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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Gretna man has found his voice after a traumatic brain injury

February 02, 2017

Chris Kappius uses the FES bike with the help of occupational therapist Abby Pauley .

A Gretna wife cherishes the sound of her husband’s voice after a work-related accident nearly silenced it forever. In late September Chris Kappius was driving a cement truck and making a right-hand turn off of Highway 370 and Interstate 80 when it tipped over on the driver’s side, pinning him inside.

Chris suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the accident and was flown by helicopter to Creighton University Medical Center. While early on wife Lisa Kappius said there was little hope, through time, patience and Madonna, she says Chris has found his voice and is on the road to recovery.

“I remember kneeling in front of you and saying, ‘Come on Chris throw it to me,’" said Kasia Richardson. She spends some final moments with him at Madonna’s Omaha Campus. A speech-language pathologist, Kasia, takes him back to early days of therapy.

“There were so many little milestones along the way to celebrate and we celebrated them in the moment but then looking back afterwards and being able to talk about them was kind of a neat thing,” said Kasia.

Chris’ journey to recovery started at the Madonna Rehabilitation Specialty Hospital in Lincoln after a work-related accident resulted in a traumatic brain injury back in late September.

“You know in the beginning there wasn’t a lot of hope and so for them to see what time and patience and Madonna can do … it’s amazing. I mean like who knew there were places like this,” said Lisa, Chris' wife.

Amazed by this place, Lisa says she’s amazed by staff like Kasia, who used a variety of techniques, like a kazoo, so Chris could find his voice again.

“Up until Oct. 20, he’d said probably about 20 words. And then he was battling sinus infection and he just quit talking,” said Lisa.

“We were ending our session one day after we had gotten some voicing with singing and I walked to the doorway and I said, ‘Bye Chris.’ Not knowing if he would respond or not. And he just turned and looked at me and said, ‘Bye,’ in a loud, clear voice,” said Kasia.

“Look how excited she is!” said Lisa. 
“Bye,” said Chris Kappius, traumatic brain injury survivor.

"And it was just so exciting. I actually scared some of the nurses that day. I was in such shock. I was so happy that I kind of gave a little scream,” said Kasia.

Through it all, Lisa documents Chris’ journey of finding his words and working with other physical and occupational therapists to regain strength and coordination. He transferred to acute rehabilitation, and then from the Lincoln to the Omaha Campus to continue to heal, using specialized technology like the ICARE and the FES bike along with aquatic therapy, as part of his recovery journey.

“All the small victories and everything that he still thinks isn’t a big deal but it’s a huge deal,” said Lisa.

“Good time with my wife," said Chris.

While Chris looks toward the future with his wife and continuing to recover at QLI, looking back, Lisa says staff have become a second family and considers Madonna a second home.

“I’m really thankful for Madonna and to the people who have hope because they’re the people that keep you going. Because there are days where it’s like what else do you have? That’s it,” said Lisa.

Click here to learn more about Madonna's brain injury program.