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“Measure the small successes,” says parent of brain injury patient

by Maureen McKenzie

Lauren Culp, a 16-year-old from Fort Gratiot, was on vacation with her friends at a northern Michigan ski resort. At the end of the day on January 31, 2010, Lauren and her friends decided to go sledding. Trying to be safe, Lauren wore a helmet, but was going too fast to be protected enough when her sled collided with a tree.

Her friends had her rushed to Northern Michigan Hospital, where Lauren lay unconscious in the ICU for three days on a ventilator. No one witnessed the crash, but Lauren suffered fractures on the right side of her body and a traumatic brain injury.

As Lauren came to over the following week, her mother, Jill, began looking into therapy for Lauren’s recovery. Even though Mary Free Bed was further from home than she would have liked, from the high recommendation of the hospital staff, Lauren was transferred to Mary Free Bed as an inpatient in the hospital’s Child & Adolescent Program on February 11.

While an inpatient, Lauren had occupational, physical, speech and recreational therapy. “She loved the therapists. They found her interests and used that. The nursing staff was great, too,” Jill said.

Jill thought the therapists were wonderful and always had positive attitudes. She felt like no one was willing to give up and said that their positive attitudes really helped her as well.

Lauren was an inpatient for just over two months and now attends three days of outpatient therapy a week. She still attends speech and occupational therapy, but is able to work independently at her local YMCA with her physical therapy regime.

Though she remains home from school, she has already had a chance to go back, sit in on class, and go to lunch with her friends. She will be enrolled in school this fall with monitored classroom time and maybe a light load of classes.

Outside of her academic difficulties, Jill says that her daughter is a lot like she was before the accident and that she has her great personality back. “Parents who go through this need to know that things will get better and to stay positive; measure the small successes.”

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