It’s turkey season and nothing is going to stop Tyler Hockett from getting his limit. Despite having to adapt to his new wheelchair, he’ll still bag his bird.
On Feb. 7, 2009,Tyler said his world was turned upside down. It was a beautiful winter day and Tyler, 17, was riding in a pickup on a gravel road in his hometown of Smith Center, Kan., along with his girlfriend, Courtney, and two high school friends. Courtney, the driver, hit a pothole, overcorrected and the Ford Ranger fishtailed sideways, blowing the tires out and landing in a ditch. Upon impact, Tyler
and Courtney hit their heads on the windshield and were ejected out of the vehicle. Their two friends escaped serious injury and called 911.
Tyler and Courtney were taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney, Neb., where they learned Courtney had sustained a mild traumatic brain injury and Tyler had suffered a spinal cord injury. The whole ordeal was surreal to Tyler. “I kept telling my dad ‘I can’t move, I can’t walk’,” recalled Tyler. Tyler had damaged the cervical segments of his spine that included C-5, C-6 and C-7. It took seven hours of surgery to fuse bone from his hip into his neck.
After two weeks, the young teens transitioned to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital. Courtney was discharged after a few weeks of therapy, but Tyler would call Room 132 “home” for the next two months.
“I was basically helpless when I got to Madonna,” said Tyler. His positivity kicked in and goals were set, including regaining his independence and walking. Initially, it was a struggle for Tyler to give his mother a simple hug. He was determined to give 110 percent in his therapy sessions. “Having the support of my family and Courtney has really helped my recovery,” said Tyler. His days soon filled with physical, occupational and recreational therapy.
Colleen Spellman, occupational therapist, pegs Tyler as extremely diligent and willing to try any technique to reach his goals. “Ty has a great sense of humor that has made the difficult, and often frustrating part of relearning his self-cares a positive experience,” said Colleen.
Tyler felt the turning point in therapy was when he could transfer independently to and from the wheelchair. Physical Therapist Kristi Britten had been assisting Tyler and then urged him to try the transfer himself. “Honestly, when I completed that first transfer, that’s when I realized how far I’d come,” said Tyler.
Tyler expressed gratitude to the nurses and therapists for playing a role in his recovery. He also believes in a higher power overseeing his future. “I keep God in my life and my family close,” said the young teen.
This weekend Tyler discharges home and is looking forward to taking Courtney to senior prom. And, his dog, Millie is anxious to get her master back in the hunt.