By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
A Findlay man is hoping his successful recovery from a traumatic brain injury will provide inspiration for others facing challenges.
Phil Beatty was driving to work on the morning of Jan. 24, 2013, when a freak accident occurred. An orange road reflector became a missile when a snowplow scraped it off County Road 220 near North Baltimore and it broke through his windshield. The reflector hit him just above his eyebrow and split his skull, caved his sinus cavity and poked through into the frontal lobe of his brain.
Beatty, 54, said his doctors thought he’d lose an eye and they doubted he’d walk or return to work for years. But he was back on the job seven months and two days later, and says he’s fine now.
“It’s been a journey,” he said. “2013 took an awful lot out of me, but I’m doing good. I can’t complain. Give God the glory ….”
The day of the accident, Beatty, a meat inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was driving to work about 7:30 a.m. on County Road 220, just inside the Hancock County line. A northbound Wood County snowplow caught a reflector in the middle of the road. The device broke free and crashed through Beatty’s windshield, striking him in the head.
“How freaky of an accident is that?” he said. “I mean if it had been half a second difference, it would have been completely different. It might have hit the vehicle, but it wouldn’t have come through there and hit me.”
Luckily, the snowplow driver was an emergency medical technician, and the woman in the car behind Beatty was a former trauma nurse.
“I think they were the ones that kept me alive,” he said.
Beatty doesn’t remember anything of the accident.
“They said I had stopped on the road. I had my foot on the brake, but they said I was slumped over. The doors were locked and they couldn’t get me aroused to do anything so they had to break a window in the back,” he said.
The snowplow driver called for an ambulance, but the nurse said Beatty needed LifeFlight instead.
“I was on LifeFlight in less than 15 minutes from the time of the accident,” he said.
He was taken to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, Toledo. Beatty said when his friend, David Rupple, arrived soon after, he was told that Beatty was not expected to live.
He remained in a drug-induced coma for the next three weeks and improved. Later he was transferred to another hospital in Toledo where he stood up for the first time on Feb. 14 and was walking a week later.
At one point, he tried to “escape” from the hospital.
“They found me outside in a courtyard type of place,” Beatty laughed. “At that time I didn’t have clothes, yet. I was still in a hospital gown … so I was outside in February. It had to be cold.”
On March 14 he was transferred to Wexler Medical Center at Ohio State University in Columbus.
“I remember that morning a nurse coming in and telling me I had to be packed by 11 o’clock because they were transferring me to Ohio State. That’s the very first thing I remember (since the accident),” Beatty said.
Although he was housed on the floor with brain injury victims, Beatty did most of his therapy with stroke patients.
“The brain injury victims couldn’t get out of bed or out of a wheelchair,” he said. “I was in very good shape compared to the other patients that were there.”
Beatty “escaped” again while at Ohio State, even though he had an ankle bracelet that was supposed to shut down the elevator and a code was required to use the stairway.
“I had therapy that day and they were checking to see if I could cook for myself so I had to make a batch of muffins,” Beatty said. “It must have stuck with me because they found me that night making muffins, and I don’t remember that at all.”
He was discharged from Ohio State on March 28 and continued his therapy sessions at St. Rita’s Medical Center, Lima.
“It took stages to get back,” Beatty said. “I want everybody to know, looking back through all of this and all of the therapies, basically you end up starting your life all over again.”
“When they dismissed me at Ohio State they told me I would be fortunate to get back to work in 12 to 24 months,” he said. “When I was released from Ohio State, I thought for sure I’d spend the rest of my life in a nursing home, and I never thought I would go back to work. For the longest time I never thought my mind would ever come back to where I could get to work.”
But Beatty worked hard and was back on the job part-time in seven months and two days. Six weeks later, he was able to resume a full-time work schedule. His territory includes Brinkman’s Cannery, A to Z Meats in Bluffton and Keystone Foods-Equity Group Ohio, North Baltimore.
“There’s been a lot of changes and improvement in the way my brain is working and everything because I’m using it now,” he said. “But it’s been a journey, let me tell you.”
Beatty said it was a challenge going back to work, especially since the agency had developed a new computerized program that was implemented in 2012.
“Do you think I could remember any of it when I went back to work?” he said. “I had to train myself. I had to go through it every day, and I had to learn it all over. A lot of the regulations I didn’t remember.”
His short-term memory has been most affected by the accident, he noted.
Beatty finished therapy and was dismissed from his doctor on Nov. 6. Although he has recently had some issues with being light-headed, he knows his circulation is not as good as it used to be.
“I may have to accept it and learn to live with it,” he said. “I was pushing myself pretty good because I’m trying to get back to the way I used to be, and I’m realizing I can’t be that way anymore.”
He’s thankful for the support of his family and friends who helped him after the accident, including his daughter, Katie, his parents, siblings and Rupple.
Beatty said he also knows God had a hand in his recovery. He advises others who struggle to turn to God for strength and guidance.
“This is a good example of it,” said Beatty. “I was not expected to live whatsoever, and if I did survive, the emergency room doctor said they would have to go in and take my left eye because it busted the socket. Well, it works just fine. They said ‘it will be months and months before we know how much brain damage he has,’ and I’m doing good.
“The only negative thing I can say about the whole thing is I was in a freak accident that nobody had control over. That’s the only negative thing,” he said. “Everything else is positive.”
Wolf: 419-427-8419 Send an E-mail to Jeannie Wolf
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