Traumatic Brain Injury Patient Defies Odds in Recovery

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By WSIL Manager

WSIL -- A tragic accident left a former Cairo police officer with a traumatic brain injury doctors thought he would never come back from. Here's his story of recovery and how he's proving them wrong.

Michael Ritter, 28, has seen the pictures, but he still doesn't remember that night. An accident in December 2010 took him from a healthy young man to a person barely clinging to life.

"Those pictures are horrible pictures that happened to me," said Mike.
 
His family can't forget it though.
       
His mother, Michelle, remembers getting the call and not realizing how bad it really was.
 
"I expected to see him sitting up with a broken arm or something, and then of course, your whole world comes crashing down," Michelle said. 
 
A mangled mess is all that was left of Mike's car after he lost control on an icy road and hit a tree head on.
       
He had been on the Cairo Police force for about two weeks. That night, Michelle says Mike's best friend and fellow officer heard the accident on the scanner and was the first on the scene.
       
He found Mike slumped over the wheel not breathing.
 
"So B.J. had to break the window on the other side to get in because Mike was too big to pull out, so
he kind sat him back, and at that time he said Michael just took a big gasp of air."
 
At the hospital, the family was overwhelmed by medical terminology they didn't understand.
 
What they did know was Mike had a serious brain stem injury, and the chance of recovery was not likely.
 
"Right away they were showing us brain scans, and they pretty much have to give you the worst case scenario, and I understand that and they didn't give us any hope really."
 
Michelle refused to give up on her son.
       
As Mike laid in ICU, and time seemed to stand still, the family studied up on brain injuries.
 
About a month later, a sign of life came when Michelle says she told him to wipe his nose.
 
"Of course he didn't hit his nose really, but all of the sudden that arm just flung over and it was incredible," Michelle said.
 
Soon after, more positive signs came, as he spoke his first word.
       
"Mom."
 
Then, to get him to stand on his own, MIchelle decided to call on his military days.
 
She told him to stand at attention, and it worked. For the first time he stood without assistance.
 
"Sometimes you believe in a higher power. You know, I actually told the doctor, 'Hey, I trust what your saying, but there's still one more word I'm waiting on.'"
 
Mike continued to defy the odds after he arrived at NeuroRestorative in Carbondale. Case Manager Jessica Getch says in the beginning, he was aggressive and violent.
 
He would also refuse to participate in therapy sessions, but the progress he's' made since then is remarkable.
 
"We have to say that we never thought Mike would make it this far," Jessica said.
 
Today, Mike is more relaxed.
 
Violent outbursts are a thing of the past, and the slew of medications he was once on are almost all gone.
       
He actively participates in therapy and even his sense of humor has returned in full force.
 
It's something that gives Michelle a glimmer of hope that her son is still in there.
 
"He's always been a strong person, and I knew he could do it, and yeah, he's my hero," Michelle said.
 
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