Nothing about Brook and Alaina Svoboda’s first years of marriage has been normal. The pair got married in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. They had recently found out they were expecting their first child when life threw them another curveball. On January 15, 2023, Brook was seriously injured when he was hit by a car while at work. He sustained multiple broken bones in his hips and pelvis along with several internal wounds.
“One day it was a normal life, and the next day we were left with the road to recovery that has not been easy,” Brook said.
The rehabilitation journey was littered with unknowns.
“His father asked, ‘Will he be able to walk again?’ And one doctor said, ‘You know, we just don’t know at this point,’” Alaina said. “There were a lot of days in that first month that were really hard.”
Alaina’s first ultrasound to see their baby was scheduled for January 17, two days after the accident. That had to be rescheduled, with Brook only able to attend by FaceTime from his bed at Nebraska Medicine. He spent the next four weeks in a hospital bed before transferring to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals’ specialized program for injured workers, but the waiting game was not over.
“When I first got to Madonna, I was 90 days non-weight-bearing from the time of my accident,” Brook said. “My only transportation was transferring from my bed to the wheelchair to move around.”
Even with his weight-bearing limitations, his physician-led care team knew getting him up and into daily physical and occupational therapy sessions as soon as possible would be the most beneficial for his recovery. Brook spent the first few weeks in Madonna’s Specialty Hospital where hospitalists managed his medical condition while Brook worked on his upper body strength and navigated the world from a wheelchair. With a goal to be an active, hands-on dad when the baby arrives, he worked with occupational and recreation therapies to practice community reintegration, cooking and housework. He also focused on work re-entry tasks in preparation for a return to his full-time job.
“While Brook was here, we tried to incorporate some lifestyle things out and about, outside the hospital,” Erin Reinhart, a Madonna occupational therapist said. “I got to take him to his first outing, which was to his wife’s 20-week anatomy scan. He got to go to Target and work on some shopping for baby clothes, so we tried to incorporate as much as we could. He’s a young, active guy who was working full-time, so with his previous lifestyle plus what he’s going to have coming up in a few months with a whole new chapter of becoming a dad, it’s important he feels comfortable with everything.”
Brook says the biggest turning point in his recovery was when he was cleared to start putting weight on his legs again.
“Once the 90 days were over, it was the middle of April, and we hit the ground running from there,” he said. “I got the approval at like, 10 o’clock, and then by noon they had me up and taking my first steps.”
Reinhart says she was honored to be the therapist who helped Brook take his first steps.
“He told [me] he was given the ok, and I was excited, but I actually went and officially checked the orders first,” Reinhart said. “I was like, ‘I have to see something on paper that you can stand up.’ Within the next half hour, I was back in his room, and I said, ‘Get up. Let’s go.’”
After getting used to standing on his own two feet again, Brook quickly progressed in his recovery in the Acute Rehabilitation Unit, going from a wheelchair to a walker, then from a four-point cane to just a single-point cane. With every session, he gained both muscle strength and confidence in his independence.
“A lot of things changed physically, mentally and emotionally, so to go through that, that was my goal,” Brook said. “I just wanted to go back to being myself. I want to be the one helping out and taking care of the baby, not be the one being taken care of.”
Incorporating his active lifestyle, work requirements and future dad duties, his care team made sure he was comfortable with endurance and stamina, getting up and down off the floor, carrying things for his wife and pushing a stroller. His biggest confidence boost came when he was able to walk out the doors of Madonna with minimal assistance. At every step of his journey, Brook’s wife and family were there to cheer him on. His care team made sure to include them in therapy sessions.
“His biggest supporter and advocate was his wife, Alaina,” Reinhart said. “She was here all the time with him. She was here for almost all of our sessions. We involved them as much as we could as far as education and how to prepare for things at home.”
After leaving inpatient rehabilitation, Brook says his recovery journey isn’t over. He is picking right back up where he left off, continuing on in Madonna’s outpatient therapy program. But, he says he’s looking forward to closing this chapter of his life so he and his wife can start their next chapter as a family of three.
“We’ve got a few things to do around the house still to get prepared, so I’m ready to start helping out again,” he said.