By Eunice Trotter
Phillip Allison never saw the semitruck slam into the passenger side of his car. The impact crushed his Jeep, pinning him inside. He was airlifted to Methodist Hospital where doctors gave him a grim prognosis. The 25-year-old would be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life — if he lived.
That was 10 years ago. Today, Phillip is thriving and continuing recovery at Tranquility Nursing and Rehab, defying the odds he faced after the traumatic brain injury (TBI). He zips around the facility in his gait walker or sometimes in a wheelchair. He jokes with staff and other residents, who also have TBI. He is frequently away from the community at a sporting event or a concert. He has strong family support and many friends who visit.
Sometimes Phillip has flashbacks to the days before the accident. He was a runner and tries to run today in the gait walker, but his legs won’t allow that. He loved talking and joking, but his speech is now muffled and difficult, but he still jokes. He was a music major at IUPUI. He still loves music. He swam, played baseball and soccer, and sometimes he’s not satisfied at the facility until a nurse puts a damp towel around his neck, mimicking the days he was sweating while enjoying activities.
Sometimes he is angry — very angry, and exhibits what the facility calls “behaviors.” But he’s now with people who help him cope.
Phillip is one of a growing number of patients at Tranquility Nursing and Rehab, which opened this year as the only long-term care facility in Indiana for people with traumatic brain injury. Before, people needing such care had to go out of state to receive it. The facility is located just north of downtown at 3640 Central Ave.
“The opening of this facility is a relief for many,” said Omar Johnson, executive director of Tranquility Nursing and Rehab. “Now there is a skilled nursing facility here in Central Indiana serving those who otherwise would not be able to remain close to home.”
The facility provides around-the-clock nursing care and state-of-the-art rehabilitation. Activities are tailored to younger people. Residents go on outings. A courtyard at the facility allows patients a place to go outdoors in a secured setting. There are some assisted living facilities for TBI patients, but those typically require the resident to be at least age 55.
Tranquility Nursing and Rehab was opened by Tim Paul, who also owns Comfort Keepers home health services based in the southside of Indianapolis at 1335 Sadlier Circle E. Drive. He opened Tranquility after learning of the lack of in-patient services in Indiana for TBI patients who formerly had to go out of the state for long-term care.
Out-of-state placement removes TBI patients from family. The hardship and expense just visiting a loved one out of state can be tremendous, said Phil’s mother, Carolyn Allison.
“We were living in Noblesville, so I was driving five hours each way to see him for almost two years. We brought him home,” said Carolyn Allison. Providing care for him at home was overwhelming.
“We are in our late 60s and we won’t be around forever. We didn’t want him in some place with just a bed,” she said. “They take care of him. They keep him occupied. They keep him happy.”
Traumatic brain injury is caused primarily by falls. Traffic accident victims comprise the second largest pool of TBI patients, followed by those with other traumatic injuries, such as blunt force trauma caused by a fall or blow to the head, or a near drowning, a stroke or other injury.
Many of those with TBI are younger and traditional nursing homes don’t take younger patients. Some have multiple medical challenges as a result of their injury. Because no two TBI patients are the same, care must be individualized.
Unlike many states, Indiana does not keep hard stats about TBI. Estimates are that about 44,000 people are treated annually in Indiana emergency room visits for TBI and 5,600 people are hospitalized each year. While most TBIs are mild or moderate, over 1,000 people die each year in Indiana from TBI, and about 105,000 people here live with long-term disability as a result of TBI.
The effects of TBI range from mild to severe and may last from a few days to an entire lifetime. They include impaired thinking and memory effects (cognitive disorders); movement disorders, such as paralysis, seizures, inability to speak clearly; sensation disorders that affect vision, hearing, taste, touch and smell, and wide ranging emotional and mental health disorders that cause aggression, irritability, even violent lashing out.
There are several studies now taking place locally and nationally and participants for the studies are being sought. Indiana participates in a federal TBI waiver program which provides grants to states to help those with TBI remain at home when possible.
On a scale of here to miracle, Philip is beyond miracle,” said Carolyn Allison. “He’s come so far.”
Contact Eunice Trotter at email@example.com, 317-489-8556.
This article originally appeared in The Indianapolis Recorder.