Anna Minor's life may never be what it was before she was struck by a car outside her home in Orem last October. But for Anna and her husband, Rick, who had been married only seven months when the accident occurred, things are looking up.
Minor, 23, who received severe head injuries in the incident, has made tremendous progress since coming out of a coma two weeks after the accident.In fact, Minor was discharged last week after three months in the hospital, although she will continue to receive rehabilitation treatment on an outpatient basis.
Her progress has been remarkable, and yet typical for someone who has suffered head injuries. According to a booklet on head trauma provided to families of head injury patients at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, patients typically progress through an eight-level recovery process, although there may be significant differences among individual patients.
A major contributor to Minor's recovery has been rehabilitative therapy; she has had to relearn much of what she once knew, and her remembrance of events before the accident has been only sketchy, although her memory is slowly returning.
"I do remember the whole time we were married I enjoyed my family, shopping and going out, so I can learn to enjoy these things again," Minor said.
She knows now, as she once did, the difference between a Kleenex and a diaper, and a bed sheet and a Kleenex. The differences were confusing to Minor for a time after she came out of the coma, as was the identity of her husband.
"When she woke up she called me by some of her old boyfriends' names," Rick said.
Which, in its own way, was thrilling. Rick had been prepared for his wife to die, or to be totally non-functional.
Minor has had to relearn such things as how to take a shower and get dressed, how to follow a recipe and how to construct simple sentences.
Minor was the first patient to be treated in the new Intermountain Rehabilitation Center, which began operating in October at the medical center. Her rehabilitation has included physical, occupational and cognitive therapy.
Rick was able to participate in his wife's treatment and therapy to a degree that would not have been possible had he been required to travel to Salt Lake City.
"Family involvement is a major part of the process," said Jeanine Mitchell, nursing director for the rehabilitation center.
"He's always here, he's always so protective and helping me learn things," Minor said.
Though doctors at the hospital prepared Rick for what his wife would go through when she came out of the coma, it was, nevertheless, difficult.
It was hard for Rick when his wife could only recall the names of her past boyfriends, but harder still were the times she tried to hit and kick him or related bizarre stories (she once told Rick that President and Nancy Reagan had given her a box of candy Rick had just brought to her).
Mitchell said head injury patients are unable to sort out all the stimuli around them, and thus become agitated and confused.
"In a sense, we're both going through therapy," Rick said. "It was just as tough going through the other side of it.
"Here at the hospital I had a ton of people giving me booklets describing what she would be like coming out of the coma (and through the eight-level recovery process)," he said. "Anna reacted very similarly to how the book said she would."
Mitchell said recovery from a head injury may continue for as long as five years.
"It is a long, slow process," Mitchell said. "Most of the recovery after the initial period is relearning. Nothing is carved in stone as far as recovery goes because we're still learning (about it)."
As an outpatient, Minor will spend every weekday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the rehabilitation center. There she will continue to receive treatment aimed primarily at helping her regain cognitive skills (learning to do things in sequence, to perform complicated tasks without assistance, etc.)and improve her speech and attention span.
There is still much progress to be made, but the Minors, as Rick put it, "are able to see a light at the end of the tunnel."