During the final leg of a week long 2,200 mile motorcycle trip, Ben Goodman, 30, wiped out in the beautiful and remote mountains of Idaho near Lolo Pass on August 23, 2008.
Goodman doesn’t remember losing control of the motorcycle. He doesn’t remember flying off the bike or slamming into rocks beside the road while the motorcycle slid down the highway.
"I don’t recall any of that," says Goodman. "My friends that were in front of me turned around and saw me laying on the side of the road."
He wouldn’t remember the next several months.
What followed that crash was an amazing coordination between medical professionals that saved his life. One of Goodman’s companions was a nurse. While she helped him a car with three other nurses stopped and lent their assistance.
When the ambulance arrived they immediately called Northwest MedStar and transported Goodman to the closest safe landing zone, a school playground. NW MedStar helicopter flight team transported Goodman to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Lewiston, ID for assessment and stabilization, and then they flew him to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane to treat the brain injury, which included swelling and bleeding.
"The medical care I got…it was amazing how quick it happened. The speed from injury to when I got my head fixed was absolutely crucial to me functioning normal," says Goodman.
"It is key for this kind of injury that you don’t wait. The whole thing, how it is orchestrated, is mind boggling to me," says his mom, Connie Goodman. "It was all crucial – the way it was orchestrated and how well all the different agencies worked together."
After two months at Sacred Heart, where he had part of his skull removed to offset the swelling in his brain, Goodman transferred to St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute to work at recovery.
Along with a head injury and broken shoulder, Goodman’s brain had sent bone-building messages to his body in an overzealous attempt at healing, creating calcium and bone deposits in the joints and soft tissue of both knees and his broken shoulder. Those deposits, called Heterotopic Ossification (HO), made movement excruciating.
He couldn’t walk or shower. Just moving between his bed and wheelchair was difficult and painful. But with hard work, determination and a lot of therapy, Goodman walked out of St. Luke’s two months later.
"St. Luke's helped me learn how to live and function again," says Goodman, describing how during his time at St. Luke’s he went from a wheelchair to walking, from needing assistance with all aspects of daily living to taking care of himself. "I was always striving and pushing hard. I was very driven to get back to normal and back to my life the way it was."
Just ten days after he entered St. Luke’s, his mom, Connie Goodman, wrote about his improvement in a journal entry at Caringbridge.org website, "When we think back a week and a half ago, Ben’s progress is astounding! He could barely sit up on the edge of the bed for 20 minutes and now, he sits in a wheel chair to eat and goes to the little gym in it, and he can walk with the therapists support. He could not feed himself and now he can. Although he could talk, he would ramble, and now he can engage in conversations. Thank you, thank you God."
After Goodman had mastered walking again, his mom wrote, "It is very exciting for a parent when their child learns to walk for the first time. It is just as exciting for us this time around."
Then, at the end of the first month she wrote, "Today is the one month anniversary since Ben came to St. Luke’s. It’s amazing to think that he had to be brought by ambulance, could barely sit, couldn’t bend his knees at all, was on the feeding tub, and could hardly raise his left thumb. Now, his feeding tube is gone, he can walk, get into cars, climb stairs and get dressed."
While Goodman doesn’t remember the first few weeks at St. Luke’s, he says "by the end I was an independent functioning human being. I’m very grateful for what they did for me."
With his parents and sister tag teaming so one of them could be with him all the time, his therapy team set goals with him each week, working through a variety of exercises to improve his mobility and strength as well as cognitive skills like comprehension and mobility.
"The therapists were great and the nurses were great and we love Dr. Gordon," says Connie Goodman. "Each therapist had different skills and knowledge and they all worked toward his healing and recovery."
"They tell me that I’m the quickest recovering patient they’ve had. I owe that to my doctors, rehab team, and good supportive family that helped me all through this. I had everything I needed to get better," says Goodman, who returned to work full-time and living on his own about seven months after his accident. "All I needed to do was to have the will and desire to get better."
"We are so blessed. We know how bad it was and how close to death he was," says his mom. "It defies logic he is here. He is alive. He is back to work."
"I can’t say enough good things about the speed and medical and rehab teams and my family," says Goodman. "The four of those things together were critical to how I was able to get back to normal. Without those four things I wouldn’t have gone through the miraculous recovery I went through."