Andrew Tkaczyk is walking.
He’s also driving and playing drums, things the 28-year-old could only hope for after being seriously injured in a crash eight months ago.
Andrew, drummer for Los Angeles-based metalcore band The Ghost Inside, spent five weeks as an inpatient at Mary Free Bed after their tour bus was involved in a head-on crash in November in Texas. The drivers of both vehicles were killed and several people were injured, including his bandmates. He sustained 51 injuries, including a head injury and fractures to his spine, ribs and hip. A dislocated right shoulder led to severe nerve damage and his right leg had to be amputated above the knee.
Since graduating from Mary Free Bed’s inpatient program in January, Andrew has been traveling from his Charlotte, Mich., home three days a week for rigorous outpatient rehabilitation with a team of specialists at Mary Free Bed.
“He is now ambulating with his prosthetic and gaining confidence with it,” said Dr. Stephen Bloom, medical director of the Brain Injury Program at Mary Free Bed. “We are aggressively working with physical therapy to strengthen his hip, leg and back muscles that were injured.”
Andrew’s right arm paralysis is improving, and occupational therapy and electrical stimulation are strengthening his drum-specific muscles, Bloom said. Specialists are developing an adaptive drum kit so Andrew can get back to doing what he loves.
“We are working with the Motion Analysis Center on his custom drumming leg and trying prototypes to engineer the fastest and most powerful leg,” Bloom said. “So much cool stuff.”
Andrew is pleased with his remarkable progress, but admits it hasn’t been an easy road.
“Things are going well, considering the circumstances,” he said. “I’ve been walking a lot in therapy and on my own time with my new prosthesis. My range of motion in my right shoulder has been getting better and better with each visit, and we are in the process of building a prosthesis specifically for playing drums. I’m hoping to see a prototype soon.”
Andrew and his bandmates have been focused on recovering and take comfort in support from their legions of fans all over the world. “That support has been unbelievable,” Andrew said.
So unbelievable, in fact, the band was honored with the “Most Dedicated Fans” award during the Alternative Press Music Awards, the biggest event of the year for the alt-rock music scene. Moved to Columbus, Ohio this year from Cleveland because of the Republican National Convention, the July 18 awards show marked the first time The Ghost Inside members were together since the November crash.
Andrew called it “a great day.”
“The overwhelming amount of love and support from fans has kept all of us going through all of this,” he said. “We’re going to take it one step at a time, like we’ve been doing, and we’re going to take it from there. Hopefully, we’re going to be playing some shows sooner than later.”
The band is the first confirmed act to play the Vans Warped Tour in 2017.
Mary Free Bed has been documenting Andrew’s road to recovery in a series of blogs and videos. The latest installments — links below — take a closer look at Andrew’s injuries and his team’s efforts to get him back behind the kit:
Follow Andrew’s journey from the beginning via the Stories that Move You blog.