Tag Archives: Shepherd Center


Third Time’s the Charm

This time last month (5/19/16, when I started writing this post) my parents and I were checking into our hotel room in Alexander City, Alabama. We were doing so in order to prepare ourselves to wake up early the following morning and make our way to Shepherd Center’s adaptive springtime camp Adventure Skills Workshop (ASW). Although it was a GREAT time, I’ve jumped the gun on our full vacation.

We had hit the road on Wednesday, May 17 with our Google Maps route set to a hotel in Atlanta as our first destination.The hotel we had setup was the one that my mom had been staying in while I was I was a patient at Shepherd Center, for a little #waybackWednesday. We made it there safely and comfortably on time for dinner at Houston’s with an old classmate from Full Sail University, Andrew Molan and his girlfriend. The next morning we got ready and checked out a little past 9am in order to make it to Shepherd Center’s outpatient facility Pathways, where I had also been a patient and now returned as a guest speaker to share with current patients my experience as a TBI survivor .


Me looking too cool for school at Pathways way back when.

Before we made it to Pathways we swung into the local coffee shop nearby for a few reasons. The first being so that the three of us could fully embrace our #throwbackThursday in Atlanta we were all having. The second being, for me at least, was to get my coffee fix for the day. The last, and most important reason, was for me to tweak my MUSC PT student presentation for the new purpose of presenting it to Pathways’ patients! This presentation was arranged thanks to my Shepherd Center Speech Therapist, Kimberly Wood, and Pathways’ Speech Therapist, Lindsey Piland, knowing that I’m now a loudmouth and enjoy speaking in front of whoever might be able to further themselves from hearing about my recovery process thus far, whether it might be medical professionals or patients.

After my presentation, thankfully, went over well we all then drove to Shepherd Center for a lunch in the hospital’s cafeteria that we had arranged with all of my therapists that I had while there. It was, of course, GREAT to see them all! They truly feel like family to both me and my parents, no questions asked. After their lunch hour was over we went up to the second floor, where I resided while I was a patient there, to see the rest of our Shepherd Center “family”. It was once again great to rekindle each of our relationships with each and everyone of them! And then, while we were up there, we remembered that my Physical Therapist, Meg Canale, had told us that she would like for us to speak to a patient and both of his parents who were all from Charleston as well. Upon me walking into the Charleston patient’s room I once again had a #throwbackThursday/deja vu moment overcome me. It really made me feel good to be walking and feeling said deja vu, as well as giving the patient and father something to look forward to down the road in his recovery. While in his room my parents and I talked to him and his dad about how he acquired his injury and gave them both advice as to how to embrace their new lifestyle change to its fullest. Before leaving his room his mom had just returned, so it was nice to be able to meet her and have them all be there to share our head injury support group’s contact information with all of them. I’m really hoping to meet with them all again in one of our Trident Head Injury Support Group meetings!

Shortly after I took the opportunity to show off “my walking skills” with a cane to all of the inpatient therapist that helped me get to where I am today…we hit the road to Alexander City, Alabama (where this entry began)! After spending the night at the Super 8 motel there we checked out and hit the road by 8:30am in order to make it to Camp ASSCA, where ASW is held, by 9am in order to get there first thing and enroll in different activities before they all got booked up!

After getting my weekend activities all planned out the first thing I did was go to the camp’s pool to see Dr. Q for her to conduct my swim test. This is always the first thing I do when starting out my camp activities in order to gain access to water activities and show that I’ll be able my hold to my breath and flip my self around in a reasonable amount of time, in case of a spill while on the lake or in the pool. Shortly after passing my swim test we then made our way to the climbing wall.

20160520_130551I had scheduled this activity as my first one because that one tends to be my second favorite. After getting all suited up with a harness and, of course, a helmet, I began the rope pull climbing wall. I was honestly a little disappointed in the time it took me to reach the top, but everyone down below said that it wasn’t half bad. Bad timing or not, I reached my goal of making it to the top of the wall and was able to coast down on the zip line, or the key reason as to why this is my second favorite activity!

After getting back to my chair we then rolled over to my number one favorite activity of kayaking, This activity is my favorite because of the peace and serenity kayaking has ALWAYS had on me, even before my accident. Another reason I enjoy this activity at ASW is because it is organized as a first come first serve activity that tends to always have an open kayak ready to go!

