Breckenridge man who fell off taxi recovering
BRECKENRIDGE, Colorado – Gears are turning behind John Hackett’s hazel-green eyes, he just can’t speak them yet.The brain injury he sustained falling off the back of a taxi in Breckenridge last March hospitalized him for three months.”They thought he was going to die,” his wife, Karen Hackett said.But John, 41, defied the odds and expectations.Hair has already begun to cover a large scar from the roughly 4-inch-by-6-inch piece of his skull that was removed – and frozen – for two months until the swelling of his brain subsided.He’s been reading, planting flowers and gone fishing. He recognizes people but is unable to say their names. Asked whether he plans to return to coaching Summit Middle School girls’ lacrosse, he musters an emphatic:”Yes.”John and Karen are former Wall Street brokers. They built a home in Breckenridge about 10 years ago, where they live with their 12-year-old daughter, Tucker.The family owns Big Hoss Bar-B-Q and Steakhouse in Denver, and John was working most recently as a sales agent at Grand Timber Lodge in Breckenridge.A tragic mistakeEarly March 1, John and a friend had been drinking in downtown Breckenridge after a party when the bars began to close. They saw a taxi stopped on Main Street and decided to jump on the back for a ride, according to previous reports.Karen was in Mexico, where she and John had been on a vacation.”I was getting on a plane, talking to the doctor,” Karen said, adding that it looked possible she “might not have a husband.”The doctors had estimated the coma lasting up to four months, with John spending up to eight months in the hospital.”It’s four months today,” Karen said July 1, sitting next to John and Tucker in the family’s Breckenridge home.The extraordinary recovery surprised even the physicians.”The doctor thought that even if he did live, he would be like a vegetable – a totally different lifestyle,” Karen said. “I would have liked a little bit of positive.”She stayed by his side in Denver the entire time.John came out of a coma a couple weeks after the fall. He was in the intensive-care unit at St. Anthony Central Medical Center in Denver.His last memory: He was still in Mexico.Walking againJohn and Karen make all-day trips to Denver twice per week for speech, physical and occupational therapy at Craig Hospital.When he speaks, John can sometimes get out a word, or a quick stream of words, but it stops abruptly.”It’s all a processing thing,” Karen said. “Kind of like spark plugs – his aren’t quite hitting yet.”Tucker is happy to have her father back home. She and John made plans to ride in a Chevelle in the Fourth of July parade in Breckenridge, and they’ll quite possibly be taking hunting trips this fall.She recalls the first sign John was going to get better when “he moved his right leg.”Karen said John’s recovery may be attributed in part to his strong physique and personality. Fourteen years his senior, Karen said John always promised he would out-live her.”I kept threatening if he wouldn’t get up, I’d kill him,” she said.John’s injury caused major bruising on his left temporal lobe, which affected the right side of his body. He’s left-handed, which has made recovery a bit easier.He now walks around without any noticeable problems.”Once he began to move his right side, we had the feeling everything was going to be OK,” Karen said.She said the therapists expected John would need somebody watching him for at least six months. But that hasn’t been necessary.”He’s pretty independent,” she said. “He knows what he’s doing. He’s not going to do anything stupid.”‘Getting back’Shortly after the injury occurred, a vigil was held at Father Dyer United Methodist church.”Everybody has been so supportive,” Karen said. “The whole Father Dyer church was filled.”The family set up a site on http://www.caringbridge.org – a nonprofit website that connects people during critical illnesses, treatments and recoveries – that has logged nearly 40,000 visits and 843 guest comments in four months.”People used to get nervous if we didn’t have (an update) in,” Tucker said.Karen said the first month was a “roller coaster.””It was probably the worst time in my life,” she said. “It’s been miserable, but it’s getting better.”Even at this point, the doctors are predicting a long recovery. In perhaps 18 months to two years John may be 85 percent recovered.”We don’t know if he’ll ever be the same,” Karen said.Asked whether John’s personality is returning, he said:”Getting back.”He gets headaches, but is otherwise free of pain.Karen said John’s in no state to get back into sales, but the goal is for him to eventually return to working and living like before the incident.”I think he’ll be as good as new,” she said.
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