At the age of 18, Earl Gage worked as a bicycle mechanic. He was also a promising young road cyclist, having competed multiple times at local, state and national levels, winning road races and mountain bike state titles.
On the morning of April 10, 2014, Earl was on a routine training ride when a car struck him. Earl was left fighting for his life with a broken jaw, hip and ribs, and a traumatic brain injury. He recalls being in and out of awareness, not understanding what was happening. Earl spent two weeks in intensive care and three additional weeks at a local long-term care facility before transferring to HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Albuquerque.
When Earl arrived at HealthSouth, he was unable to walk, eat or swallow, dress himself, or use the bathroom by himself. He had limited use of his right hand and had difficulty with memory and solving problems due to the traumatic brain injury. Earl describes his first day of therapy as “exhausting,” as he had to move more than he had since his accident five weeks prior.
One of the first therapies Earl received from his speech therapist was VitalStim® treatments, electrical stimulation to the muscles used to swallow. After five days at HealthSouth, Earl regained his swallowing abilities and began to eat again.
“My first craving was for pizza,” he laughs.
After not eating for six weeks, lunchtime quickly became one of Earl’s highlights at HealthSouth. Earl was easily motivated by anything having to do with bicycles. So, the therapists at HealthSouth looked for things that mattered to him, motivating him to work harder. To increase strength of his right arm, the occupational therapist had Earl repair bike parts.
Physical therapy worked with him on getting on and off a bike and used it to work on mobility. Earl even rode a road bike trainer during his physical therapy sessions. His treatment team worked hard to incorporate Earl’s goal of riding a bicycle into his overall rehabilitation plan. There was a definite affect change in Earl when the bike was incorporated into his therapy sessions.
“It felt good to get on the bike trainer and pedal again,” Earl exclaims.
Earl spent 27 days at HealthSouth before being discharged. He walked out of HealthSouth on his own two legs with only the assistance of family close by. He could eat on his own, dress himself, and use the bathroom without help.
“I would definitely recommend HealthSouth to others,” Earl says. “Everyone was so nice and caring. The best part about being at HealthSouth was working with my physical therapist.”
Although Earl still has progress to make, thanks to his hard work and the dedicated staff at HealthSouth, he is well on his way to reaching his goal of getting back on the bicycle and back to his life.