Teacher Returns to the Classroom After Recovery from Brain Injury

Lisa Walker of Kutztown was confident in her role as a sixth-grade teacher at Eyer Middle School in Macungie, relishing her students’ enthusiasm. But two years ago she found herself in the role of student, relearning the most basic tasks – like eating, talking, walking, writing and reading – after suffering multiple injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, in a car accident.

Fortunately, Lisa was able to return to the classroom in August 2014 after making nearly a full recovery. She credits the support and help from her family, friends and Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network staff for her comeback.

Her ordeal began the morning of January 7, 2013. She was driving to school on 222 north when she had a head-on collision with a truck driving southbound. Critically injured, she was airlifted by helicopter to a trauma center, where she would spend nearly a month. To stabilize her broken bones, she had seven operations, and surgeons placed plates in her hip and arms as well as a rod in her knee. A metal rod was also placed in her head to relieve pressure on her brain.

When medically stable but still on a ventilator and feeding tube, Lisa was transferred to Good Shepherd Specialty Hospital in Bethlehem. A long-term acute care hospital (LTACH), the Specialty Hospital provides extended and intense medical and nursing care for seriously ill patients. There she was successfully weaned from the ventilator.

After a month at the Specialty Hospital, Lisa was transferred to the Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital, Allentown, where she began a progressively rigorous schedule of physical, occupational, speech and vision therapy. At first, Lisa was overwhelmed and experienced a bout of situational depression.

“One day I didn’t want to go to therapy so the therapists came to my room and we had my session there,” she said. Staff members gave her pep talks to bolster her confidence and ease her apprehension.

“I doubted a lot, but I never gave up trying,” she said. “I said this is my life. This is my body. I can do this. I have to do this.”

“I had such amazing care at Good Shepherd from the therapists to the doctors to the aides to the cook,” Lisa says. “They really care about you. I definitely recommend Good Shepherd.”

In late March, she was finally able to go home and began outpatient therapy at Good Shepherd Physical Therapy – Kutztown.

“Lisa was extremely motivated,” says Cathy Reighn, PT, Lisa’s physical therapist. “Her goal was to return to the classroom and she never stopped working towards that. She is truly the definition of an ‘indomitable spirit,’ and I was blessed to be part of her rehabilitation journey.”

Lisa returned to the job she loved full time at the start of the 2014 school year.

For more information on Good Shepherd's programs and services, call 1-888-44-REHAB (73422) or contact us