Kenneth’s Story: A Chance To Start Over

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Kenneth Coleman believes that God puts people in your life for a purpose. “From the doctors and the medical staff that was involved in dealing with my injury…and I believe that God put Stacey in my life because God knew that this time would come…and she was the perfect person for me to get through what needed to be done.”

When Kenneth met Stacey, he was doing work for a company that did advertising, and he walked into Stacey’s place of employment. “I gave her my business card and I fell in love with her right on the spot,” he says.

“Well if I may be transparent, that's only some of the story,” says Stacey. “I was the assistant manager at this place where I worked at and this tall 6'2” very built man was coming through my front door. And outside the door it said no solicitation. I said, ‘It says no solicitation.’ So he kind of chuckled.”

Stacey says Kenneth always had a smile. “I mean biggest, as big as the sky. And then he went on to say, ‘You're not from here, are you?’ And I said, ‘Need you ask me that?’ And he said, ‘You're not…come on. Loosen up. Loosen up.’ And then he's like, ‘Well I'm Kenny Coleman. You sure are pretty.’ Then that's when the smile came. So anyway, that's how Kenny and I met.”

‘So Much To Live For’

At the time of Kenneth’s accident, he and Stacey had been together for 20 years and married for 18. But they were separated.

“Kenny and I have two children together and we were a regular couple going through life who experienced some marital challenges,” says Stacey.

“We had met for lunch the very day of his accident, and I said, ‘Listen, where are we going with all of this? I'm ready to call it quits. It's just not working. Let's go ahead and plan in the spring to get a divorce.’ And he said to me, ‘No. We're going to work through this.’ And I just remember looking at him…and he cut me off and told me that day, ‘We have so much to live for.’"

Later that evening, Stacey received a call from a neighbor alerting her that Kenneth had been in a severe car accident.

“I've never seen anything like it before. It seems like a robot was inside of the vehicle because I can clearly tell you no human could've made it through that car the way it was shattered,” Stacey says. “My life flashed before my eyes because of our children. My heart was just bottomed out. I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ But it also flashed back that I had just seen him that afternoon, too.”

 A Complex Brain Injury And Cardiac Arrest

Kenneth suffered a cardiac arrest following the accident, and was taken by CareFlight Air and Mobile Services [link to Emergency and Trauma>Careflight Air and Mobile page 10.6] to Miami Valley Hospital. Upon arrival, he was immediately assessed by neurosurgeon Peter Letarte, MD, along with the trauma team.

“Kenneth was in a motor vehicle accident that was a complex head injury,” says Dr. Letarte. “By that I mean he had complex facial fractures, so his whole skull had multiple fractures and his brain injury was a troubling kind of brain injury called diffuse injury. He literally had air, small bubbles of air throughout his brain.”

“At the time, Kenneth had a marginal neurological status,” says Akpofure Peter Ekeh, MD, FACS, trauma surgeon at Miami Valley Hospital. “He didn’t recognize anybody. Just really wasn’t expected to have a great outcome at that time, which looked very sad to us because he was a young man,” Dr. Ekeh says.

Dr. Letarte says they realized Kenneth had likely fractured the space where the nerves going to the eyes go through, injuring the optic nerves. “It’s hard to take care of these,” says Dr. Letarte. “A neurosurgeon doesn’t take care of the face; an oral maxillofacial surgeon takes care of the face and you have to have a team that can do that.” 

Dr. Letarte explains that you must be able to get an airway in someone who has bad facial fractures, and that’s not always easy. You need a team that’s skilled at providing an airway. “The resuscitation is extremely complex when you have an injury like this,” he adds.

Long Recovery

Dr. Ekeh says that it was uncertain how Kenneth’s recovery was going to turn out. “He was expected to have a long recovery, so we went ahead and placed a feeding tube and a tracheostomy to help him get off the ventilator quicker.”

Kenneth was monitored closely. “We watched the inner cranial pressure. We watched the blood pressure. You just sort of move ahead in faith, but do it very well,” says Dr. Letarte. “You can’t give up on it. You don’t know if what you’ve done has succeeded for months or sometimes years.”

Stacey remembers being at Kenneth’s side during his recovery. “I said to him, ‘If you’re in there buddy, you’re going to have to show me something.’ For the first day, nothing happened. The second day nothing happened, but I tell you this, on the third day…I said, ‘Ken, if you’re in there, you need to give me a sign. Move your toe. Move your foot.’ And I promise you with all my might he moved his foot. And he squeezed my hand.”

One month following the accident, Kenneth was transferred to another facility for further surgeries and rehabilitation. A month later, he awoke with long-term memory loss and blindness in both eyes due to trauma from the accident.

A Second Chance

For Kenneth, he’s gotten a second chance. “The blessing for me is that God has given me another opportunity to start over and move forward and get on the track with my wife,” he says. “That we can come back together and be a family. And I’m so excited about that.”

Stacey says the team at Miami Valley Hospital was extraordinary. “In my loneliest moments, it wasn’t just the doctors who put him back together again. It was the cashier in the cafeteria. The individual who sat at the ICU unit when we decided to shut down all visitation. It was the staff who kept me together.”

“Everybody has such a special role,” says Dr. Ekeh. “I never want to belittle what anyone does. Every once in a while, we all get humbling experiences that make us realize that this thing is much more than us.”

Dr. Letarte says that Miami Valley Hospital is well-resourced and is clearly committed to the care of the injured patient. “That’s cliché in a lot of the trauma world, but it’s a reality here.”

Kenneth is grateful for all that was done for him. “I just thank God for saving me 

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