Stories of Impact

Gary Pattison's Story

Twenty-six year old Gary Pattison had it all going for him: a new college degree, a new job, all-star athletic ability, and a very bright future. But that all changed one warm summer night when his car was struck by a truck on his way to the Fourth of July fireworks. The truck rolled on top of his car, ejected the driver through the windshield and crushed Gary inside.

Gary suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, breaking his C2 vertebra, located in the neck, and leaving him in a minimally-response state for over 2 months with a tracheotomy and a feeding tube. The outlook was grim, and the course of his life was forever changed.

Miraculously, Gary steadily gained strength, and one-by-one he wowed his doctors, nurses and caregivers. He relearned how to breathe and swallow, to walk and talk, and to read and reason. “I was clueless. You couldn’t even call it ‘foreign’ because I didn’t know anything or how to do anything,” Gary explains.

Once well enough, Gary underwent extensive physical, speech and behavioral therapy.  Though deeply frustrated at times, Gary’s tenacity and his desire to heal fueled his recovery and shaped the journey towards his new life, personality and perspective.

Deeply connected to his rehabilitation experiences, Gary, now in his fifties, volunteers at Rochester Regional Health’s Golisano Restorative Neurology & Rehabilitation Center – both honoring his own story and serving as a beacon of hope for patients and families currently facing traumatic brain injuries.

“The docs and therapists are all excellent, but when I ask a patient to try to do something, like to swallow, walk, or lift a hand, they understand that I’m asking from a different place. When I say, ‘you can do this’ or ‘you will be able to do this again’, it means something different to those patients. There is an unspoken connection between us. I show them the other side.

Gary’s progress amazes those that were there that fateful night.  While admittedly, he still struggles with limitations some days, he is bolstered by the encouragement he sees in the eyes of the patients with whom he volunteers.    

“I’m much farther along than anyone ever thought I’d be. I don’t look brain injured, so when I talk to families and tell them my story, they get hopeful.  This is a new reality for them and my story offers them hope of what can be.  That’s why I keep coming back. It’s all about that hope.”

Because Care Matters
Gary Pattison’s journey through spinal restoration was not a task he could have faced alone. It required access to quality medical care from dedicated, caring people, close to home.  To learn more about how you can support the amazing things happening at Rochester Regional Health, please call 585.922.4800.


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