Seth Hanchey of Ruston, LA was 17 years old at the time of the accident. He served as a full-time youth pastor at Power Church International of Monroe. He was a full-time student in nursing school. He was an avid athlete, who enjoyed rock climbing, cycling and Parkour (freestyle stunt running and jumping). He had begun training for the Ironman Triathlon and on September 28, 2011, while on a 60-mile bicycle ride he was struck from behind by a van driven by an 81-year-old woman. He struck the hood, caved in the windshield, and was thrown over 167ft before landing on the highway against a concrete bridge guardrail. He died at the scene twice. This is something we did not find out until 14-months later when we met Jessica, the first EMT on the scene. We had not been told Seth had actually Died at the scene. Imagine our surprise, but not Seth's. He had been insisting he died and walked to God and they talked and God said, "Go Back."
He was airlifted from the scene to LSU hospital in Shreveport, where he underwent emergency surgery to remove the left side of his skull to accommodate the swelling of his brain. Upon arrival, he was at ground-zero and was not expected to live through the night. He had many fractures and left-side brain damage resulting in right-side paralysis (which was his dominant side). His only way to communicate for several months, was by using a 'yes/no' board and later, began signing "yes" or "no".
He was in the hospital for five months and three of those months were spent in the acute stage. Seth was able to return home after five months in hospital, but he still had to wear diapers for 10 months and had to use a wheelchair for long distances. He has had to relearn to do the simplest things such as how to bathe, brush his teeth, dress himself, and use the bathroom. He had to be fully assisted due to his balance and judgement being off. Seth rated at the lowest possible rating on the Ranchos scale for Traumatic Brain Injury, which is the most severe damage. We were told he would never run again, nor would his right hand ever work. We were also told he would lose many of his memories from before the accident... that he would never say a sentence or understand a sentence... that he would possibly be able to speak a word, but not cognitively understand. We were also told he would have no sense of humor and that he would be 'flat,' having no expression or comprehension. These predictions were all false. He can do all of the above and a year and a half post accident, he RAN a 5k race for the Team Seth Foundation for TBI.
He is a living, breathing miracle today and proof that you can overcome if you don’t give up the fight and don’t lose hope. His dad said it well when he told him, “Seth, you walked up to the door of Death and carved ‘Seth was here’ and lived to tell about it!” He has already proven the medical experts wrong in their many negative diagnosis and prognosis due to his traumatic brain injury.
Due to Seth having extreme motion sickness, we had to come up with very unconventional ways to give him therapy. So what we could do from home, we did. Seth got stronger and relearned to run by his father and brother-in-law locking arms on each side of him and literally holding onto him and walking up hill. They eventually did the same taking it to a jog, and finally running. This process took weeks, but daily persistence paid off. Not only is Seth walking without assistance, but he is able to run and do both of these smoothly with great balance. He is lifting the same amount of weights with his right hand as he can with his left. He is currently relearning to write, although he can text pretty well. He has learned to hold a conversation with others using unconventional means. He combines charades, pictures he pulls up on his iPhone, and sometimes can type a word (often times one of the letters are wrong). They say with a brain injury the physical recovery actually assists the mental recovery. In Seth's case, I can say I believe this to be very true.
Seth does have Apraxia and some slight Aphasia. It's as if his vocabulary is locked in a box and all the cables are snipped that operate his motor skill movements to move the words from inside his head to outside his mouth. He cognitively understands if you can speak to him above around 8-year old level. He seems to have retained the higher vocabulary understanding, but lost 8-year old and below. So, colors, letters, numbers, body parts, simple words that we take for granted are very confusing. He is continuing to take speech and his physical therapy has been working out with a personal trainer. He is also, doing a program called Neuro Net, which works the left and right side of the brain and we have seen good results from this.
He wants to eventually go back to college to be a Physical Therapist and work as a Personal Trainer with people who have injuries. I know this will take time, but I am so thankful he has a goal that will use his own challenges to give others Hope that they too can overcome. I believe he will be one of the best therapists around, because who better to coach someone else who is having to relearn to walk or to regain their strength and coordination than someone who knows where they are at and what it feels like to have your life altered by an injury. He will also know what they are dealing with physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
We speak out and encourage others that they too, can overcome any obstacles they may have in life. Nothing can hold you back or limit you, unless you allow it to. You are stronger than you think! Challenges are the only thing that reveals to you just how strong you really are.