Published on August 23, 2017

Home Runs for Life: Will McGuirk’s Recovery

Will McGuirk’s injuries were so serious that there was discussion by his medical team about what level of recovery could be expected.

He was in a coma and on life support.  A deadline had been set and if he didn’t improve, doctors would discuss stopping life support measures with the family.

Will’s family and friends prayed for a sign to let them know Will was still Will.

As medical staff and Will’s loved ones considered ending life supporting efforts, Will groggily awoke and flashed a “thumbs up’’ sign.

He began to react to voices, moved his eyes, squeezed the hands of his visitors.

“It’s his favorite story to tell,’’ explained Michele Heitz, PT, who works with Will on a weekly basis at Genesis Physical Therapy, Silvis.

“That’s crazy, isn’t it?’’ Will said of his story of awakening from the coma. “I feel blessed. I’m living a pretty happy life.’’

Will suffered life-threatening injuries on May 28, 2014 when a truck didn’t see him on his motorcycle. He was struck by the truck and pinned between his motorcycle and the truck bed.

His injuries included a traumatic brain injury, a broken left femur and other broken bones.  During his transport to the hospital, he suffered two strokes related to the brain injury.  He was air-lifted to Peoria, where his recovery journey that continues today began.

Will had two surgeries to remove part of his skull to allow swelling of his injured brain. His femur was rebuilt using nine pins.  A week after his accident, doctors told the family the worst.  If Will did come out of the coma soon, he would likely never function again on his own, would not walk, talk or have any real quality of life.

But the “thumbs up’’ sign that indicated Will was there somewhere, changed the path of his recovery.

His hospital care was followed by a rehabilitation stay at the Chicago Institute of Rehabilitation before returning to the Quad Cities. He surpassed all goals and expectations. The staff at Genesis Physical Therapy, Silvis refer to the recovery as “Will-Power.’’

Steps Toward Recovery
Will returned home but could not walk. He began therapy three days each week at Genesis Physical Therapy, Davenport. He went from not being able to stand or sit up by himself to learning to walk with a cane.

Will has continued to have speech, occupational and physical therapy at Genesis Physical Therapy in Silvis. Heitz said his progress has been remarkable.

It isn’t unusual for rehabilitation patients to go through depression, which can delay or stall their recovery progress. Heitz said Will has continued to display a positive attitude and has progressed toward new goals.

“When he first came here, he was using a motorized scooter.  I think it just sits in his garage now,’’ Heitz said.

When Will first got on the treadmill at the Silvis clinic, his walking rate was .6 miles per hour. He started with a goal of walking 200 feet in the first physical therapy sessions.

“He would get really tired and kind of walked sideways because of his injuries,’’ Heitz said. “He progressively increased his distance.  Now the goal is 1.4 miles per hour.  He also walks at home on the bike path.’’

He moved from the motorized scooter to a walker. He doesn’t need either one now. He walks independently.

Will also relearned walking up and down steps.

“He was told he probably wouldn’t walk again but he keeps taking the next step,’’ Heitz said.

Will, 35-year-old father of four, also had cognitive impairment that is improving.

“My speech was pretty limited at first but I started getting back words. I do pretty well now but sometimes I have a word in my head but can’t get it out and have to think about it,’’ he said.

“Will Power”
“His attitude has been the most important thing he has going for him,’’ Heitz said. “Some people give up and stop working. They are satisfied with the level of recovery they have or they don’t think they can do more. Will keeps working and pushing himself.

“He has never been afraid of trying something new.’’

Will has a couple more goals in front of him. He would like to drive again and would like to return to construction work. He is not able to work now.

“He drives a golf cart and a Gator (John Deere utility vehicle) but not a car yet,’’ Heitz explained.

“I was a concrete contractor who subcontracted for a lot of people. I think I could get back into construction as maybe a supervisor,’’ Will said.
A job may be within reach. Nothing has stopped him from progressing toward his goals.

The Quad-Cities River Bandits will celebrate Will McGuirk’s rehabilitation success story on Friday, Aug. 25 with their Home Runs for Life ceremony at Modern Woodmen Park.

For more information about rehabilitation services available at Genesis call (563) 421-0800 or go to www.genesishealth.com/rehabilitation.
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