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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Rehabilitation goal: Get an Iowa worker back on the job

February 16, 2018

Matthew Carlson is back to the job he loves after a train collision caused severe injuries including brain trauma.

Program snapshot: Madonna’s Work Re-Entry Program helps patients successfully return to the workforce. It is a collaboration between Madonna’s outpatient therapists and non-clinical employees to support patients in resuming their careers through work trials during therapy.

Matthew Carlson was living out his dream job when a work accident nearly derailed the life he cherished. May 5, 2016, Matthew was finishing his day as an agricultural sprayer for Crop Production Services in Atalissa, Iowa. Driving a new commercial sprayer in need of refueling, Matthew crossed the railroad tracks at a nearby intersection, unaware of the oncoming train. The two collided. 

“I got into a tangle with a train.  I was bounced around like a rag doll,” said Matthew.

The impact launched Matthew 100 feet, resulting in numerous broken bones, a collapsed lung and severe brain trauma. Flown to the University of Iowa where doctors remained guarded about his future, scans showed severe trauma to Matthew’s entire brain.

Two weeks later, Matthew’s family was presented rehabilitation options, choosing Madonna due to its regional reputation and successful outcomes 
with brain injury patients. Matthew arrived at Madonna’s Rehabilitation Specialty Hospital in Lincoln where therapy immediately started. 

“His care team got Matthew up and moving. They kept him going and challenged him,” said Mary Otto, Matthew’s younger sister. 

Healing quickly, Matthew was weaned from the tracheostomy before transitioning to the Rehabilitation Hospital. The major focus of Matthew’s treatment program was returning to work. In addition to his medical care and therapies, Matthew participated in the Work Re-Entry Program servicing motorized wheelchairs at Madonna.

“We try to recreate work scenarios that are close to what the people are used to in their ordinary, day-to-day occupations,” said Ryan Ernst, Ph.D., a Madonna neuropsychologist. 

Throughout his recovery, Matthew credits Crop Production Services for the support and encouragement. His vision restored, they welcomed him back to the job he loves.

“Matt is a walking miracle. He has beat the odds through an amazing will to recover, the support of the people around him and the work of the staff at Madonna,” said Steve Fordyce, Manager, CPS Atalissa.

October 3, 2017, marked a huge milestone for Matthew. Driver’s license in hand, he drove five hours to Lincoln to show his care team just how far
he’s come.

“I’m driving tractors again. I’m back to work a little bit at a time, which is where I want to be. I love my job,” said Matthew.

Watch his video: Iowa agricultural worker back on the job after tangle with a train

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