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The road to recovery

After a traumatic brain injury, a firefighter gets his life back.

A man with tattoos wearing a navy t-shirt with a firefighter logo smiles in his kitchen.
Brendon enjoys being a firefighter and is excited to be back to work.

When he looks at video footage of his motorcycle accident, Brendon Patton, 33, says he still thinks he made the right move by putting his bike down when colliding with an oncoming BMW.

“I was pulling into a gas station when I saw a car pull up past the stop sign a bit,” the West Islip, NY, resident said. “I thought he was making a turn and trying to see around the cars parked in the parking lot. So when he pulled out and was coming right toward me, I did the only thing I could do—I laid my bike down and went flying about 20 feet in the air.”

Luckily, Brendon was riding with a local police officer who immediately rushed to his aid. With the local fire department located just across the street from the scene of the accident, emergency medical personnel arrived within a few minutes to find Brendon unresponsive. He was intubated, stabilized and brought to the emergency department at Southside Hospital, a Level II trauma center.

Rosanna Sabini, DO, chair of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Southside Hospital, said those first few minutes are critical in a traumatic brain injury case like this one—and that quick care likely made a large difference in setting Brendon up for a stronger recovery.

The emergency medicine team immediately got to work, putting Brendon in for a computerized tomography (CT) scan and diagnosing multiple bleeds in his brain. They then followed evidence-based protocols to limit any lasting damage to his brain.

Brendon had surgery to relieve the pressure building in his brain from the bleeds. After about a week, Dr. Sabini started working with him, using neurostimulants to kick-start his brain to help him recover and improve function. Brendon said he doesn’t remember anything from his time at Southside Hospital; his parents told him how impressed they were with the care he received there.

A man with sunglasses on his head sits on the grass with a large white dog.
Brendon is enjoying spending time back at home with his pup, Charm.

After a few weeks, Brendon was transferred to Glen Cove Hospital for rehabilitation.

“When I got to Glen Cove Hospital, things didn’t look so good at my preliminary evaluation,” Brendon said. “I wasn’t really responding well. I was having trouble moving and answering their questions.” He distinctly remembers the doctors saying that it might take him one to two years to recover full motor and speech functions.

“I decided then and there that it wasn’t going to take that long,” he said. “I have a son. I have a job I love. I was determined to work hard and get back to my life as soon as possible.”

Sarah Khan, DO, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at Glen Cove Hospital, said it was clear that Brendon was dedicated to making a full recovery. While his youth, health and physical fitness level before the accident were helpful during rehab, he was fortunate to respond to therapy as well as he did. Within the first week of rehab, Brendon made a lot of progress—he was talking, knew where he was and could follow commands consistently. He had also regained good strength in his limbs.

Brendon was able to go home in a few months. In May, just five months after his accident, he was cleared to drive and return to work at the fire station. Brendon credits the entire team of doctors, nurses and specialists for helping him progress so quickly.

“The staff really worked with me. They encouraged me every step of the way so I could reach my goals,” Brendon said.

“It’s just amazing to me how far he’s come,” Brendon’s mother, Coleen McCarthy, explained. “The therapists and medical and nursing staff were outstanding. It made a huge difference in my son’s recovery. What he’s accomplished is nothing short of amazing.”

Brendon is thrilled to be back living his life with his family.

“I’m still working on my recovery, and it’s going to be a long road, but I’m a lot further along than where I was,” he said. “And I can thank the attentive, experienced professionals at Southside Hospital and Glen Cove Hospital for helping me get there.”