Long Road Back, Recovering from a Trauma: June 2, 2012

Details are few and far between for Justin Woodbury. The night he almost died is a blur.

“I fell asleep or lost control of my car going in excess of 100 miles an hour and I hydroplaned across the median and hit a van doing about 90 or 100 miles an hour as well, head on.”

A trauma survivor, Justin spent three days in a coma. He woke to find the left side of his body paralyzed.

“I spent the next four weeks - six weeks in rehabilitation, learning how to chew food, learning how to walk and stand. I was in a wheelchair for a long time,” says Woodbury.

During the course of his recovery, Justin worked his way through Lee Memorial Health System, beginning at the trauma center.

“The trauma center is the one-stop. They come in, they’re managed acutely in the emergency department, operated on if necessary, and then brought into the hospital to be cared for from there on. We also have a fantastic rehabilitation center with physical therapy and occupational therapy,” says Dr. Robert O’Connor, a trauma surgeon with Lee Memorial Health System.

Traumatic injuries don’t heal overnight; it takes years to gauge how fully a person will recover. Justin’s head injury was severe, now he’s twelve years into the process.

Studies of people with traumatic brain injuries found vehicle crashes are number two on the list and almost a third of patients will have lasting disabilities. It stresses the importance of a continuum of care, up to and including therapy, like the kind Justin received.

“We can offer everything from the front door to going home. Sometimes that takes weeks to months. It’s a long, long process, it’s a very frustrating process,” says Dr. O’Connor.

The long road led here. Justin lives on his own, holds down a job and is making the most out of life.

“The accident’s just the tip of the iceberg you know. They recovery can be a lifetime,” says Woodbury.