Brain injury education series ignites hope

Weighing about three pounds, the human brain perches precariously atop an intricate wiring system. In this vulnerable position the brain is subjected to many bumps in a lifetime, but significant bumps can injure its delicate wiring resulting in an acquired brain injury (ABI).

To help those with an ABI learn skills to manage the impact of the ABI, St. Joseph's Parkwood Hospital offers an eight-week videoconference series which is viewed throughout Southwestern Ontario. During this series brain injury rehabilitation therapists share their expertise, and brain injury survivors share their journey to recovery.

Here is the story of an ABI survivor whose family is learning all they can about recovery.

Back from the Brink

How do you thank the people who saved your son’s life? What do you say to the medical team who brought him back from the brink? Those are questions Janet Fleming grappled with when her son Cole Kierdorf was a patient at Parkwood Hospital.

Cole and Melissa

Cole Kierdorf, centre, exercising with occupational therapist Manny Paiva, left, and physiotherapist Melissa Fielding.

On January 26, while snowboarding in Michigan a devastating accident left the 20-year-old with brain damage. “We were worried he wouldn’t make it through the night,” says Janet. “We knew our lives would be changed forever.”

Cole was an experienced snowboarder. But, like all his friends that day, he wasn’t wearing a helmet. He sustained an injury to his brain on a fall, and was near death when he arrived at the hospital. He spent almost 30 days in a coma.

When he was transferred to Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor, his hometown, his health was tenuous at best. He had lost 50 pounds, and couldn’t walk or speak but the physiotherapists at Hotel-Dieu Grace got him moving immediately. On March 25, he was transferred to the acquired brain injury program at Parkwood Hospital where his days became packed with therapy.

“It’s unbelievable how well the care team at Parkwood works together,” says Janet. “For instance, as Cole got more active in physio, the nutritionist made sure his calorie intake reflected this.”

Cole running

Running up the road to recovery, Cole Kierdorf, in grey t-shirt, enjoys functional rehab with therapists Melissa Fielding, Manny Pavia, and OT and PT Assistant Dennis Argoso. The photo was taken on the day of Cole's discharge, when he presented his therapists with t-shirts from his favourite team - the Detroit Tigers. To see the video, click here.

Cole’s therapy was personalized. Learning he was an OFSAA gold-medal winning swimmer, the team ensured some of his physiotherapy sessions were spent in the pool.

Cole made remarkable progress in his time at Parkwood going from not being able to walk by himself to doing side planks, a move where you balance on a foot and a hand.

To learn more about what Cole is experiencing with his ABI, Janet and her husband Marty along with others, are attending the video conference series. It is helping, but there are still many unknowns. “We don’t know how much progress Cole will make, but we do know he received the best possible care at Parkwood,” she says.

For more information on the videoconference series: http://www.sjhc.london.on.ca/your-st-josephs/events/acquired-brain-injury-survivor-and-family-education-series-videoconference-se

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