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Eddie Justesen's surprising comeback

Still unable to walk on July 19, Eddie Justesen gets love and encouragement from daughter LilyAnna.
Back on his feet on July 31, Justesen gets applause from the Pinnacle staff and tears of joy from his wife, Lara.

By JOHN SERFUSTINI Sun Advocate associate editor

The ordeal for Eddie Justesen and his family began on Mother's Day. It was a apparently a seizure that caused him to fall and hit his head - hard - on a china cabinet at home that morning.

His brain swelled after the impact.The pressure produced a shutdown of just about all his voluntary functions.

Justesen, a 51-year-oldforeman at Joy Manufacturing, could not talk or walk and had difficulty swallowing.

"So we spent Mother's Day in ICU," said his wife, Lara.

As of day three at Castleview Hospital, he was still incoherent. Lara could not share with him the good news she received that day. She had learned she was expecting another baby.

Justesen spent weeks in the hospital, virtually motionless, unable to communicate. When the swelling went down, he was released to Pinnacle Nursing and Rehabilitation in Price.

He still had no speech or muscle control.

"Shutting down is a protective mechanism for the brain," explained Steve Woodhouse, a therapist at Pinnacle. Woodhouse has plenty of experience rehabilitating brain injuries, and expected a long haul with Justesen.

As of July 19, Justesen was still slumped in a wheel chair.

But something happened that day. Things began to change, and change fast.

He got a hug.

It was from LilyAnna, his two-year-old daughter. "Eddie hadn't seen her in six days due to her being sick. I didn't want him to catch her illness," Lara explained.

The reunion was emotional. Eddie swept LilyAnna into his arms and they just hugged each other, wordlessly. Lara is convinced that it was that moment that gave him the motivation to fight for his recovery.

The very next day he was walking with assistance.

He was also advancing rapidly in other aspects of his therapy. "His program included light exercises for postural support and cognitive exercises," Woodhouse said.

Those cognitive exercises include such things as responding to simple commands and sorting a deck of cards into suit. With the cards, Eddie at first got tired and had to quit after arranging less than 10. In ten days, he was sorting the whole deck in a little more than two minutes. His speech came back.

"It's just amazing," said Woodhouse. "He has exceeded all expectations."

Lara had this to say: "I truly believe that it is because of outstanding help of the entire staff at Pinnacle and Eddie's immense love for his daughter that became his motivation to heal as quickly as he did. He is my miracle man and I love him to the moon and back."




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