Pianist Returns to Christkindlmarkt After Recovery from a Traumatic Brain Injury

When pianist Terry Musselman accompanies soprano Jennifer Graf at Christkindlmarkt this year, the performance will mark an important milestone for Terry. Less than two years ago, a car accident left him near death. He was not expected to live, let alone play the piano again.

In February 2013, while driving near his home in Quakertown on an errand, his truck was broadsided by an 18-wheeler that had gone through a red light at 40 miles per hour. Terry sustained a traumatic brain injury, ten rib fractures, two punctured lungs, a broken arm and other internal injuries. He was in a coma and placed on a ventilator. The trauma physician at the acute-care hospital he was taken to after the accident told his wife, Mae, and daughter, Jennica, to prepare for the worst.

But Mae and Jennica did not give up hope. Terry was transferred to Good Shepherd Specialty Hospital in Bethlehem, a facility that specializes in weaning patients from ventilators. After a bout with pneumonia that nearly derailed his recovery, Terry was successfully weaned from the ventilator and transferred to the Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital in Allentown, where his therapy began in earnest.  There, he worked with speech, occupational and physical therapists to learn to swallow, eat, speak and walk again.

When Deborah Kimmel, M.D., told the Musselmans that Terry would be able to go home in just a few weeks, they were skeptical. But Terry began to make rapid progress and soon began trying to play piano again.

“What Good Shepherd accomplished was a miracle,” says Terry. “The positive attitude of all of the therapists and staff who worked with me really helped in my recovery.”

Terry was discharged from the hospital in May as Dr. Kimmel predicted, although he needed a walker for assistance. He began outpatient speech, occupational, physical and vision therapy at Good Shepherd in Allentown and soon was walking on his own. At first plagued by double vision and memory problems due to his traumatic brain injury, he was unable to play the piano like he did before his accident or drive a car.

A retired principal from Boyertown Senior High School, Terry had enjoyed playing the piano at venues all over the Lehigh Valley, including clubs, restaurants and private parties. He and Mae also own a 54-acre orchard, growing blueberries, grapes and other fruits, and producing 50 gallons of wine a year. The accident put a halt to his performances, and Mae was left taking care of the orchard herself.

But soon Terry recovered his vision, coordination and memory. Playing the piano became part of his therapy, a way to recover his eye/hand coordination.  He began working the orchard again with Mae, and in the spring of 2014 he regained his drivers license.

When Terry returns to the stage in December at Christkindlmarkt, it will be with great joy. To be able to share his love of music with the public, especially during the holiday season, is a special triumph, a highlight in his recovery.