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Kace Nelson Keeps Smiling Through Traumatic Brain Injury

May 30, 2016

Kace Nelson was in the wrong place at the wrong time on Feb. 7, 2015, in Dumas, Arkansas when someone shot into a crowd of teenagers. Kace, who was 18 years old, was shot in the back of the head. He was rushed to Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where he underwent surgery.

After surgery, the obstacles kept coming. When Kace awoke from his two-week coma, he overcame pneumonia, a blood infection and staph. He was in the ICU for 30 days before his doctor referred him to ACH for rehab.

"When Kace came to us in the rehab unit he was in a wheelchair, with little movement in his right upper and lower extremities, and couldn't speak but could understand speech," Child Life and Education Music Therapist Andrew Ghrayeb, MA, MT-BC, said. "He still had that smile from day one.

"The bullet hit him primarily in the left hemisphere. It more than likely did damage to his temporal lobe, which has a part in speech and language. That is why melodic intonation therapy and therapeutic singing were used, as that engages the area of the right hemisphere that plays a part in singing. The theory is to use singing and the undamaged part of the brain to create new neural connections to help with speech," Andrew said.

Determined to get better, Kace remained motivated and positive at each of his daily sessions of physical, occupational and speech therapy. He also saw Andrew for music therapy three times a week.

Kace went home after 60 days at ACH. "When he was discharged, he was walking with just the help of a cane. His speech had improved and he even sang at his discharge party," Andrew said. "Upon discharge, he still had speech impairment and wasn't fully recovered, but he was always proud of every improvement whether it was the first time he sang 'my name is Kace' or when he was first able to move his right arm or walk unassisted."

Now 19 years old, Kace is back to walking, talking and driving. His mom Kathleen said his recovery has turned out better than she could have ever expected. "He is my miracle child," Kathleen said. "We couldn't have done it without the staff at ACH. I don't have words to describe how thankful I am for the way they took care of him."

Kace is still going to physical therapy twice a week at Jefferson Regional Medical Center as it is closer to his home, and Kathleen said, "He still hasn't stopped smiling."

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