Bringing Bryan back
Bryan Dehner, 32, lives for the outdoors.
When not at work or spending time with wife, Emily, and dog, Pepper, he’s hunting, fishing, hosting campfires and riding all-terrain vehicles.
In May, Bryan took his ATV for a spin in the woods. Hours passed and Bryan didn’t respond to frantic “where are you?” messages from his wife and mom. They called police.
One day later, a search party located Bryan, unconscious, in the middle of a crash. Miraculously, he was still alive. Bryan was life-flighted to the local hospital, intubated and transferred to a trauma center.
There, he underwent neurosurgery to reduce brain pressure and address a host of injuries, bruises and fractures. When Bryan couldn’t liberate from the ventilator following surgery, a tracheostomy for airway support and feeding tube were placed.
Just after Memorial Day, he was released to a long-term acute care hospital, but deteriorated and returned to the trauma center, enduring additional operations.
Bryan remained in intensive care for several weeks before transferring in mid-June to Select Specialty Hospital – Cincinnati.
Emily hoped the hospital’s experience treating medically complex patients would give Bryan a chance to come home and get back to all the things he loved.
A physician-led team, including nurses and therapists, created a plan to help Bryan meet those goals.
He arrived unable to follow commands, move, breathe on his own, eat or speak.
Respiratory therapists began testing whether Bryan could tolerate time off the ventilator. In short, monitored bursts, they tested independent breathing ability.
Simultaneously, physical and occupational therapists started passive range of motion exercises to get Bryan’s blood flowing.
The increased activity and oxygen, coupled with pharmacists dialing back sedating medications, cleared Bryan’s mental fog. With therapy, he began following simple commands.
Over time, Bryan sat in bed, then at its edge for up to a half hour unassisted. Nurses then advanced Bryan to a chair so he could strengthen his core muscles.
Bryan’s breathing slowly improved and speech pathologists fitted the airway support with a valve, allowing Bryan to speak. Within two weeks, he liberated from the ventilator and returned to independent breathing.
Speech language pathologists started working on mental and verbal exercises to restore thinking and communication abilities. They also led mouth, tongue and jaw exercises that strengthened swallowing reflexes.
Stronger, he stood with minimal assistance.
Due to COVID-19 visitation restrictions, Emily monitored Bryan’s progress daily via video chat and saw many hopeful improvements.
When visitation was reinstated, Emily was thrilled to get a hug and kiss from her husband.
During one visit, she explained to Bryan that more inpatient rehabilitation was ahead. He let out an exasperated “WHY?” It was a great sign that his personality was returning, Emily said.
By mid-July, Bryan passed a swallow study and resumed eating. The feeding tube was removed and he transitioned to a regular diet.
After a month, Bryan had come farther than Emily and his family dared hope. He was discharged to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital to continue regaining and building strength through targeted physical and occupational therapy.