By UConn Health, Center on Aging
The first thing you notice when entering Andrew’s home environment is the hardy welcome you receive from Lola and Laila, teacup Pomeranian sisters, and Brody “Bear,” a Bernese Mountain dog. There is also a very quiet, but very old (100 years) turtle.
Three major motorcycle accidents in the last 16 years may have altered Andrew’s body and mind, leaving him to struggle daily with pain, short-term memory loss and PTSD, but he retains a wonderfully positive outlook on life. As his t-shirt says, “He is hooked on life.” Andrew works hard to maintain his physical health in order to enjoy his family and his animals. He hopes he will find a way to enjoy fishing again as he continues to recover. After his 2011 accident, he was officially brain dead, deprived of oxygen for over 6 minutes, and in a coma for 5 days on a ventilator. However, he did ultimately return to work as a manufacturing engineer for auto, air and spacecraft components. In July 2018, after working a 19 hour day on a project, he was hit by a car while on his motorcycle. Thrown into a telephone pole, he suffered tremendously on that 100+degree day resulting in a severed foot, fractures of the leg, arm, ribs and spine, and third-degree burns that are still healing after 16 months. He has had 14 surgeries since that day and may need 2 more.
Andrew has held very physically demanding jobs such as a ski patroller, fireman, paramedic, and high angle ropes instructor for the county’s fire department. His fierce determination and desire to help others remain strong. He and four other family members work as a team to home school his teenage daughter. He called everyone rejoicing when he conquered certain hurtles like getting out of bed and not relying on people to help him use the bathroom.
Life in the skilled nursing facility (SNF), although necessary for his rehabilitation, was also extremely difficult. He had little control over his life, but he engaged with other residents, especially the veterans, in recreational activities. Andrew felt the nurses and aides provided “phenomenal” care, giving credit to one particular nurse whom he felt saved his life. It was this nurse who told him about the Money Follows the Person program. He followed through on his own with the process and, with help from the transition coordinator, Andrew was discharged from the SNF after 4 months, on the day before Thanksgiving, to be with his wife and daughter.
The transition coordinator was there to help Andrew make his environment safer by getting assistive technology to help him with activities of living. After working intensely with the physical therapists at Gaylord Specialty Healthcare, Andrew continues to do his PT exercises on his own. No longer fully dependent on the wheelchair, he has made great progress in his rehabilitation and is working on strengthening his legs to prevent falls. A visiting nurse and a physical therapist are available if needed. However, given his training as a paramedic, he is comfortable changing his wound dressings. The burns are now 85-90% healed.
Andrew has recently been able to climb the stairs and enjoy the backyard gazebo with family, friends, and Brody. He has learned to never stop seeing the positive aspects of his life.