"When things like this happen, you have to give yourself a chance. Listen to your caregivers, and learn from them."
Weather permitting, Ray Johnson enjoyed riding his bicycle to and from the middle school where he served as principal. It gave him time to think about his day and get some much-needed exercise.
One day, however, a motorist struck him from behind, throwing him off his bike and into the car with such force that he ripped off its side mirror – with his head. He wasn't wearing a helmet.
Ray was airlifted to Morristown Medical Center with extensive injuries, including a skull fracture, and four fractured vertebrae for which he underwent spine surgery. His wife and daughters feared the worst. But once transferred to Kessler's Center for Brain Injury Rehabilitation, Ray quickly regained his physical strength and function, despite many complications.
His cognitive abilities were another story. He struggled with speech, critical thinking, organizational abilities and emotional issues. He admits he was in denial. "I was telling everyone I was fine when in reality I was far from it. I covered up my pain and frustration with my sense of humor." It turned out that the former teacher was very good student. He learned new strategies and relearned the skills he needed thanks, he says, to Kessler's Cognitive Rehabilitation Program. Now retired, but with renewed purpose, Ray volunteers at his school. He helps students learn that while life brings challenges, it's how we work to overcome them that makes the difference.
Learn more about Kessler's Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program.