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Hamilton Health Sciences Home
August 22, 2017

ABI patient goes back to school to help others

Jay Dukeshire, known by his medical care team as miracle boy, has made a remarkable recovery. In 2009, Jay was involved in a motorcycle accident, hitting his head off the curb and splitting his helmet down the middle. He suffered from extensive physical injuries, but the most severe was his acquired brain injury (ABI).

Jay spent two and a half months at Hamilton General Hospital (HGH), before starting physiotherapy and cognitive therapy to restore brain function. It took him time to come to terms with his injury. “I had the mentality of a one-year-old child,” says Jay. “I didn’t recognize my parents, friends, couldn’t tell who or where I was, forgot how to eat, and would forget everything after 60 seconds. Not knowing or understanding my injury was the toughest part of my journey.”

Early on in his recovery, Jay started meeting with Dina Vandenberg, an advanced rehabilitation therapist with ABI Community Services at Hamilton Health Sciences. Twice a week, they would connect to discuss how he was feeling, set goals, and sometimes go on a small outing in the community.

“It’s been a long road to recovery, and I’m still learning every day.”

By going to both quiet and busy environments, Dina was able to observe Jay’s reaction in different situations and implement new and personalized compensatory strategies to cope, as every ABI is different.

“I’ll never forget the time Dina asked me to pick out a birthday card for my nephew. I stood there staring at all the cards, the amount of cards, shapes, colours, and sizes overloading my brain and I bailed,” explains Jay. “We discussed that particular time, how I felt, what I saw, what was going on in my head and developed a plan to deal with the situation.”

Jay has been a guitar player for years, so Dina suggested that he devise a way to cope in challenging situations by thinking of guitar riffs in his head. It was successful and is a strategy he still uses today.

The ABI Program has had a great impact on Jay’s recovery. “The program has taught me to recognize situations before acting out, and to prioritize to assure positive outcomes or how to cope with a negative situation,” says Jay.

Jay was inspired to help people in similar situations. With guidance and inspiration from Dina, he went on to complete a 2-year diploma in Recreation Therapy with honours at Mohawk College. In September, he will return to Mohawk College to complete another certificate—this time in Brain Disorders Management. He hopes to help others cope with ABI, and give the same support Dina has given to him.

Jay has also made a tremendous physical recovery, competing in men’s physique shows at a provincial level, and even bringing home a first place price, allowing him to compete nationally.

The ABI Program has allowed Jay to reintegrate into his community, and feel comfortable in social situations. “It’s been a long road to recovery, and I’m still learning every day.”