Kristin Hoovler - Search for the best leads Mountain Top family to Heinz Rehab Hospital and one of the nation’s leading brain injury programs

Every time Kristin Hoovler passes someone on a motorcycle, she wishes them luck. If they’re not wearing a safety helmet, she tells them to go get a helmet.

In September 2013, the 34 year old from Mountain Top suffered a traumatic brain injury from a major motorcycle accident. Her boyfriend, Steve, who was driving, suffered multiple broken bones. “If it wasn’t for the helmet I was wearing, I wouldn’t be here today.”

John and Pat Hoovler also credit staff at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center for saving their daughter’s life.

After almost a month at Geisinger, they were faced with making the decision about where to send Kristin for rehabilitation. She was in a wheelchair, had a tracheotomy and feeding tube, wore a protective helmet and needed round the clock care.

For a while, they considered sending Kristin to Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia. “You want the absolute best for your child” shares Pat Hoovler.

After researching the options, they realized that Heinz Rehab Hospital in Wilkes-Barre Township offered the best chance of success. The inpatient rehabilitation hospital houses one of the nation’s leading rehabilitation programs for people suffering from brain injury. According to independent rankings supplied by the Uniform Data System for Medical Rehabilitation, compared regionally and nationally, patients in Heinz’s brain injury program frequently go home quicker and with more independent functioning.

“You don’t realize what’s here in this community until you need it. We soon realized that the best care was here at home.”

An added benefit of choosing Heinz Rehab Hospital was that Kristin could draw on a strong support network. Although Kristin has no memory of her first month at Heinz, her friends and family were a constant fixture at the hospital. Jessica Yamrus-Yanik from Changes Health and Fitness in Luzerne helped Kristin lose 115lbs prior to the accident and welcomed by Kristin’s physical therapists as she helped motivate her through painful physical therapy sessions.

Just weeks after Kristin’s accident, her friends and family organized the “5k-Rock”, fondly named after Kristin’s nickname K-Rock. The 5k run/walk raised funds and awareness of brain injury and motorcycle safety. Kristin’s therapists were among the hundreds who braved the cold that day to answer questions and hand out safety helmets.

While the recovery process wasn’t always easy, Pat and John were reassured by the therapists, nurses and staff who cared for Kristin. “The therapists at Heinz were amazing. They knew when to push Kristin and when to hold back. They were there for us every step of the way ” comments Pat.

During outpatient occupational therapy, Kristin benefited from the Saebo Rejoyce, cutting edge rehabilitation technology acquired with funds raised through the Ryan’s Run campaign. Utilizing the NeuroGaming component of the Saebo Rejoyce enabled Kristin to test and develop her speed, endurance, coordination, range of motion and strength while performing everyday tasks.

In April, just six months after the accident, Kristin graduated from her outpatient physical and occupational therapy programs. She still struggles with short term memory and vocabulary and has residual vision and hearing issues. However if her success in nightly Scrabble games is any indication, she is well on her way to recovery.

In addition to ongoing speech and cognitive therapy at Heinz, Kristin has resumed her healthy lifestyle, incorporating pilates and other balance and strength exercises into her daily workout routines.

Her goal is to be fit enough to join her family and friends at the upcoming wedding of two close friends. For Kristin, this is more than just a physical goal. “I want to get better to celebrate love and life with several special friends who are getting married” shared Kristin.

Being there for her friends on their special day is a way of repaying the support she received from her family, friends and therapists at Heinz over the past six months.