Michael's Story

Michael Smith smiling

Traumatic brain injury

Dedicated dietary manager and paramedic, 65-year-old Michael Smith's world was shattered when a devastating accident left him with a traumatic brain injury.

Married to his wife, Debra, for 27 years and a father to four children, Michael's life was defined by service and family. Before the accident, he held the role of Dietary Manager at Faith Community Hospital, where he interviewed clients and worked closely with the dietitian. He also served as a voluntary paramedic and a firefighter. As an avid archer and craftsman, he found joy in making arrows and cherished making Christmas ornaments for his grandchildren.

While crossing the hospital parking lot, he was struck by a vehicle hidden from his view. The crushing impact left him with multiple skull and facial fractures, a traumatic brain injury and impaired optic and auditory functions. Transferred to JPS Medical Center, his prospects for recovery appeared bleak, with doctors estimating a less than 30% chance of leaving the hospital on his own two feet.

Michael was left with cognition and memory challenges, vision and hearing changes and a loss of balance. After he was stabilized, Michael transferred to Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) – Fort Worth. He joined their Day Neuro Program to regain his independence and recover his abilities.

His goals were to regain some of his memory, walk and drive again. He also wanted to return to the kitchen. Throughout his rehabilitation, Michael made remarkable strides toward his goals. Guided by his physician-led therapists, he relearned the art of walking, quickly shedding the need for assistance or mobility aids.

"You guys have done some miraculous things," he recalled during his treatment. "I am walking without any assistance or device. My memory is improving. I'm building memories with my new grandchildren, my kids and my wife."

Among the many tailored therapies and exercises Michael went through, Sally squats proved to be a challenge that he eventually was able to conquer, strengthening his balance and stability.

Supported by speech therapists, he worked hard to regain his cognitive abilities, including his memory retention and overall mental acuity. "The speech therapists have been great at working on my memory and have helped me retain what I've been learning," Michael said. "My OTs and PTs are great. Everyone here really cares about the people they take care of. They all did far more than I ever expected they could."

He also recalled the comradery of his therapists and fellow patients, mentioning, "They were there for me. They really helped support me in that moment, and I knew that's where I needed to be. Even my fellow patients were supporting me."

As Michael prepared to transition to outpatient therapy, he reflected on his rehabilitation experience at BSWIR – Fort Worth with immense gratitude.

"I really think it's been great," he recalled. "There are some great staff here that show how much they do care about what's going on. Every single person here has a good sense of humor. These staff here go out of their way [for you]. Even if they're not your primary therapist, they make it a point to know exactly who you are and help you in any way possible. When you're here, you really feel like you're being treated like a person."

Michael leaves this advice for anyone going through a similar experience: "Know that you're not alone. The staff and the other patients know exactly what you're going through. Don't be afraid to ask for help. We all need help sometimes."