When Matt Rooks gets behind the wheel of his 40-ton rig, he doesn’t just see the long road ahead. He sees the long journey already overcome.
On June 3, 2015, Matt was parked on the shoulder of the road to attend to another trucker, when he was struck by an oncoming vehicle. Miraculously, Matt’s only major physical injury was a crushed eye socket.
Unseen injuries, however, were another matter entirely.
The impact of the vehicle resulted in a severe brain injury that left Matt in a coma. Upon waking he found himself confused, disoriented, and without a memory of the accident or his life for the last several years.
“When I first met Matt, he did not believe he was in an accident,” says Amber Lowery, Social Worker for Hope Network Neuro Rehabilitation. “He was extremely confused. He couldn’t remember facts about his life, like how many children he had or their names.”
When Matt was admitted to the Hope Network transitional rehab program, he was less than enthused. Unaware of the severity of his cognitive deficits, Matt resisted treatment, believing that home was where he needed to be.
But his mom knew better.
After Matt promised his mom that he’d follow through with the program, his transformation began. With the help of his treatment team, Matt identified a goal, which became the primary motivation behind his recovery. That goal? To drive his truck again.
“I wanted to get back in my truck,” says Matt. “I made deliveries all over the state several times a week. I wanted that back.”
Damage to his eye socket left Matt with double vision – a significant hindrance to anyone hoping to drive again. However, Matt’s treatment team developed a plan that would help him do just that.
“In therapy we had Matt work on fusion activities to help with restoring singular vision,” says Leslie Horaney, Matt’s Occupational Therapist at Hope Network. “Once his double vision began to decrease, we continued to strengthen his cranial nerve through strategies designed to improve visual scanning, visual attention, and hand-eye coordination. Once Matt’s double vision was completely resolved, we began an active passenger driving program and worked in the driving simulator. It was then that I had no doubt Matt would drive again.”
So, it was no surprise to the team when Matt passed not only his standard driving test, but his commercial driving test as well. “Matt was successful because of his dedication and work ethic,” says Amber. “He worked so hard and didn’t quit. He’s such a great example of how a person’s mindset can influence their total recovery.”
“My therapists really made me feel heard,” says Matt of his rehabilitation experience. “I could talk to them about anything. They listened to my ambitions and fed off it while driving me to do what needed to get done. Every one of my therapists was great. They still are.”
When asked what he’s planning to do now, Matt replies, “My job isn’t done. Something kept me here for a reason that day and I intend to make the most of it. My journey has just begun.”