up. Following the initial therapy at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, I had physical and occupational therapy six hours a day, five days a week at a Wheeling clinic. On top of this, I had to relearn how to learn before I could enroll at CLC.
This past year has been really hard, and I understand how fortunate I am that I am still here. I’m so thankful to EVERYONE who has helped me along the way including the medical staff, therapists and all of the people who were praying for me: Dad, Mom, my sisters Megan and Haley and my girlfriend, Maddie. I could never have done it without all of you.
When I graduate from Indiana University and complete graduate school, I want to work either as a physical therapist or in another helping profession. Before the accident, my major was pre-med. Now, I’ll be happy working in any career that helps people.
Last fall, after I struggled taking a written test in an introductory sociology class, the professor did a little research and found out that the best way to give me a test was verbally. This is another accommodation that has helped me a lot, due to aphasia, a condition of my traumatic brain injury. Because of this condition, sometimes I have difficulty comprehending and forming words. By verbally taking tests, I am able to communicate my knowledge and understanding of each class. It is an awesome feeling to be able to learn and prove my knowledge of the material. I am really proud of myself.
This semester, I’m taking an American Sign Language class because my speech therapist recommended it as a good, practical skill for any career involving therapy. The instructor has been very accommodating, and another student who’s my note taker practices sign language with me every week. The other students in class also have been very supportive. I am also taking an oceanography course this semester, and the professor has been very patient and helpful with my accommodations. I am super excited to be taking a science class again!
I recommend CLC, especially if you’ve just graduated from high school and you’re undecided about a major and your career plans. It’s financially smarter to start at CLC because a transferable, general education course such as introductory sociology costs far less than the same class that’s offered at a four-year university. And with three campuses, CLC’s location is extremely convenient.
For more on Brett’s story of recovery, visit the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s website.