Traumatic brain injury
We often forget the inherent danger of recreational activities. A wrong turn, a missed step, or a moment of distraction can turn joy into pain and fear. For Brandon Reichling, a day meant for excitement and laughter turned into disaster resulting in a dirt bike accident, an urgent trip to the nearest emergency room and a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Despite wearing a helmet during the accident, Brandon suffered bleeding in several areas of his brain. Medical professionals worked to stabilize him, but he experienced a collapsed lung, requiring re-inflation through a tube inserted into his chest cavity. Additionally, a trach was inserted as he struggled to breathe independently. Brandon spent two weeks in the hospital under ventilator support.
Upon discharge, Brandon's mother described him as “Jell-O.” He relied on others for bed mobility and had little control of his head and neck. He relied on a feeding tube due to difficulty swallowing and communicating. Blurry vision and further cognitive decline only added to his challenges. In search of expert care, Brandon found Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) - Dallas, which came as a recommendation from a family friend's daughter.
Brandon's admission to BSWIR - Dallas marked a turning point. "Getting here was the best thing that happened to us," his mom recalled. "It was part of God's plan."
Brandon set his goals in rehabilitation. He wanted "to walk and go home. To be independent." The rehab team devised a therapy and care plan to expedite his progress. His physical therapist focused on strengthening and limbering his muscles through guided exercises to help him regain mobility. When he gained enough strength to stand, Brandon utilized a wearable robotic exoskeleton, offering support as he relearned to walk. The therapists monitored his gait, speed and distance, gradually challenging him as his muscles improved.
Daily exercises targeted Brandon's ability to swallow and use his mouth until the feeding tube was removed, allowing him to resume a regular diet and take medication in pill form. “I had a feeding tube when I first came in... now I can eat a regular diet and can swallow my pills,” he recalled. Occupational therapy equipped him with strategies for self-care activities, including dressing and brushing his teeth. He also practiced skills for a successful return to work. "The therapists helped me talk louder and be socially appropriate," Brandon shared.
While Brandon's determination was pivotal to his progress, his family and girlfriend played essential roles in keeping him motivated and participating in family training. His mother, a registered nurse, initiated therapy exercises even before arriving at BSWIR - Dallas, enhancing his range of motion and serving as a constant source of encouragement.
Orbit, the local therapy dog, offered additional support, aiding Brandon in improving his balance and endurance through playful fetch sessions.
Brandon's hard work and the support from his family and therapy team culminated in a significant milestone - standing on his own. As his time at BSWIR - Dallas came to an end, Brandon eagerly looked forward to, "sleeping in my own bed and eating home-cooked food." His journey towards independence continued at the Day Neuro program at BSWIR – Frisco.
For those in a similar situation, Brandon leaves these words of encouragement: “Stay motivated and try hard. This will help you get better faster.”