Missouri man celebrates every milestone after severe car accident

Missouri man celebrates every milestone after severe car accident

Jacob Rickel poses for a photo with members of his care team on his last day of inpatient rehabilitation at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals-Lincoln Campus.

While at Madonna, Jacob Rickel and his family found reasons to celebrate, both large and small, as he recovered from a crash that left him with a traumatic brain injury.

“I shouldn’t be able to move a muscle, but now I can walk. I can do anything,” said 22-year-old Jacob Rickel.

He was in a coma for nearly two weeks after being thrown from his truck when it crashed on an icy roadway near Liberty, Missouri, in December 2016.

While his mother, Sherrie, describes it as one of the hardest experiences in her life, she recalls the support from friends, family and his beloved co-workers at Pipefitters Local 533.

“The outpouring of love from family and friends was amazing, overwhelming and amazing. One of his foreman said that he keeps the job site happy, and that they need him back,” said Sherrie Rickel. “Everybody keeps saying all the good deeds that you guys have done is now coming back to you.”

That support network helped her decide on where to go for Jacob’s rehabilitation.

“I wanted him to be in the best place for him to get the best treatment, so I posted on Facebook. I have a page and had been writing about him, his injury throughout the whole time we were in the hospital. I asked my friends, 'I need to know who the best is.' And Madonna kept coming up over and over and over again.”

All the while, Jacob and his family learned to celebrate milestones, both big and small, along his journey to recovery.

“He’s left-handed, so this side was the side with the deficiency and would not move purposefully. It’s crazy what you celebrate. It’s crazy that you celebrate the squeeze of a hand. ‘Squeeze my hand Jacob’ and he squeezes your hand.”

His rehabilitation began right away.

“The next day, we got here in the afternoon and the next day, they had him standing up. I called my husband that night and said, ‘We made the right decision. He’s in the best place.’”

Because Madonna’s care team for brain injury recovery is different than most other places.

“They have somebody sit with him all night long. And I’m like ‘Really? All night? All day? Every day?’ So for about three or four days, he had a one-on-one until he finally got to where he wasn’t grabbing and reaching and doing all those things.”

Eventually Jacob was able to participate in an outing therapy activity at a local bowling alley. He also got a surprise visit from Larry the Cable Guy.

Each and every small accomplishment meant Jacob was on the mend.

“Going to the restroom on my own,” Jacob quipped.

He also continued to set new goals.

“I wish I could drive,” he said.

But as he set his sights on new levels of independence, Jacob recognized how far he has already come.

“I’m very blessed, and I’m just glad to be alive, honestly."

Between July 2015 and June 2016, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital-Lincoln saw 81.5 percent of individuals with brain injury meet their predicted outcomes at discharge. Click here for more Fast Facts about Madonna's Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program.

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