News & Events

Treating Matthew Crowe

March 9, 2011

“The more I hear, the more my brain heals. Please talk to me about everyday life, I might just talk back!”

These are the words on a banner that hangs above an 18-year-old car crash victim’s bed on the A-3 patient unit.

This sign, which staff suggested, is a simple example of how if you work at a hospital, you help provide patient care — whether you are a nurse at the bedside or an office worker in the annex.

Patient Care Services, Medical Staff, Physical and Occupational Therapy, Environmental Services, the Center for Healthcare Integration and many others have played a role in Matthew Crowe’s rapid recovery — he’s gone from comatose to aware and responsive. Much of his transformation has occurred in recent weeks, and it is attributed to medications, aggressive physical therapy and even the banner that encourages anyone who enters his room to talk to him.

“He’s doing a lot better since he has been here at Backus,” said Dawn Majoria, mother of patient Matthew Crowe. “It is absolutely amazing what the staff has done – they call me every two hours to let me know how he is doing, they never say they don’t have the time, I love what they are doing, especially the little things like creating that sign. Now he opens his mouth when you ask him to, sticks out this tongue, waves, gives you the peace sign. Everyone at Backus is so good and we are extremely grateful for the care he has received.”

It all started with a car crash on Oct. 26, 2010 in Griswold. Matt was brought to Backus, transferred to a hospital in Rhode Island and is now back at Backus. Because of all his recent progress, his next stop will hopefully be a facility for extensive rehabilitation.

He was in a coma until just a few weeks ago. Gillian Mosier, RN, Trauma Program Manager, said Matt’s case is a great example of teamwork between many Backus departments. Seeing him go from being in a coma to writing the letter “M” (his first initial) has been an uplifting experience for many at Backus. Not long after he wrote his full name.

“He has captured the hearts and minds of everyone,” she said. “Every day is exciting because he is doing something new. It’s why we chose this profession and shows how what we are doing really makes a difference.”

A turning point in Matt’s condition came when staff suggested creating a banner to go above his bed to encourage staff members to talk to Matt, because the more stimulation he received the better his chances of recovery were.

The Communications Department created the sign, with wording inspired by a patient care technician and nurse, and the chatter began in earnest. Roger Street of Environmental Services said the sign encouraged him to talk to Matt about every day life each time he entered the room to clean. Topics have ranged from the weather to the Super Bowl.

“Lately he’s been moving his hands more, and whenever I ask him how he is doing he gives me the thumbs up,” Mr. Street said.  “I do this because I just hope that if I am ever in the same situation someone would do it for me.”

Sue Roberson, a Backus Physical Therapist, said Matthew has served as an inspiration to staff because when he arrived at Backus his condition was dire and so much progress has been made.

“He has a lot of potential and working together we just need to help him tap into that potential,” she said. “No one has given up on him and it is important for him to know there is hope.”

Jennifer O’Brien, RN, A-3, said even staff members who have nothing to do with his care stop by to say hi and stimulate him, which she believes has played a major role in his progression.

I’ve been touched by his progress because when I first met him he wasn’t all that responsive, and we were just happy about any movement of his hand or a squeeze he would give you,” Ms. O’Brien said. “But it’s been really unbelievable the past few weeks to see how he is responding. You walk in the room and he turns and he looks at you. He’s come so far in such a short amount of time. I guess what makes me really excited is what’s ahead of him.”

Another A-3 nurse, Jennifer Keating, visited with him Tuesday the day before she was to leave on vacation. As a mother of a 14-year-old and 12-year-old, it has been hard for her to control her emotions taking care of Matthew. This was evident when she said goodbye – he smiled at her, and she held back tears.

Terri Biss, RN, A-3 Clinical Director, said her staff on all three shifts has been intensely committed to Matthew, particularly because of his age.

“They all refused to believe that he couldn’t become so much more than he first appeared to be,” Ms. Biss said.  “They saw a spark deep inside him. Matthew was in there somewhere and they were determined to bring him out.  I can not begin to express how very proud I am of their efforts.

“I think we have been seeing the extraordinary possibilities that happen when you combine great care and a lot of caring people believing in someone and letting them know on a daily basis that they wilI recover,” said Amy Dunion, RN, Coordinator of CHI. “I see Matt now nodding yes and no and maintaining eye contact. He lets me know he’d like a massage and likes receiving Healing Touch and Reiki. He sometimes says yes with a thumbs up with the right hand that before had not responded.”

Ms. Majoria said despite all Matt’s progress under the direction of Joseph O’Keefe, MD, who specializes in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, it is unclear whether Matt will ever fully recover. He has yet to begin moving his left side, but his mother remains hopeful – and grateful to Backus staff for all they have done.

In the meantime she will continue to visit him regularly, cutting his nails, massaging him with lotion, washing his hair – and talking to him.