Story of Recovery: JoJo Mueller’s Major Multiple TraumaClinical Expertise
Jul 1, 2022
Krista Mueller, JoJo’s Mother: Early on I could sense that like, he was not reaching milestones. So I knew he was gonna require a lot of extra support. He was a little less than three years old when he was diagnosed with autism. I just wanted him in the world, I wanted him to experience life, so I just took him everywhere. The bike trails, go to the local museums. We have an oceanographic center, you know, so we have memberships to everything, to the water parks, to the zoo, to every museum there is, and he was always happy.
He’d find the mirror and be dancing in front of the mirror, and we would get up and maybe grab a banana or something, do a quick morning routine and then we’d be out the door doing some sort of exercise. It usually involved walking the bridges, and people have seen him since he was a little boy doing these activities.
The day of the accident, we were just out doing a normal activity, out for a walk, and he was struck by a car. He had to be airlifted to the local trauma center. Overall, he sustained numerous injuries, from six fractured ribs, he had a fractured scapula, fractured nose, fractured ankle. He had the craniotomy, which removed part of the skull for the swelling, liver lacerations, collapsed lung.
When I envision him that day or that night, it’s like I’m amazed he survived. From the very beginning of his injury, I remember one of the trauma doctors saying, “Look into Brooks.” And that name just kept coming up among, like, the therapist and like, the OTs, just everybody was saying Brooks.
Steve Walczak, Physical Therapist: My name is Steve Walczak, I’m a physical therapist. I was Jojo’s therapist while he was here at Brooks Rehab. When Jojo first came in, from my standpoint as a physical therapist, he wasn’t able to hold his head up, he wasn’t able to hold his trunk up, even sit at the side of the bed. And then on top of that he also has his baseline difficulties with communication and things like that.
What I would do every day is come to his mom Krista and say, “Hey, this is what I’m seeing, this is what I want to accomplish. How do you think this is gonna work for Jojo?” And basically we would go back and forth until we came up with something. And really, we would come together, and united, develop a treatment plan for him.
Krista Mueller, JoJo’s Mother: Well, the team here was amazing, because from the beginning they all just accepted me as being part of Jojo. He wasn’t gonna respond to just a normal, typical sort of rehab program.
Steve Walczak, Physical Therapist: It was pretty incredible to really see just how much joy they had in each other, and they were each other’s entire lives. I knew that I had a pretty cool opportunity to just be a part of trying to get them back to that.
Krista Mueller, JoJo’s Mother: The genuine smiles on their faces when my son would accomplish something, I mean, it takes really special people to connect with someone like my son.
Steve Walczak, Physical Therapist: You know, they just never gave up the entire time. And it was just spectacular to really see that, for me.
Krista Mueller, JoJo’s Mother: He’s happy, he’s smiling, he laughs, the silly stuff that made him laugh before his injury is the stuff that’s coming back now. This place is just, it gives you hope when you didn’t know you even had hope.
Steve Walczak, Physical Therapist: It’s been so much fun to stay updated with Jojo’s progress. We got a video from them where they had gotten to the beach, he was barefoot and walking without Krista really giving him any assist at all. And then a few days after that, just like we practiced in the hallway here, he was walking around their condo complex and she wasn’t holding onto him at all.
So he truly was gaining back that independence that he had before. And you also see his personality coming out, you know, fierce independence, being able to explore on his own. And you know, that’s really the goal, that’s what we want for people, is to engage them and we want them to be able to move, and they just took it and ran with it.
Krista Mueller, JoJo’s Mother: He’s gonna be fine. His quality of life is back, you know, he’s happy. It’s the best part, just to see him happy again.