A non-descript business envelope arrived addressed to the Madonna Pediatric Rehab Day team at the Lincoln Campus. Inside was special letter from 14-year-old Caleb Tobias that has become a cherished momento of his continued recovery.
In March 2019, Caleb defied odds stacked against him by surviving a devastating car crash where he suffered a traumatic brain injury, broke nearly every bone in his face, and lost his sight. During six months of intensive therapy, the teenager forged close bonds with his care team as he painstakingly relearned to swallow, talk and walk.
The message of gratitude, neatly typed in raised Braille lettering, includes a written translation from Caleb’s mother, Kim. The letter, laced with humor from the Clearwater, Kansas teenager, brings smiles and tears to the therapists who’ve witnessed his incredible recovery.
“This personal update from Caleb showing off his new skill is a treat!” said Michelle Foley, a speech language therapist who worked closely with Caleb. “The reference to sucking up pudding is directed at me,” she said with a smile.
Braille is a tactile reading/writing system for the blind or visually impaired named after its creator, Louis Braille. Like Caleb, Braille lost his eyesight at a young age. In 1824, he created a tactile system using a matrix of six raised bumps to represent the letters of the alphabet.
Caleb challenged himself to start learning braille during his stay at Madonna with a local Teacher of Students for the Visually Impaired (TSVI). Weekly online classes with an interpreter keep Caleb constantly learning something new with braille.
“Braille helps with communication because it makes written things readable,” Caleb said. “Braille uses only six dots, so sometimes it's confusing to know whether the pattern is a word, a letter, a number, or a symbol!” Kim is helping her son practice with dressing independently by sewing braille labels onto Caleb’s clothing.
“Honestly, Caleb continues to amaze his entire team at Madonna,” Foley said. She emphasizes that losing one’s sight impacts every facet of daily life.
“For Caleb to learn a new system of reading and writing AFTER suffering a significant brain injury is huge!” Foley said, adding that braille opens doors to continued learning, communication and more independence for the teenager.
“We are incredibly proud of Caleb!”