David’s traumatic brain injury journey began on May 30, 2003, when the 16-year-old student was driving to a friend’s house. Unsure of the directions, David was on his cell phone with a friend when he missed a stop sign and was hit on his side by a van traveling on the intersecting road. David was thrown 50 feet into a field and bystanders were convinced that he was fatally injured. When an off duty police officer driving by stopped to assist, he found the unconscious young man bleeding from his nose and mouth, and he heard what he thought was David’s last breath.

After being airlifted from Dansville to Kalamazoo, David spent the next two weeks at Bronson Methodist Hospital, where he showed no signs of waking up from his coma. A neurosurgeon suggested custodial care, but David’s family resisted that course and instead opted for Mary Free Bed Hospital where they had their first glimmer of hope – being told their still unconscious son would need gym clothes!

That hope grew as the family heard about the intensive OT, PT and speech therapy schedule that David would begin the following day. However, even with that rigorous therapy, it took months before David’s first purposeful movement, a subtle one yet a sign that recovery was possible. Throughout his five-month stay at Mary Free Bed Hospital, David worked endlessly with his therapists, learning how to walk, speak, and function. Yet even when discharged, he still was not ambulatory and his speech remained unintelligible.

During outpatient therapy through Hope Network, David  and his family were introduced to a new innovative treatment, AxioBionics. AxioBionics is a wearable electrostimulation therapy that has given David back some of his independence. Now, with increased mobility, David has been able to pursue recreational activities and focus on living. He continues to participate and volunteer in hippotherapy (horseback riding), as well as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and his favorite – music therapy.

David has also recently become more involved with the Brain Injury Association of Michigan. While he and his mother have attended BIAMI conferences for years, he now plays a more significant role in BIAMI as Vice President of the Capital Area Chapter of BIA. David told us that he loves the opportunity to work collaboratively with other board members, and enjoys socializing with people who “speak my language.”

David’s life has been an extraordinary journey. He expressed heartfelt thanks for the support and care he received from his family and friends, the BIAMI, and physiatrist Edward Dabrowski, MD. In David’s words, “The secret to life is, no matter how good I (or we) are, no one can succeed alone.” David’s positive attitude and unwavering support from family and friends have helped him grow into becoming an effective self-advocate and an advocate for other individuals with brain injuries.

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