Following my favorite activity was then the camp’s lunch-hour. We had the pleasure of giving ourselves a regular table of campers to eat at our table, on a whim. They included Juan Machado, a spinal cord patient that we had met last year, and Tate Mikkell, a fellow Trident Head Injury Support Group (THISG) member whose mom, Marsha Mikkell, was nice enough to bring him. The other fun thing about lunch is seeing fellow returning camp members upon finishing meals and talking with them about what they’ve been up to since seeing them the previous year. Not to mention being able to see the all of the improvements that each and everyone of the campers made over the year, whether they be big or small!

When we finished dinner we then went down to Camp ASSCA’s new art room, below the cabin with our room in it. While there we each made our own custom made tie-dyed shirt. This is always a fun activity to me and allows us to bring home wearable souvenirs to remind us of the “groovy” time we had at ASW any given year!

At the end of our first day at ASW 2016 I decided that it’d be a good idea to pass on the camp fire and s’mores and go to bed a little early in order for me (and my parents) to have a good amount of energy for the following full day of ASW activities.

Upon waking up a little before our clocks hit 8am we all got ready for a camp breakfast. We had yet another good time with the same group of campers making up our table. We all mostly shared what each of our schedules were for the day and looked back onto the day before and how much fun we all had. When breakfast was over we then headed down to the lake for me to get ready for the waterskiing time that I had scheduled.

Anthony_Macchio_ASW002When we first got down there it hit me that I didn’t think about the water being colder in the morning than it might be later in the afternoon. So, after getting in and feeling the fridget temperature I could feel my muscle spasms (tone) take full effect! After the boat managed to pull me out of the water I was VERY thankful to now be feeling the cool breeze being created by the high speed pull of the boat, believe it or not. My favorite experience of this activity at ASW this year (2016) was that I was able to que myself and sway around within the inner wake with a little oblique leaning going on! When I could tell that the boat had started heading back to the boat ramp that we had started at I felt the fear of my body hitting the cold water, and my tone overreacting, again overcome me. The cool thing was though that when I became fully emerged again I found that the activity of waterskiing surprisingly warmed up my body enough to overcome the coldness of the morning’s lake water temperatures!

Shortly after being back on dry-land I followed through with my next scheduled ASW activity and jumped right back on the water, via jet ski! This was a great activity to work my obliques last year, and this year was no different…except for the fact that we added 10 more MPH to the speedometer (from 30 to 40MPH). Not to mention, that I was able to comfortably maintain my spot on the jet ski itself! I was very surprised by this last statement, but I need to be completely honest with all of you, loyal, blog readers that have read this far into this post as to why I was surprised. I had woken up mid-sleep the night before with a little fear that I might fall into the water due to my, so thought, weaker stature while either waterskiing and/or jet skiing. I was VERY happy that I had proved my insecure self-conscious wrong once again!

Anthony_Macchio_ASW003I decided to treat myself to my favorite activity once again post proving myself wrong, as a reward to one’s self! I also wanted to make it a point to get back to kayaking the second day of camp because of the therapists running that activity. I say that because they had an adaptive paddling device that we had toyed around with the day before, but we all really wanted to put it to use the following day. Upon getting me on the water in a tandem kayak with an University of South Alabama student, Kate Brueggenheimer, and a new Shepherd Center Occupational Therapist who specializes in brain injuries, Christine Stewart, rode nearby us on her own single person kayak so that she’d able to correct any malfunctions I had while using the device in realtime. It definitely had its complications, but we all had different ideas of how we could make it work with various materials that we did not have onsite this year. Therefore, we all made a promise to one another that we’d be sure to bring whichever material we had in our own mind to camp next year and AT LEAST one of them would surely fix the problems we were having!

After partaking in three different activities ON TOP of the water we headed to the pool so that I could go scuba diving UNDER the water! It had been fun for me to get in the water and put my swimming to the test the past two years, but this year scuba diving was fun in a different way. Before going under with the professional divers they showed me a cool little diving propulsion devise that one can just hold in front of themselves and move right along. I was definitely looking forward to the underwater standard swimming portion of this activity, but this looked too fun to pass up! Toying around with the newfound device definitely made it hard for me to resurface with the real world on the other side of the pool water and me.

When I finally HAD to resurface it was time for our last meal and table real bonding moment with our regular table mates. I could definitely tell that everyone had had just as great of a time at ASW with their full days schedule as they did the day before, plus some! When dinner was coming to an end we gave everyone at the table our formal goodbyes because we knew that we would be leaving in the morning before breakfast was to be served. But, before we would leave in the AM we all had one more evening activity to partake in.

