"It's been a long, dark road," says Jake Moore.
There is irony in his statement. It was a long, dark road that took several months of his memory and nearly his life.
On April 25, 2017, Jake was riding his motorcycle. It was dark, and it was raining. There was no signage to warn of an upcoming curve in the road. He hit the curb sharply, instinctively gripping his motorcycle as it rolled several times before Jake was thrown loose.
Clinging to life, Jake was brought to the emergency department at The University of Kansas Health System, which offers the region's most experienced Level I Trauma Center as verified by the American College of Surgeons. He was resuscitated and stabilized, the first step of many in the effort to heal his broken bones and brain injury. Specialists in trauma care, orthopedics and neurosciences all collaborated to care for Jake.
Imaging revealed a diffuse axonal injury, a form of traumatic brain injury that occurs when the brain forcefully shifts within the skull, damaging cells.
"In situations like this, we work to provide supportive care, such as lung care, heart care and care for other injuries, while we give the brain and body time to heal," says neurosurgeon Michael Kinsman, MD. "It was our goal to see Jake through his hospitalization and optimize his recovery until he was able to begin rehabilitation. Our multidisciplinary team approach ensured we could address all aspects of Jake's needs, including physical medicine and therapies."
Jake was placed into a medically induced coma to promote rest and healing.
"That was the hardest part, the waiting and trying to be patient, but not knowing what to expect," says Monica Keller, one of Jake's 5 siblings.
Critical care specialist Steven Glorsky, MD, offered Jake's family hope based on experience.
"He told us about a patient he'd had years ago who was in a similar spot," Monica recalls. "Doctors didn't know if she would recover, but 9 months after her accident, she was walking and talking. Dr. Glorsky was realistic, but comforting, providing hope that Jake could recover and have quality of life. This was the moment that things started looking up a bit."
In situations like this, we work to provide supportive care while we give the brain and body time to heal. It was our goal to see Jake through his hospitalization and optimize his recovery until he was able to begin rehabilitation. – Michael Kinsman, MDNeurosurgeon
An ongoing journey
Jake spent 30 days in the hospital. During this time, physicians gradually reduced the sedatives, until Jake opened his eyes.
"That was a turning point," Monica says. "We saw the gleam, and we knew he was still here."
Jake was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital, where he focused on relearning how to walk, talk and take care of himself. Intense speech, physical and occupational therapy during his 46-day stay, followed by continued outpatient therapy in Kansas City, powered Jake toward milestone after milestone.
"You name it, I did it," Jake says of the rigorous exercises he faced. "I have taken baby steps through this, one goal at a time. I wanted to walk. I wanted to be able to live on my own. I wanted to drive. I have been able to accomplish everything I set my mind to."
Jake's brain injury continues to slowly heal. He still has difficulty using his badly broken right arm, which may be reset after the first anniversary of the accident. He is eager to continue progress and hopes to be able to resume working. He had served as a train conductor and switchman and as chairman of the local union, but the physically demanding and stressful position may prove difficult to return to. Even so, Jake's outlook is positive.
"I don't always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I know it's there," he says. "Some days are really hard, but at night I close my eyes and then open them to a new day. My family says it's like night and day where I am now compared to where I started, when they didn't know whether I would live. This is where I am, so I do the best I can."