A Veteran’s Story of Hope: The Road to Recovery Following Brain Injury
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can result in many different challenges from cognitive and behavioral changes, to physical complications. With determination, the support of his best friend and family, and the experts at NeuroRestorative, Fredrick McKenzie Jr., and other program individuals and Veterans with TBI can overcome injury and live more independently.
Fred McKenzie Jr., (Mac), served for the U.S. Navy for 20 years. Mac’s father also served in the Navy, having survived Pearl Harbor. It is clear from his friends and family that Mac was very proud of his father, which is why chose to serve in the Navy. After his time in the Navy, Mac dedicated his time to care for his father.
In June of 2019, Mac was involved in a motorcycle accident and was admitted to the hospital. His injuries included, intracranial hemorrhages, bilateral frontal contusions, and a large L-sided subdural hematoma. He was hospitalized for nearly a month, having most of his time spent in the ICU. In July of 2019, Mac came to NeuroRestorative’s Fresno, CA, program and three months later, transferred to NeuroRestorative’s Pleasanton, CA, program to be closer to family and his best friend, David Pestana.
“I was at the hospital every day sitting with him, talking to him as though he could hear my every word. His vitals would stabilize and as I spoke the nurses would say, ‘He can hear you. Keep talking to him!’ It gave me some comfort to know he is surrounded by people who genuinely care,” said David.
Although Mac is unable to communicate verbally, he is very expressive and communicates with his family and care team by smiling, giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, blinking, and nodding his head. In June of 2020, Mac got stronger and started breathing on his own. He has been improving tremendously with the help of his physical therapist, Coleen Ito-Azuma.Mac and Coleen have been working together on balancing independently. “Mac’s physical therapy has improved tremendously since admission. I also notice his smiles and laughs during his visits with his friend, David, and his family. It is so sweet to watch,” said, Coleen.
Mac works with speech-language pathologist, Brianna Flood, on his verbal and eating skills. When asked about her time working with Mac, Briana responded, “It has been great to see Mac progress from not being able to eat because of being on a tracheostomy tube to being tracheostomy-free and able to eat food again for pleasure. His big green eyes light up whenever I give him chocolate pudding. He is an easy-going guy and everyone in the facility enjoys working with him!”
When asked how Mac inspires him, David responded, “What inspires me is visiting Mac every Wednesday with my family and seeing his face light up with a smile and sometimes a belly laugh. It brings me comfort to know that he still knows he is loved. I pray for him each night and all those of us who love and care for him. I am so proud to be his friend and brother and I will always honor him and his service to this great land we call, America.”
On behalf of NeuroRestorative, thank you to all of the men and women who have fought and served our country. We honor you today and every day. Learn more about NeuroRestorative’s programs for Veterans and Military Service members by calling 800-743-6802.