That activity was really not much of an ACTIVE-ity at all. I say that because it was just a leisurely sunset pontoon boat right for just eight camp goers, ourselves included. With the GREAT weather conditions, TRANQUIL waters and a BEAUTIFUL sunset it was an absolutely PRICELESS way to end the day and ASW 2016 as a whole!

Then, to make our little vacation even better, the back roads (back?) to Charleston were wide open with not much traffic! We also had the pleasure off making a pit stop at Lake Oconee, GA at my Aunt Sherry and Uncle Ray’s house! I hadn’t seen Aunt Sherry since I was a patient at Shepherd’s Pathways much less interacted with either of them since I was about five years old. With that being said, it was GREAT to both of those things, but it also felt good to walk into her house and show her how far I have come since last seeing her!


A sunset photo taken from the pontoon boat the last day of ASW 2016.

Best of the Best

My parents have been a HUGE benefit to my recovery and, of course, my life as a whole. With that being said, I’ve decided that this May blog posting will act as a belated Mother’s Day present AND an early Father’s Day present to the both of them!

First and foremost, I have to start off by giving them both props for being emotionally stable enough to have been woken up at 3AM EST on 2/2/13 by a phone call from two San Mateo, CA police officers informing them that their son, me, Anthony Macchio-Young, was on an ambulance and being transported to Stanford Hospital. After me only living on the West Coast for six days, at that! I could only imagine the inner turmoil the both of them must have been feeling while having to go through the trouble of finding the first flight out of Charleston, SC to San Francisco, CA. Not to mention having to take care of ALL of the other traveling necessities while one’s child is unconscious in ICU from a brain injury. One could assume that these two must have been through this before…but we are all very thankful that that was not the case! So, that can only mean that they are two of the best parents mankind has ever seen!

Belated Mother’s Day:

After my mom, Kim Young, flew out to San Fran with my dad the day after my accident and she didn’t leave my side until after returning home from ICU, acute care, Shepherd Center inpatient rehab and Shepherd Center’s outpatient rehab, Pathways seven months later. All of these initial rehabs were between the dates of 2/12/13-9/7/13. This was a real savings grace because I got to see her face each and every day. And we ALL know what just seeing one’s mom’s face can do in a time of desperation!

ryanAndMomUpon returning home she was required to go back to work. At first this was a different, off-kiltering, scenario for me, but I then realized that this was just another obstacle I’d have to overcome “slowly but surely” in my recovery process. Don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate every little thing she does! Whether it be preparing a meal, making my bed in the morning or any motherly type thing that she might do for me! The only thing is that I’m hoping, yet scared, that I will one day learn to live on my own again and I’m sure that I’ll have to relive my mommy withdrawals yet again.

Early Father’s Day:

My dad, Bill Macchio, wasn’t able to stick around during my inpatient days because he’s my family’s primary income source and owns his own business. He made it a point to visit as much as he could, while I was in both California and Atlanta though! Speaking of Atlanta, after my benefit fundraiser in April of 2013, that was organized by a group of family friends in Mt. Pleasant, SC, my dad took the money raised and did some research into the best neuro rehab hospitals within the US and found Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA. After finding the best rehab center closest to home, Charleston, SC, he then began studying the best way for me to get there. After investigating a few options he found that Delta Airlines would be the best choice. He was able to purchase three one-way tickets to Atlanta for a traveling nurse, my mom and me with the funds raised at the fundraiser.

My dad with me on my first day at Shepherd.

My dad with me giving thumbs up to Shepherd Center.

Since my mom and I returned home and she had to return to work it really became my dad’s time to shine! When I’ve got a doctor’s appointment scheduled he’s my number one man to take me or arrange for one of his employees to do so. Every Sunday I look at the upcoming week’s schedule and we then make plans as to how I’ll be able to make it to the various appointments for said week. I, of course, hope that I’ll one day be able to drive myself to appointments, work, social events, etc…

I’m making it one of my long term goals to eventually live on my own once again and let these two wonderfully awesome parents enjoy a life of their own, as most all parents end up doing once their children are out of the house for good. In the meantime though, I’m always attempting to make myself less and less of a burden on them. I can honestly thank each and every one of my therapists for making this more and more a realistic possibility. But I guess I never could have ever gone to and gotten through all my many therapy sessions without my mom and dad’s help, so…THANK YOU BEST MOM AND BEST DAD!

