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July 17th, 2013

The Cure

By Marco

On November 2, 2008 I was involved in a motorcycle accident while riding my beautiful Ducati. My life forever changed on that day. I was admitted to the UCLA Neuro-ICU for 6 weeks. I then transferred to a sub acute skilled nursing facility for 4 months and after that to Casa Colina rehabilitation hospital for another 5 months. I was in a coma for most of the time at UCLA. I suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. On the day of the accident, my neurosurgeon, Dr. Shafa took a piece of bone from my skull to relieve pressure in my brain. The bone was put back and a shunt was placed in April 2009. The shunt was to address hydrocephalus that I developed due to my injury. Dr. Shafa performed two additional cranioplasties to fix a dent in my forehead. Dr. Shafa saved my life and made sure I look normal. My recovery cognitively has been a very long road and continues to this day.

I had a total of four surgeries at UCLA but because of my very limited awareness, I actually do not remember an average day in the hospital. What I do remember were the visits from the People-Animal Connection team. They made me smile and feel happy, safe and comforted. My wife tells me that even when I was not responding to other stimuli when the dogs got in my bed I always petted them. I was so fortunate to have many PAC teams visit me. They not only brightened my day but brought joy and comfort to my wife, my parents and the UCLA staff. They first started visiting me within a week or so of my initial admission including when I was in the ICU. While physical therapy contributed to helping my body heal, the PAC teams were mental therapy that healed my mind; which I sorely needed. The dogs curled up next to me in the hospital bed and made me feel hopeful, blissful and safe.

Currently, I hold the first ever volunteer position on the 6th floor working with patients with brain injuries and their families. I hope to bring people comfort and hope and let them know it will be okay, similar to the feeling the PAC teams provided me. To this day I am very thankful to have had the kind, unwavering support of not only my friends and family but also PAC while I was hospitalized. The immense love and happiness dogs provide is very therapeutic. After I came home from the hospital. we rescued a yellow Lab named Libi. She has been my daily companion and dearest friend. The PAC program for Animal-Assisted Therapy truly helped my recovery. Although I do not remember most of my time at UCLA I will never forget how comforting the dogs were to me and how they made me feel more tranquil during a very difficult period.

Tags: Neurology & Neurosurgery, PAC, patient stories, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Uncategorized

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