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Local Doctor Graduates from Mary Free Bed’s Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program

Guest blog: Dr. Russell Dykstra is a graduate of Mary Free Bed’s Brain Injury Program who agreed to write a guest blog about his recovery.

My traumatic brain injury was caused by a collision while I was riding my cyclo-cross bike. I was going down a steep hill on a bike path, gaining speed as I neared the bottom of the hill where there was a new patch of gravel due to a recent rain.

Two pedestrians were ahead of me on the gravel patch. I saw them and called out a warning. One pedestrian jumped out of my path; the other jumped into my path. My helmeted head struck the second pedestrian, which forced my helmet to the left side of my head. I collapsed on the pavement, landing on my skull behind my right ear. I experienced a comminuted skull fracture, plus external and internal bleeding in and on the brain. Also, I had a “coup/contrecoup” concussion.

Coincidentally, the collision was witnessed by a well-known patient in my practice as a family doctor. He was driving by at the time. He stopped immediately and did all the right things, quickly.

For my recovery, six separate skull bone fragments were realigned and repaired with an internal titanium plate by Dr. David Lowry and his top-notch neurosurgical staff at Holland Hospital. Dr. Lowry selected Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital for my recovery and I became a patient of Dr. Steven Bloom.

Mary Free Bed offered excellent bedside help with a seemingly high proportion of military veterans, like me, on staff. There was skilled, effective treatment for me, a physician/patient who at first did not grasp the reason why I was there.

The medical professionals estimated that I’d spend about 21 days at Mary Free Bed. But my recovery was rapid and I was discharged on day five. I had excellent outpatient traumatic brain injury care at Holland Hospital’s north campus.

I was motivated toward recovery -– and remain motivated — because of the consistently high quality of care I received at both Holland Hospital and Mary Free Bed. Dr. Bloom was very reassuring as he relayed his experiences working with physicians with brain injury who have returned to practice.

Dr. Bloom correctly predicted one obstacle on the day he discharged me: I would not be the one who could decide how well I was doing.

Since returning home, my recovery has been steady, yet gradual. The accident was eight months ago and I have not yet returned to work. Still, I’m optimistic about my recovery because of help from Dr. Bloom’s expert staff, especially Becky Bain RN, CRRN who has worked with Dr. Bloom for 20 years. Also, the future is bright because of Kristi McKarney, OTR, who has been with Dr. Bloom for more than 18 years.

As a physician who got his M.D. 27 years ago, I have been profoundly appreciative of the combination of experience and teamwork at Mary Free Bed and Holland Hospital.

I would recommend Mary Free Bed to any person with an injury like mine. The care has been stellar from the start and is not yet finished.

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