Dr. Stephen Bloom visited Andrew Tkaczyk about 7 am every day for 5 weeks at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. He reviewed reports with his patient, and they talked about the next steps on his road to recovery. Then they talked about drumming.
“Andrew’s nickname is Dr. Beats, and he calls me Dr. Drums,” said Bloom, a rehabilitation physician who is medical director of the Trauma and Brain Injury Programs at Mary Free Bed.
The bond of trust Andrew developed with his doctor was fueled not only by the medical care provided by Bloom and the Mary Free Bed team of therapists and nurses, but by their mutual love for percussion.
Andrew, 28, is the drummer for Los Angeles-based metalcore band The Ghost Inside, whose tour bus was involved in a severe November crash with a semi-tractor trailer outside of El Paso, Texas. The drivers of both vehicles were killed, and, months later, Andrew and his bandmates are still recovering from traumatic injuries.
Andrew, a Charlotte, Mich. native, spent 10 days in a medically induced coma after suffering head trauma, fractures to his spine, ribs and hip, a dislocated right shoulder that led to severe nerve damage and a broken right leg that had to be amputated.
He spent about a month in an El Paso Hospital before being flown to Mary Free Bed for the first stage of his rehabilitation – 5 weeks of intensive physical, occupational and recreational therapy. He graduated Friday and headed home to family in Charlotte, but will return to Mary Free Bed for several months of outpatient therapy. He’ll be fitted for a prosthetic leg and will work to restore his arm and shoulder function.
“He has had a remarkable recovery, despite numerous surgeries and complications,” said Bloom, who credits Andrew’s positive attitude. “Our goal is to get him back to doing what he loves. His is an incredible story of perseverance.”
Bloom knows “a drummer’s gotta drum.” He’s the drummer for popular Grand Rapids band Mid-Life Crisis.
“He and I have connected not just by being his doctor, but also by our love of drums,” said Bloom, who brought Andrew drumsticks to use as part of his rehabilitation.
“Those are my lifeline, so it was good to see and even hold a stick again. I lucked out that I had Dr. Drums,” Andrew said.
“We will get him back to playing. It will take many months of hard work, sweat and possibly a few tears, but we will get him back,” Bloom said. “It is a fascinating journey for both of us.”
Andrew has wonderful support of family, friends, the music community – including the band’s Epitaph label – and the thousands of fans of The Ghost Inside, which has toured the world.
“It’s going to take months to get through all of this,” Bloom said. “But he’s got great family support, he’s got great community, he’s got the whole musical world pulling for him.”
In the video above, Andrew shares his story and how the Mary Free Bed team is helping him get back on the kit.
Local and national media also are telling Andrew’s story. Here’s a link to a report from MLive/The Grand Rapids Press. And here’s the Local Spins story about Andrew’s road to recovery. The Alternative Press also has covered the story.