A little selfie action before we hit the road on September 7, 2013.

Home Sweet Home

Today marks the two year anniversary of my parents and I making the trip back home to Mt. Pleasant, SC from Shepherd Center, as well as all the other inpatient treatments post accident.

My friends at a welcome party they held for me.

My friends at a welcome party they held for me at my parents’ house.

A little selfie action before we hit the road on September 7, 2013.

A little selfie action before we hit the road on September 7, 2013.

Stage 2: Inpatient Rehab

First Step

My trunk failing to support me on my attempt to take my first step.

I started remembering what was happening and going on around me 2 weeks after ICU. While at Kentfield Rehab, in Marin County, California, the Speech Pathologist was working very hard on getting me to move my tongue and get some kind of sound out of me, but had no luck. In Physical Therapy I would mostly stand up in the standing frame and 23 minutes was my record while there. I also tried to take a single step but failed miserably, with my trunk collapsing. For Occupational Therapy I would do a board with different sizes and shaped pegs with my right hand because the left side of my body was completely immobile and still does suffer muscle tone. Meanwhile friends and family ran a fund raising party for me back home, Mt. Pleasant, SC, while my mom was staying in California with me and until I got home. After the fund raiser my dad had accumulated $15,000 (Thank you everyone!) and the first thing he did was buy my mom, a traveling nurse, and me first class Delta tickets to Atlanta because they would be bigger seats than coach and way cheaper than renting a private jet. So they took my trache (surgical opening to restore normal breathing) out on April 19, 2013.  Then on April 21, 2013 we then caught a 5am flight to Atlanta to continue inpatient rehab at Shepherd Center.


My first full day of therapy at Shepherd Center I said my first word ‘hi’. I then worked on my memory, both long term and short term. Within the first week I was there I did a swallow study to determine how well I was swallowing. I passed my swallow test the first week I was there and was put on a level 1 diet (pureed food) and eventually level 2 (honey thickened liquids and fine foods). Another thing I did in Speech Therapy was practice yelling out ‘ahh’. The typical, healthy, person can yell out ‘ahh’ for 20-25 seconds, but while at Shepherd I could only get mine up to 3.5 seconds tops. In Physical Therapy I was first started on serial casting to get rid of my ballerina feet, then moved on to mat exercises, walking in a platform walker with Bioness (remote estem device), graduated from the hoyer to heavily assisted transfers, and practiced getting into a vehicle for my parents’ sake. Occupational Therapy consisted of arm stretching, getting the first movement out of my left arm, and the FES bike (pedaler for OT and PT that consist of estem).

'Pedaling' my way to the city on the FES arm bike.

‘Pedaling’ my way to the city on the FES arm bike.

While there I got a Baclofen Pump to help reduce tone in my left leg and had surgery in my left ankle/achilles tendon to correct the ballerina feet because the serial casting didn’t help as much as everyone hoped. Graduated 4 months after being at Shepherd and I was then invited to their outpatient facility, Pathways.

Next entry will be about outpatient therapy.

Summer of 2014 is the Summer of Fun, Laughter and Recovery

Stickers, flags and Tattoo's. Everyone loves Anthony's logo

Stickers, flags and Tattoo’s. Everyone loves Anthony’s logo

During the summer of 2013, we were still fighting fevers, spells of vomiting and casts on one arm and one leg. There was an operation to implant a Baclofen pump just outside Anthony’s stomach, and another operation on the tendon in his foot. There was a constant flow of doctors, nurses and physical therapists. We were doing everything we could to travel down the road to recovery, but it seemed like there were roadblocks everywhere we turned. Anthony stayed strong and stayed the course. His strength and positive attitude then and now has helped make the summer of 2014 the summer of recovery.

As the summer of 2014 was approaching, Kim and I could see Anthony had become stronger and more confident. His attitude was good. We knew we were finally on the road to recovery and were ready to travel down that road as far as it would take us. We also knew our journey would be steady – but not fast. As it turned out, this summer has been a great one for Anthony.


The summer started with the Jackson Gap, Alabama camp in May, put on by The Shepherd Center in Atlanta. It was three days of campfires, cabins in the woods, bunk beds, fresh air and lakeside breezes. It filled our hearts with joy as Kim and I watched Anthony continue his recovery, smiling and gaining confidence by participating in the many camp activities. Anthony went scuba diving twice, went fishing, shot a gun and did some tubing. We tie-dyed some shirts together – that was kind of fun – and went on a pontoon boat. We found that camp was good for our souls and a wonderful opportunity for Anthony to realize that his limitations are not what he thought they would be.        anthonyWithFishSmaller

Friends, Family and Charleston’s Medical Community

Anthony knows his attitude and the way he approaches his recovery is the most important part of this process. But the various blessings surrounding his recovery are beyond this world. The road we’re on is full of caring, heartfelt people. Everyone is doing their part to help guide the recovery process.

