Mother Left in an Uphill Battle Against Brain Injury After Car Accident

Patient Experience

Mar 16, 2016

“Grandma, Mommy isn’t answering any of my messages. I think something’s wrong.”

Eleven year old Elijah would usually call or text his mom Sherry as she was leaving work. But on May 4th, 2015, she didn’t respond to texts and repeated calls went straight to voice mail. Sherry’s parents, Vera and Bobby, tried to hide their concern from Elijah and his younger sister Emma. But as the hour got later and later with no response, Vera began calling hospitals while Bobby started driving to ERs in the Orlando area.

After visiting many hospitals with no luck, Bobby stopped to ask a group of police officers. They confirmed the worst. The officer told Bobby that Sherry had been involved in an accident and it didn’t look good.   When Bobby arrived at the hospital, he was greeted by the chaplain and escorted to the operating room waiting area.

The Accident

Coming off an exit ramp, Sherry had swerved into the left shoulder and overcorrected. The car flipped and careened into a sign, which sent the car rolling in the opposite direction.

The first officer to arrive at the scene didn’t see anyone in the car. Despite wearing her seatbelt, Sherry slid out the open window as the car rolled. Paramedics found her unconscious 30 feet away.

Car Accident Leaves Sherry Caldwell Recovering from Brain Injury at Brooks RehabilitationMiraculously, Sherry didn’t have a single broken bone or a scratch on her. But her brain was damaged and bleeding in multiple places. She was placed in a medically induced coma, and for days, clinicians struggled to stabilize the pressure in her head.

On Mother’s Day, the surgeon shared some heartbreaking news with Vera. He saw no change in Sherry’s condition and wanted her to start thinking about disconnecting life support. Vera called Bobby who rushed to the hospital. They both stood by her bed crying, fearing that they were about to lose their daughter. They brought in Elijah and Emma to visit their mom. Vera and Bobby both tried to stay strong as they watched the children read Sherry their homemade Mother’s Day cards. They told her how much they loved her and then they asked their mommy to please wake up.

The next day, Sherry opened her right eye.

Waking Up

She was slowly weaned from the coma. A day later she was removed from the ventilator. She started talking a little, but her short term memory was damaged. Every day was a new beginning. Physicians recommended she be sent to Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital in Jacksonville.

Twenty-three days after the accident, Sherry arrived at Brooks, confused, disoriented and physically weak. She didn’t remember those 23 days nor did she remember her first few weeks at Brooks.   “I remember being surprised every time I went to therapy that the people knew my name. Since they knew me, I figured I was supposed to be there, but it I didn’t really understand what was going on,” said Sherry.

In addition to memory issues, Sherry’s speech was slurred and she had poor muscle control. Sherry was unable to open her left eye due to nerve damage in her brain. This caused issues with visual perception and significant challenges with balance.

Her occupational therapist worked through these issues by employing innovative new protocols that used electrical stimulation. In combination with physical therapy, Sherry was able to learn adaptive techniques to move safely through different environments. Thanks to her speech therapist, Sherry was now speaking clearly.

Moving Forward

After 20 days at Brooks, Sherry was doing much better but still had significant delays processing information. She needed a lot of time to make decisions and answer questions. It was recommended that Sherry transition to Brooks’ Neuro Day Treatment Program (NRDT), which helps patients improve cognitive/thinking and social skills, all while continuing to regain physical abilities.

During the NRDT program, Sherry participated in group based therapies to improve memory and life skills while also receiving individual psychotherapy, OT, PT and Speech Therapies. She worked on issues related to balance, memory, reading comprehension, stress management, fine motor coordination, and ptosis (drooping of her eyelid).  Sherry improved significantly and was able to “graduate” from the program in just over three months.

As many clinicians will attest, having a strong support system is key to the recovery process. Sherry was fortunate to have incredible family support during her journey. Her mom Vera drove two hours up to Jacksonville, spent the day with Sherry in therapies, then drove two hours home each evening to care for Sherry’s two children. Bobby managed everything at home.

Their lives have settled into a normal routine now with a lot less driving. Sherry continues her outpatient therapy with Brooks in Orange City. She also enrolled back in college and is working very hard in a challenging algebra class. Sherry’s hope is to become a speech-language pathologist and help people who have survived similar experiences.

Bobby and Vera feel so blessed to have their daughter back. “She would not have come this far without the help of every nurse and therapist, neuro specialist, doctor and staff member. I have always praised Brooks for her recovery. We are so thankful to all of you,” said Vera.

For more information about the various Brain Injury related services Brooks has to offer CLICK HERE.


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