Editor's note: This is the second installment of a two-part series about people in the lakes area who are living with the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury. It is a prelude to an upcoming art event at Trinity Lutheran Church titled "Unmasking Brain Injury," which is being co-hosted by the church and the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance on Monday, Oct. 7. The first story appeared in the Oct. 2 edition of the Tribune.
For some survivors of traumatic brain injury, its after effects are, for the most part, invisible. But for others, it can cause mental and physical impairments that are immediately apparent to even the most casual observer.
Nine years after he was struck from behind by a motor vehicle while out rollerblading with a friend, 25-year-old Landon Hochstetler is still unable to move around without a wheelchair, speak even the simplest words to communicate with friends and family, or eat without assistance.
"He is completely dependent on us," says Les Hochstetler, Landon's father. "He recognizes people and pays attention to them, but he can't really respond."
"He can eat, but he doesn't feed himself," adds Landon's mother, Gayle, who acts as his full-time caregiver on those mornings when there is no personal care attendant available to come into their home to help get him get ready for the day, or on those afternoons when he gets home from spending his days at the Becker County Developmental Achievement Center (DAC).
"He goes to the DAC on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays," she said. "On Wednesdays he's home all day, so he gets to sleep in a little."
Despite his current reliance on them for his daily care, Gayle and Les remain hopeful that medical research will advance far enough in the not-too-distant future to allow their son to regain at least some measure of independence. With some financial assistance from various sources, they have renovated their Strawberry Lake home to be completely handicap accessible, and even added on a bedroom, living area and bathroom that will essentially allow Landon to have his own, separate living space should he ever manage to regain enough mobility to live on his own.
"We are a family of faith," Gayle said. "Nine years down the road, our faith is intact."
It was that faith that led them to try a variety of experimental treatments and alternative therapies, once the more conventional methods were exhausted.
"We've tried so many things, including hyperbaric oxygen , jin shin jyutsu, and other alternative therapies," Gayle said.
The problem with alternative medicine, Les added, is that it is often quite expensive — and much of it is not covered by either medical insurance or government medical assistance programs.
One of the more promising therapies that they have come across so far is called functional neurology. "It's a combination of chiropractic manipulation and neurology that was developed by Dr. Ted Carrick," Gayle said.
Carrick's revolutionary methods have actually helped some professional athletes playing in the NFL and NHL to recover from debilitating concussions, she added — most notably, Pittsburgh Penguins hockey player Sidney Crosby.
"He (Crosby) went on to win two Stanley Cups with his team," Les said. "That really put Dr. Carrick on the map and made the other neurologists start listening to him."
Before his success with Crosby and other well-known players, Carrick's methods had been considered controversial. "He met with a lot of resistance at first," Gayle added.
Because Landon himself had been a hockey player at Detroit Lakes High School prior to the accident, this therapy held particular appeal for them. They even went down to Carrick's clinic in Atlanta, Georgia, for a consultation, and are continuing to work with Fargo physician Chris Danduran, a functional neurologist who trained at the Carrick Institute.
"We finally got in touch with some people who were neurologists and were positive about Landon's recovery," Les said. "Ten years ago that never would have happened."
In fact, a year after Landon's accident, which occurred on Sept. 13, 2010, his doctors basically told them that there would be no further improvement in his condition — but considering that they had initially been told Landon would never regain consciousness, and later, that he would not be able to eat without the assistance of a feeding tube, they have learned to take such less-than-optimistic diagnoses with a healthy amount of skepticism.
"We still have hope," Gayle said.
If you go
What: "Unmasking Brain Injury" mask painting project
When: Monday, Oct. 7, 7-9 p.m.
Where: Trinity Lutheran Church, 1401 Madison Ave., Detroit Lakes
Info: Event is free for all people who have lived through a traumatic brain injury or stroke, as well as their family members and caregivers, but those wishing to participate are asked to RSVP Mark Berg at 218-849-4337. More information is available at www.unmaskingmn.org.