Michael with Anthony and Kat on a trip to Florida summer 2014

Michael with Anthony and Kat on a trip to Florida summer 2014

Anthony’s friend since the third grade, Michael Onorato, is there every day. Kim and I know that Michael has an awesome heart and a caring personality. Even before Anthony was strong enough to come home, we knew we wanted to talk to Michael about being part of his recovery team. Each day, Michael and I discuss the schedule, making sure Anthony gets to Roper Rehabilitation for his physical and occupational therapy. Three days a week, Anthony and Michael go to East Cooper Rehabilitation for speech therapy.
Michael and Anthony are together nearly as much, if not more, then Kim and I are. Without Michael and their friendship, the road to recovery would a little bit harder.

Roper’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Services is Anthony’s home away from home. Enough good things could not be said about the staff and leadership there. The halls are full of hope and kindness, which has contributed to and continues to push Anthony down the road to recovery. Emma Chambers is part of the leadership team at Roper, and her warmth and kindness toward Anthony is so heartwarming. After talking with Cathy Therrell, who is the director of rehabilitation, and its obvious that caring and warm hearts flow down from the top. Tara Murphy, Anthony’s occupational therapist, works with him on the day-to-day activities – dressing, brushing his teeth and various other daily activities that most of us take for granted. Tara always displays the caring concern we’ve come to know and respect as Roper’s core approach to caring for their rehabilitation patients.

Anthony’s physical therapist is front-and-center in the recovery process. Katherine Bennett’s energy

Kahterine from Roper and Meg from The Sheperd Center spends time with Anthony in Charleston.

Kahterine from Roper and Meg from The Sheperd Center spends time with Anthony in Charleston.

andpassion for her patients is just what Anthony needed. Her desire to push and teach him what he needs to know is endless. When Anthony accomplishes specific levels or tasks in the recovery process, Katherine’s enthusiasm for his accomplishments are obvious. When Anthony was in Stanfords Hospital’s ICU and the doctors would make their rounds with the residents, I knew Anthony was giving something back to the medical professionals who were helping him fight for his life.  As they talked among themselves, learning about what to do in real life situations, I felt Anthony was giving back to them. When the residents become doctors, they will remember some of the things they discussed as they surrounded Anthony’s bed. I hope some of the things they learned while helping Anthony will help other patients. The same goes for Katherine. I know Anthony will be helping other patients who come into Katherine’s life. The impact Katherine and the rest of the team at Roper’s Outpatient Rehabilitation has been profound. Our family is so happy they are part of Anthony’s recovery team.

Although Anthony’s recovery starts with his attitude, Kim and I have learned we have to back him up by asking the right questions when we’re talking to the medical professionals involved with his care. The answers to these questions will help guide us as we travel down the winding road of recovery.

Speech is an important aspect of Anthony’s recovery. By asking a lot of questions and staying the steady course, we found a super speech team at East Cooper Medical Centers Out Patient Rehabilitation. They just moved into their new facility next to the East Cooper Medical Center, so everybody there is even more excited than usual. After several visits and telephone conversations, we were able to put together a top-notch speech team. We feel blessed to have Jo Ann Fisher head up Anthony’s speech recovery. When I found out Jo Ann
has had extensive experience with traumatic brain injury patients, I was excited to have her on Anthony’s recovery team. Our experience has been that most Charleston speech therapists do not have a lot of experience with traumatic brain injuries. When Anthony and I got a chance to meet her for the first time, we liked her and we realized that she had the expertise to take Anthony down the road to speech recovery. Kaylen Alford, who is Anthony’s age, also has joined Anthony’s speech recovery team. She’s enthusiastic and has the right mix of passion, knowledge and desire.

Mom and Anthony enjoying a moment

Mom and Anthony enjoying a moment

The summer of 2014 has taken us down the right road in Anthony’s recovery process. Like any well-built road, the builders constructing the road are essential to a solid foundation. Our family feels that Anthony’s outlook is solid thanks to the medical professionals who are contributing to his recovery.