ORLANDO, Fla. - In November 2018, Karolina Seaman remembers getting the call that her son, Austyn, was in a terrible car accident on his way home from work. "My husband and I received a phone call from the foreman working the job Austyn was at, letting us know he'd passed an accident scene, and it was Austyn's car. He told us it was really bad, and they were using the jaws of life, and he was going to hang around to let us know where Austyn was going to be coming to," she recalled.
At first, they didn't think Austyn would survive. He pulled through, though, and made amazing progress over the next six months. He said he still had some issues, though. "Like my memory, my emotions, and the control of that, definitely breaking my big dreams into smaller steps to get those big dreams because I have no idea how to do that."
So once a year, he and other traumatic brain injury patients who've finished their inpatient treatment at Orlando Health, come back for a reunion. These are all patients who've finished their time at the hospital and are coming back to meet again with their therapists and reconnect with other survivors.
Jessica Gillette was one of the therapists who treated Austyn at Orlando Health. She says it's great seeing him, again. "I get to be reminded why I do this every single day. He had such a great story and family support. We get attached to them and their families, and it's really nice to see how well they're doing."
Rooms were set aside for patients and their families to practice yoga, food preparation, artwork, and a lounge for massage therapy. Jessica Hooke, a Clinical Rehab Specialist at Orlando Health, said recovering from a brain injury is a long-term task.
Hooke said the former patients also gained strength from each other. "We've heard that a lot over the years, their story encouraged me, it helped me to see that I'm not the only one in it, and there's a way out. I can get back to my day-to-day routine, I can still set that goal because they're hearing other people go through it, so that's a big part of this event."