Traumatic brain injury
Abel Garza, a 56-year-old police officer with 23 years of service in law enforcement, eagerly anticipated retirement, hoping to spend more time with his family and engage in his favorite activities. However, a routine traffic assignment interrupted his plans.
While redirecting traffic at a college football game, a vehicle disregarded the detour and ran directly into Abel. "I looked in my rearview mirror and saw headlights coming toward me," Abel recalled. "I attempted to escape the area when I felt the impact."
The accident occurred while Abel was operating a police motorcycle, and he was rushed unconscious to Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas Hospital in Austin. Initially, hospital staff worked to relocate his dislocated hip, but further examination revealed that Abel had shattered his pelvis, necessitating a total hip replacement.
For the next couple of months, Abel followed strict orders not to put weight on his injured pelvis and hip. "I was confined to a wheelchair," he said. "I also needed help with showering." Besides the hip and pelvis injuries, Abel was diagnosed a year after his accident with a traumatic brain injury, which impacted his physical independence, memory and cognitive abilities.
Following his doctor's advice, Abel embarked on a rehabilitation journey with the Day Neuro Program at the Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) – Lakeway. "My biggest goal was to be independent," he said. "I wanted to return to the normal things I enjoyed before the accident: fishing, RV-ing and spending quality time with my family."
Abel and his rehabilitation team at Day Neuro developed a comprehensive therapy plan that included physical therapy to enhance mobility, occupational therapy to regain independence in self-care activities, and speech therapy to improve memory and cognitive processes.
Despite the challenges ahead, Abel remained undeterred, stating, "I have always enjoyed a challenge and have always been willing to attempt to complete it." He recalled his big therapy revelation took place during his speech therapy exercises: “How to code information, working memory...stating up to six words in alphabetical order, reverse order and progressive order. That was the Ah-ha moment.”
Supported by his family, Abel recognized the significant role played by his wife, Lisa, during his recovery. He also expressed gratitude for the caring and supportive staff at the hospital, particularly in the speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy departments.
Reflecting on his progress, Abel commented, "All areas of therapy were good. I feel I am stronger, physically, now due to OT and PT." Apart from physical therapy, he also benefited from speech therapy, which equipped him with strategies to enhance memory and organize his thoughts. "I knew coming in that my thought process was off - speech therapy assisted me with that," he added.
Near the end of his rehabilitation journey, Abel set his sights on the future. "The biggest thing I look forward to doing when I leave the hospital is continuing planning on my retirement. I hope to retire from APD in the very near future."
To those facing similar challenges, Abel offers this advice: "I call it 'working the program.' Give it a chance and you will be amazed at the things you can accomplish with this program."