A DAY THAT STARTED LIKE ANY OTHER
On the morning of Friday, March 24, 2017, Nick Tusant made the short walk to school as he did every morning. Nick, a 16-year-old junior at West Valley High School, earned good grades, and looked forward to the start of his classes. On that day, Nick would not make it to school. As he crossed the street via the crosswalk, a driver of a pick up truck failed to yield and struck Nick while traveling over 40 miles per hour.
Nick went into a coma at the time of the accident. His injuries included Traumatic Brain Injury, massive damage to his lungs, multiple fractures, and other life-threatening injuries. He had an external ventricular drain placed to relieve pressure within his cranium, and a chest tube to drain fluids and air from the area around his lungs. Nick was intubated, received a tracheostomy to help him breathe, and a gastronomy tube to help him receive necessary nutrients.
At the offset of his injuries, Nick’s doctors at Kaiser Permanente in Fontana warned his parents, Richard and Jessica, that his injuries were so severe that he might not come out of his coma. They pointed out that if he came out of his coma, the scope of Nick’s physical abilities might be severely limited. They even mentioned the possibly that he may be able to do no more than to simply open his eyes. Such was the severity of his injuries.
On April 16, Easter Sunday, Nick beat the odds and came out of his coma. Slowly, it became evident that Nick might have a chance to begin the road to recovery.
The brain trauma had caused Nick to experience left hemiplegia, a form of paralysis that affected his ability to move the limbs on that side of his body, as well as his torso.
He had also experienced what is referred to as neurostorming. Neurostorming appears as a results of brain trauma, and can affect a patient in a variety of ways, such as, changing the patient’s level of consciousness, hypertension, tachycardia, and even agitation.
TRANSFERRED TO THE TOTALLY KIDS® SUBACUTE CARE FACILITY
On May 4, Nick was transferred from Kaiser Permanente into Totally Kids® Subacute facility. Totally Kid’s team of doctors and therapists immediately began to care for Nick’s injuries and condition. Within days, Nick began to regain cognition and his condition stabilized. The Respiratory Therapist worked with Nick and he was able to successfully wean off the ventilator and have his tracheostomy tube removed. He began to receive physical, occupational, and speech therapies. As a result, Nick began responding to commands, was able to hug, became able to count to five using fingers on one hand, was able to throw, could sit with assistance, and regained some head control.
With family and friends by his side, Nick progressed steadily, and on June 13 he graduated into the Totally Kids® Rehabilitation Hospital.
GRADUATED INTO ACUTE REHABILITATION
The timing was right for Nick to be admitted into our acute rehabilitation hospital to begin intense physical, speech, occupational, and recreational therapies and medical care, including daily physician visits. His level of function constantly improved, getting him closer to meeting goals assigned to him based on initial assessments. Through therapy Nick has improved his grooming and bathing abilities. He is also able to stand and pivot in order to sit on a wheelchair; which he can then propel with his right arm and leg.
His cognition has improved greatly. This has been demonstrated by his ability to solve problems and by his increased comprehension of board games, including Monopoly. He is able to recall rules with minimal prompts and initiate solutions independently.
Since Virtual Reality has been used as part of his therapy to increase range of motion in the upper extremities, Nick’s mobility has improved. The use of Virtual Reality has had the added benefit of decreasing Nick’s anxiety level, thus allowing him to relax.
PROGRESS MEANS GOING HOME SOON
Nick’s parents, Richard and Jessica, are thrilled with Nick’s progress. From the beginning, the family goal was for Nick to return home as soon as possible. The individual therapy and medical care plan within Totally Kid’s Subacute Center and Acute Rehab Hospital has been instrumental in reducing Nick’s length of stay. Totally Kid’s outpatient program allows an early discharge while maintaining beneficial therapy.
Being able to live the life of a normal kid is an incredible outcome, and Nick is committed to achieving it. He has formed close relationships with our therapy staff, and constantly tells them, “I’m kicking this place’s tail!” Nick is on his way to achieving his goal. It won’t be long until Nick achieves his therapy goals.
The commitment to get Nick back to his normal life is such that Janice Jones, principal at West Valley High School has made it her personal goal to ensure that Nick is part of the school’s graduation ceremonies, as was the plan before the accident took place. We cannot wait to see Nick achieve his therapy goals and head home to be with his family! Keep up the hard work Nick!
Nick’s story was recently featured in an article by the Press Enterprise. You can read it here: http://www.pe.com/2017/07/15/teen-injured-walking-to-hemet-school-making-progress-in-his-recovery/