My Remarkable Recovery from Traumatic Injuries

Spencer Smith, teacher in Detroit, MI - grauate of Ohio University's Honors Tutorial College

By Spencer Smith

A recent graduate of Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College, Spencer Smith moved to Detroit for a career position with Teach for America. This young man was working as a teacher and making a difference at a public charter school in Detroit when he was involved in an auto accident that left him with massive traumatic injuries. His riveting story follows. 

Last year on Thursday, October 31, I was in a horrific car accident in the afternoon. I have to remind myself frequently how amazing it is that a little more than six months after this horrible experience, I get to write my own story. I have absolutely no memory of the accident or the events that followed, so most of what I’ve written here has come from my parents’ experiences. I was transported by ambulance to Botsford Hospital’s Emergency & Trauma Center. ER Unit Manager Gail Kress, RN, called my parents immediately. At that time, no one really knew what to expect for my future, but my parents (who live in southwestern Ohio) immediately got on the road for the 235-mile trip to Botsford where I had been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.

On Saturday, my younger brother, Ty, came up to see me. When he got there, I became very restless. The doctors had been warning my parents that I might get restless. The question became: Was I restless due to my accident or because I was frustrated since I couldn’t communicate with my brother? Ty stayed with me in the room the whole day on Sunday. That seemed to calm me down.

My Botsford care team was simply amazing. When there was talk about putting a feeding tube in me for nutrition, ICU nurse Beth Crocker, RN, decided to give me ice chips to see if I could eat. I ate one fine. While she was feeding ice chips to me, Dr. Daniel Anderson, a general surgical resident, came in with the order for the feeding tube. He saw me eating the ice chips and decided I didn’t need a feeding tube. Dr. Anderson brought in more residents and interns, who had been following my case, to watch me eat. They gave me a graham cracker. I ate it with a quizzical look on my face as they looked on in amazement.

Remarkable recovery in Michigan's Botsford Hospital - Spencer easts first ice chip in hospital bed

Recovering from injury, Spencer throws the golf ball.

Spencer throwing the golf ball to Dr. Hammoud.

That week, I needed something to squeeze, because I was squeezing my parents’ hands so much it was painful for them. Dad decided to look for a golf ball at my apartment in Detroit, because golf has always been a big part of our lives. He found one and brought it in to me. I played with and squeezed that golf ball frequently. Dr. Mohamad Hammoud, my main general surgical resident, wanted to see if I could throw my golf ball. Instead of just flinging my arm like you would expect a man only a week removed from his accident to do, I was super intentional about it. I was trying to line it up to ensure I threw it to Dr. Hammoud perfectly. It was a great throw.

Spencer playing the piano at OSU's rehab.

Spencer playing the piano at OSU's rehab.

Ten days after my accident, I was discharged from Botsford’s ICU and transferred to the Ohio State University Medical Center near where my family lives. Then, I was moved to OSU’s Dodd Hall Inpatient Rehabilitation. On December 5, exactly five weeks after my accident, I walked out of the hospital.

I realized after I wrote this piece that I hadn’t said anything about my injuries. As a result of the accident, I had a shattered spleen, broken bones, and many other severe injuries. I also suffered a traumatic brain injury that caused some to question my ability to recover fully. Telling my story without mentioning my injuries is an indication of how far I’ve come in my recovery.

I want to thank everyone at Botsford, including my doctors, nurses, and therapists. Each individual nurse was the right nurse at the right time in my recovery. Also, I want to thank my many residents who played a vital role in my recovery, and especially Dr. Hammoud without whom my parents say they couldn’t have made it through that first week. I especially want to thank my attending doctors:

  • Dr. Kelly Dinnan, trauma surgeon and medical director of Surgical Critical Care
  • Dr. Albert Faulkner, orthopedic trauma surgeon
  • Dr. David Fertel, general surgeon
  • Dr. Earl Hecker, thoracic surgeon and section chief of Surgical Critical Care
  • and Dr. Boyd Richards, neurosurgeon.
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