Michael's Story

Getting a motorcyclist back on the road

In late summer 2016, Michael Kerlin, 41, took his motorcycle out for a spin with friends. He was leading the group when, suddenly, a car ran a red light, crossed the road and hit the motorcycles. Michael hit the car’s rear end, went airborne and crashed to the ground.

Airlifted from the accident scene, Michael was in critical condition with multiple broken bones, chest injuries and a punctured lung. At the hospital, his wife, Angela, was told Michael had died several times by the roadside, but had been resuscitated by his fellow cyclists.

For three weeks, Michael battled complications including respiratory failure and pneumonia. He was placed on a ventilator, airway support and feeding tube.

When Michael stabilized, doctors recommended Select Specialty Hospital – Johnstown for its experience in treating patient with significant breathing complications.

By the time he arrived in September, Michael was alert and able to communicate his goals. First among them was getting the tubes out of his throat and back home to his family. He and Angela have three children, and being there for them meant everything to him. He also hoped one day to ride his motorcycle again.

A physician-led team of therapists, nurses and other professionals created a plan to help Michael get back to his family and – maybe – on the road.

Respiratory therapists began trialing carefully monitored bursts of time off the ventilator. He responded well and started working on chest exercises, coughing and other stamina-building interventions.

Physical and occupational therapists moved his arms and legs to keep blood flowing. When his girls visited, they helped. His right arm was in especially rough shape, so therapists focused on rebuilding strength using resistance bands and small hand weights.

As he grew stronger, Michael was able to stand up and take a few small steps. It was a major milestone because it signaled to the entire Kerlin family that he was on the road to recovery. 
Michael’s breathing grew stronger, and airway support was removed.

Speech-language pathologists tested Michael’s ability to swallow safely. When he passed, they worked with dietitians to slowly introduce food and liquids until Michael resumed a normal diet and the feeding tube was removed.

In a month, Michael was ready for the next step in recovery. He headed to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital, where he received three hours of physical and occupational therapy each day.
It’s been four years since Michael’s ordeal, and he recently returned for a visit to show us how far he’s come. He’s riding again, thanks to a special part created by fellow riders that helps him stay balanced. He walks with a cane, but is otherwise back to life with his family.

There’s only one bit of advice Michael has for anyone considering this level of care: “Trust what they do here.”