Teen graduates after inpatient rehabilitation for traumatic brain injury
Austyn Densmore was admitted to Bethany Children’s Health Center in October of 2022 following a motor vehicle collision. He was taken into the Bethany Children’s Brain Injury Response program, where he emerged from his coma and was weaned off the ventilator, and then transferred to acute rehabilitation in the Hospital’s Pediatric Medical Rehabilitation Unit. Miraculously, in late January of 2023 Austyn walked out of Bethany Children’s, intent on going back to school and graduating with his friends from Chandler High School. On May 12th, that dream came true for Austyn.
Austyn’s parents, Mickey and Anora, were by his side throughout his journey. Anora recalls that she and Mickey allowed only positive talk in Austyn’s hospital rooms from the beginning. “This was just as much for our emotional and mental healing as it was for Austyn’s, but we didn’t know what he was hearing or understanding or when he would regain consciousness, so we wanted to be very careful about what was said around him,” she says.
Their positive outlook was rooted in their faith. Mickey says, “We had faith in God’s ability and willingness to heal. God and the patient have a timeline that parents’ worries or concerns won’t alter. God has empowered the doctors and nurses there as vessels for healing and they know what they are doing.”
Anora echoes that thought, saying, “We had to trust that God was going to heal in His time. Our prayers early on were for Austyn to open his eyes, but once we realized that the body often does things to protect itself, even though we wanted to see his baby blues, our prayers quickly changed to ‘Lord, let him open his eyes when his body is ready to respond to what is going on.’”
As a mom, Anora knew she had to be her child’s biggest advocate. “The doctors and therapists have knowledge and experience, but you know your child better than anyone, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and request treatments you think are important,” she emphasizes.
After suffering a traumatic brain injury, Austyn needed time to heal before working with teachers at Bethany Children’s, but once he was ready, Special Education teacher Amber Samuel worked with Austyn to ensure he’d be ready to return to school.
Austyn says, “I think one of the biggest things I learned from Miss Amber was learning to ask for things to be repeated or reworded and learning to not feel embarrassed letting people know I needed a break.”
“The teachers established a very good baseline for Austyn to return to school and set him up with realistic expectations and self-awareness tools to help him succeed when he returned for his senior year, Mickey says. “Working with Pediatric Neuropsychologist, Dr. Alexandra Roth, also set us up as parents to assist Austyn into returning to school with a better understanding of when to slightly push Austyn a little, and when it was time to pull back.”
Austyn was extremely motivated throughout his therapies and worked hard to gain strength and mobility. He learned to listen to his therapists and give them feedback in return. At times, it was a struggle to stick with it and not lose hope.
“I was frustrated sometimes that I couldn’t walk, or shower by myself, or eat the things I wanted to at times. But now I am home, going to school five hours a day and getting ready to graduate with my class,” he shares.
Austyn’s return to Chandler High School was taken in stride by his classmates, even though he was still using a cane or walker and needed assistance between classes for a while. He felt prepared to get back into his classes as if he hadn’t missed a beat. But, the realization that he is graduating on track is a bit unexpected and something to be grateful for.
He shares, “I know my brain still has a lot of healing to do, but after seeing pictures of my car and pictures of myself hooked up to all the machines at the beginning, I know I shouldn’t even be here, let alone graduating with my class so soon, so I’m learning to appreciate the little things and count my blessings.”