A college student who more than two years ago suffered massive brain injuries in a horrific car crash and was in a coma has made an amazing recovery and is back to playing basketball again and attending college.
The recovery made by Sam Schmid, 23, of Tucson, Arizona has been described as a ‘Christmas miracle’ by his mother. On October 19, 2011, Schmid, who was a junior at the University of Arizona at the time, was involved in a five-car collision.
He was returning home from coaching the basketball team at a Catholic school he had attended. A van hit the Jeep Schmid was in, sending it flying through the air and hitting a light pole, before coming to rest on its side.
Emergency medical personnel declared him dead at the scene before he started to exhibit some movement.
At the hospital, his doctors brought up organ donation with his parents and even brought up taking Schmid off of life support since he was in a coma. And then, in December 2011, Schmid woke up and was able to talk.
And after more than two years of treatment at the Center for Transitional Neuro Rehabilitation at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Schmid walked out of the facility last month.
‘I am surprised at the end result,’ Schmid told ABC News. ‘I was willing to comply with all the help at Barrow and my recovery is based on the hard work I did.’
When Schmid arrived at Barrow, he was using a walker, had trouble speaking and had difficulty swallowing.
‘I would describe it as a fragile state physically and emotionally,’ Barrow neuropsychologist Kristi Husk told ABC News. But the ‘boot camp”-like intensity of rehabilitation inspired Schmid, who volunteering at a gym for the disabled while undergoing rehab and worked at the hospital mail room and library.
One person who never doubted Schmid’s ability to recovery was neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Spetzler, who said that while others had ‘reasonable’ reasons to think Schmid was brain dead, he had a ‘hunch’ he would make it.
‘There was plenty wrong — he had a hemorrhage, an aneurysm and a stroke from the part of the aneurysm,’ Spetzler said in 2011. ‘But he didn’t have a blood clot in the most vital part of his brain, which we know he can’t recover from. And he didn’t have a massive stroke that would predict no chance of a useful existence.’
An MRI was ordered of Schmid’s brain to see if important areas of the brain had turned dark, an indication of brain death. It contained encouraging news. And the evening the MRI results came in, Schmid was able to follow doctor commands such as holding up two fingers.
Sam’s mother, Susan Regan, now looks back and calls his recovery ‘a godsend.’
‘Sam is as he is today as a result of their driving him to succeed. He gets better every day,’ she said. ‘I do think of it as a miracle. He was so close to death and came back. I do believe God has a huge part in this.’