Andrew's story

Photo of Andrew Lewis drumming.

Andrew Lewis was a typical 17-year-old high school senior who was looking forward to graduating – until a car accident turned his world upside down.

On New Year’s Eve, he was driving with a friend when his car was struck from behind. Andrew lost consciousness and had to be intubated. He was taken to Cooper University Hospital where a series of tests including a CT scan and MRI revealed he had a diffuse axonal injury (DAI) – a type of brain injury that results from blunt trauma to the brain – and several skull fractures and bleeding inside of the brain.

Once medically stable, his family transferred him to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation – Marlton to begin his journey back to independence. Upon admission, the Kessler team noted Andrew had coordination, sensation and perception impairments, making it difficult for him to transfer and complete daily activities on his own. He also had difficulty with speaking and cognition, using his right hand, and stiffness in the hip muscles caused his legs to scissor when he walked.

From the start, Andrew had a clear goal: to return to high school to finish his senior year and get back to his favorite extracurricular activity – playing the drums in the school’s marching band. His physician-led team of rehabilitation nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and other brain injury specialists developed a treatment plan to optimize Andrew’s recovery and help him reach his goal.

Motivated to return to the things he loves, he hit the ground running with intensive daily physical, occupational and speech therapy sessions. His physical therapists focused on improving his balance and mobility through high-intensity gait training using body-supporting equipment. Meanwhile, he worked with his occupational therapists to improve his hand strength and ability to complete daily activities by participating in aquatics therapy and using a virtual reality system.

Andrew especially enjoyed the pool exercises and virtual reality exercises. “I feel like the pool helped considerably for my balance … Virtual reality helped and it was a lot of fun too,” he said.

Cognitive therapy was crucial in returning Andrew to academics. Working daily with his speech-language pathologists to improve memory and cognitive thinking allowed him to begin working on his schoolwork – which was built into his therapy day.

“Therapy was the peak of every single day,” he said.

Through hard work and dedication, he was able to complete daily activities on his own, including walking without assistance and preparing meals. Before he was discharged home, he was jamming on the drums with his occupational therapists. Even more amazing, he started to run during physical therapy.

He humbly credited his Kessler care team for his progress. “Therapy helped me very much by giving me challenging tasks and pushing me to my limit so I could do what I want to do.

He advises other brain injury survivors to “be patient and give yourself time,” adding, “Understand that you’re not Superman and you can’t do everything. But you’ll improve over time, so just give yourself that time.”