Come this season, Zac was a freshman at LUHS and thrilled to play on their JV High School hockey team. He loved every minute of his first season and was already excited for his sophomore season. However, on February 28th 2018 our parents received a call explaining that Zac needed to be picked up from the rink during their last practice of the year, as he might possibly have a concussion. Having dealt with sports injuries in the past, our mom went straight to the rink to pick him up. Upon her arrival, it was explained that Zac had been hit from behind and had gone head first into the boards. He was initially unconscious and needed to be removed from the ice by other players. Knowing how serious this could be, our mom rushed Zac to the ER as there was a great concern for his condition at that time. There, Zac’s medical providers found a fractured thoracic vertebrae and explained that he had sustained a severe concussion. He was ultimately sent home that night.
As days went by, Zac continued to experience significant symptoms from his head trauma. His local medical team was concerned that Zac was not improving, and referred him to more advanced pediatric care at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Once Zac was seen at Mayo Clinic, they found an additional fracture to his lumbar spine and showed a great deal of concern for his head injury. Zac continued to be incredibly sensitive to light (as he needed to wear sunglasses daily), sensitive to sound, unable to sleep, experienced daily migraines, struggled with memory loss, and depression. It was determined that Zac had a traumatic brain injury, and would need to begin ongoing therapies to help him improve. Not only had Zac’s injury affected his ability to attend school for more than 2-3 hours daily (at his peak, post-injury after weeks of being home), but also his self-confidence, as he now could not remember large parts of his past or people he cared for. In addition, Zac had difficulty following conversations and following sequential steps to perform tasks due to his short term memory loss. Prior to his injury, Zac pursued a very fast paced academic plan. This included Advanced Placement and Honors classes, which he had very impressive grades in, to pursue his dream of higher education. After Zac’s injury, he was only able to read in short spurts and was unable to remember details, therefore was unable to retain much of the information presented to him.
Zac was given a treatment plan, which included different weekly therapy sessions for his migraines, physical improvements, memory loss, and anxiety/depression, an average of 1 visit per month to Mayo Clinic, lifestyle changes, an educational plan, and medication to try and give him the best possible future outcome. To date, this is still his current plan
Rochester, MN is approximately a 10 hour round trip from my parent’s home in Presque Isle, WI, but takes longer due to Zac’s discomfort traveling. This being said, overnight stays are expected for each of his appointments. After much debate, a family decision was made that our mom, Pam, would quit her day job and work primarily from home in order to assist Zac in any way possible. One of the the greatest struggles Zac has experienced since his injury, has been significant depression and anxiety. He has struggled with being isolated due to not being able to attend school or be as active as he was prior. Zac is no longer able to play the sports he loved or perform to the high standards he has held himself to academically. It makes it hard for Zac to interact with his peers due to his inability to withstand light and sound, and despite the encouragement of family/friends, he was losing much of his innate positive outlook on life, much to the concern of our parents.
Thankfully, though Zac cannot play hockey, his new high school hockey coach offered him an opportunity to help assist with the team, which has completely changed Zac’s outlook. (We believe the energy company could have profited off the wattage his smile produced in the following days.) In addition, he was asked to help out at the local bike shop, part-time, to learn a new skill and hobby. He continues to improve daily with light sensitivity and sound. Furthermore, our parents have enrolled him in summer school to slowly make up the classes he missed during the year. Zac will always be incredibly bright, and has found many new ways (through therapy) to manage his memory, though he will still require long term treatment to give him the best possible outcome.
Our family, friends, and community have extended themselves to create an environment of success and we all hope that with therapy, he will find himself able to reach any challenge life presents him. To reach that end, our family is struggling to financially provide him the tools to give him everything he requires to meet his goals. Zac’s overnight visits to Mayo, treatment, and tools will be needed long term, much beyond anyone’s initial expectations. Our parents have struggled with the thought of receiving assistance from others to provide for Zac, but are realistic that he will not get what he needs if other options are not explored. Myself and other family members want to try and take that worry off their plate, and ask for any assistance our larger community can provide. We have been very lucky with the resources that have been made available to Zac, and the overall outcome of his injury (as it could have been much worse). All support will never go unappreciated. This will give Zac the life-changing opportunity to have what he needs to heal and grow into a man that will be an inspiration to us all.
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