A routine motocross hurdle he safely navigated hundreds of times is at the root of the biggest hurdle Brent Adams has ever had to climb.
But thanks to the teamwork of several trauma experts at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), Adams is getting the chance to conquer the uphill battle – and so far, he’s winning.
An avid motocross competitor, Adams and some friends showed up at a dirt track in Mayflower on Dec. 8, 2007, to ride just as they had done dozens of times. Not long after unloading his bike, Adams rumbled down the track with his motorcycle aimed for “one of the easiest jumps out there.” But this time something was different.
“I don’t even know what happened, to be honest,” said Adams, now 28. “I simply hit the jump like I had done many times before, only this time I woke up about a month later and couldn’t walk.”
When Adams arrived at UAMS, the outlook was not promising.
“I remember when he first got here he was in extremely rough shape,” said Terry Collins, trauma program manager at UAMS. “He was in extremely critical condition. He was unstable, with multi-system injuries. Our trauma team was activated with a multidisciplinary team of specialists that was assembled at the bedside when he arrived.”
Once Adams had been completely evaluated, the list of complications was seemingly endless.
“Spinal cord injury with vertebral fracture, collapsed lung, broken shoulder blade and upper arm, bleeding in the brain, bruised lungs, pneumonia, an infection in his blood stream …,” Collins read aloud from Adams’ chart. “It goes on and on … he’s very lucky.”
Nearly two years after the accident that left him in a wheelchair without full use of his legs, Adams recently returned to UAMS to meet the team that helped put him back together and set him on a path to recovery. Hearing the extent of his injuries for the first time, he embraced nearly a dozen UAMS doctors, nurses and specialists to whom he says he owes his life.
“I’ve been waiting for a long time to meet the group of people here at UAMS that saved my life that day,” Adams said. “I was in an induced coma most of the time I was here and I never really got to properly meet many of the surgeons and doctors who took care of me. It feels good to look them in the eyes and shake their hands.”
Back Together Again
The team of UAMS professionals, including T. Glenn Pait, M.D., director of the UAMS Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute and professor of neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery, and Johannes Gruenwald, M.D., professor of orthopedics, were equally as grateful.
“I remember Brent’s case well, and it’s great to see him in such great shape after the level of trauma he was in when he arrived,” Pait said. “It takes a strong will and a positive attitude to make it through situations like his and he clearly has both. If there was ever a good example of how important it is to have a trauma system in place, this is it.”
Gruenwald surprised Adams when he detailed the extent of the shoulder injuries he helped repair.
“His injuries were really among the worst I’ve seen,” Gruenwald said. “I remember it well. I’m very happy to get the chance to see Brent again.”
Hope for the Future
Adams spent 24 days in the intensive care unit and 40 days in the hospital. He had three surgeries and left with the determination that despite the odds, he’d someday walk again.
After intensive rehab stints with several specialists, Adams is beginning to regain some movement in his legs and is flexing his calf muscles and wiggling the toes on his right foot. He can nearly walk on his own with the help of a walker, though he’s counting on more rehab to better stabilize those efforts.
“I’m getting there,” Adams said. “The support of everyone involved, including family and friends and doctors, has been unbelievable from the beginning. Obviously I owe a lot to everyone and I’m extremely blessed to be here.”
Adams has written about his experiences at www.brentadams.blogspot.com.