Brian Hanson, the facilities maintenance manager at Calvary Baptist Church, is used to fixing things. Two years ago, he faced the daunting challenge of piecing his life back together.
On Sept. 26, 2017, Brian was driving his work truck to Home Depot in Alton, Illinois, for supplies. As Brian entered the intersection, a young driver ran a red light and slammed into Brian’s truck going 70 miles per hour. Brian was airlifted from his hometown to Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. The high-speed impact severely damaged Brian’s cervical spine. He endured three surgeries including fusing together his C6-C7 vertebrae and repairing a deep facial wound. Surgeons doubted Brian would ever walk again. He felt no sensation from the chest down and had no leg movement.
Faced with extensive rehabilitation, Brian and his wife, Amy, chose Madonna on a recommendation from Kim Roberts, case manager with Paradigm, a workers’ catastrophic care management company. “There are no options for specialized spinal cord injury in the St. Louis area,” Roberts said. “Madonna is one of the closest centers of excellence.” The Hansons prayed about it and felt they made the right decision.
Brian could only slightly wiggle his hands, feet and toes when he admitted to Madonna’s Lincoln Campus on Oct. 3, 2017. He was taking 32 different medications and couldn’t even roll himself over. Being dependent on others was foreign to the active man who worked out regularly and could squat 600 pounds. Brian fought through the frustration of being in a wheelchair and slowly rebuilt his strength.
Within three weeks, Brian weaned off the prescriptions and could transfer in and out of his chair. Through challenging daily therapies and encouragement from his team, Brian discovered reaching small goals made a huge difference. “It was a lot of little victories,” Brian said, recalling celebrating the milestones of feeding and dressing himself. Repetitive sessions on the Lokomat, robotic gait retraining technology, led to his first steps in the aquatic therapy pool.
Three months post-injury, Brian carefully maneuvered his walker out the doors of Madonna. He continued to heal at a post-acute rehab center before discharging to home. A grateful Brian celebrated the return to his wife and their two teenagers.
In March 2018, Brian stood and thanked roughly 400 of his fellow parishioners who’d rallied behind his recovery. “It’s been a humbling experience,” Brian said, grateful for regaining his responsibilities as a husband, father and the church work he loves. Brian’s advice to others starting their rehab is simple. “Hang in there; keep going, God’s got a plan.” Amy is proud of her husband who overcame a grim diagnosis. “With God’s healing, Brian’s hard work and the talented therapy staff, he is walking unassisted!”
Through his resilient spirit and determination, Brian fought hard to regain his life roles.