While at work in his garage, Andy fell 12 feet and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Neurosurgery and rehabilitation at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center helped Andy get back to his coaching and teaching career.

On December 28, 2008, Andy Bichler fell 12 feet while installing floodlights on his garage. He thought he was fine, but an hour later Andy was disoriented, dizzy and vomiting. His wife called 911 and four weeks later, Andy remembers waking up in Dodd Hall wondering where he was.

Andy, who suffered a traumatic brain injury and multiple skull fractures, came to Dodd Hall on two separate occasions after having neurosurgery for brain hemorrhages.

“My neurosurgeon was Dr. John McGregor and I can’t say enough about how wonderful he was throughout my ordeal,” says Andy.

“Dodd Hall also saved my life. Without Dodd Hall, I might be laying in a bed in a nursing home,” Andy observes. “I have nothing but tremendous things to say about my care there.”

A middle school basketball coach for more than 30 years, Andy was used to pushing his players hard in practices and games. Now, it was his turn for the staff at Dodd Hall to get the most out of him during his many therapy sessions.

Andy talks about his time at Dodd Hall and his recovery

Andy talks about his time at Dodd Hall and his recovery

My rehabilitation in Dodd Hall was from January 14 to February 11, 2009 after 17 days in ICU and a craniectomy to relieve pressure inside the skull. I returned home after four weeks at Dodd Hall wearing a helmet. My cranioplasty, the surgery to replace the bone that had been removed from my forehead, was performed on February 27, but after returning home for three days, I experienced some additional brain hemorrhages, and had a second emergency cranioplasty because blood was pooling on the frontal lobe. Then I returned to Dodd Hall for an additional three weeks, which was followed by outpatient rehabilitation at Ohio State’s Martha Morehouse Medical Plaza.

Therapies at Dodd Hall included physical, occupational, speech and recreational therapy. I remember walking the stairs and treadmill during physical therapy. They were relentless but they were pushing me so that I could get better. I enjoyed speech therapy where I worked mostly on my cognitive skills as my speech was not affected. During occupational therapy, I did a lot of cooking. I made a meal of potato pancakes for the therapists near the end of my first stay. I found my meetings with my psychologist, Dr. Steve Pruett, very helpful in coping with my new situation. He gave me a realistic picture of how serious my injury was and gave me direct answers to my questions. My wife and I stayed in the Independent Living Apartment before my first discharge. She found that very helpful and reassuring for our move back home.

The biggest factors in my successful rehabilitation were Dodd Hall, my family, friends and my school community. Everyone lent a lot of moral support. My wife attended every therapy session with me, learning as much as she could about brain injury. My daughters came in frequently from out of state to help when possible. Once you are home, one thing you really have to watch out for is feeling isolated and depressed. It really lifted my spirits when people called me and asked to take me to do something. Just getting out to go fishing can be a big thing.

To track my progress after my injury my family set up a blog several days after my accident to inform my students of my progress while I was in the hospital and at Dodd Hall. My students would leave words of encouragement for me and my wife. My wife still keeps the blog and will look back to see how much improvement has been made.

Frustrating moments during the process included not being able to drive and when my psychologist Dr. Pruett informed me he was leaving Ohio State because his post-doctoral work was finished. My peripheral vision on my left side was affected and prevented me from being able to drive again. However, my vision has improved and I plan to take the vision test again and try to get my license.

Two big milestones in my recovery were going back to substitute and continuing coaching. I retired in July 2009, but in November, I was hired to coach the eighth grade girls’ basketball team and I was approved for the substitute teacher list at the middle school where I had taught. My basketball team came in first in the league and won the post-season tournament. I have been substitute teaching in the classroom several times a month.

My life after rehabilitation is almost back to normal. I am able to do just about everything I could before my injury except for driving. I can fix my own meals, stay by myself at home and am back to work part time. I can get lost more easily in new places and am not as confident as I used to be with doing some of the outside work that I used to do. I don’t climb trees and remove branches with a chainsaw, for example. But other than those things, I feel I am almost 100 percent.

I owe everything I can do now to the neurosurgeons and Dodd Hall staff and physicians. Everyone worked together as a team to ensure that I was working to my potential as safely as possible.

For patients beginning the rehabilitation process I would advise being patient and listening to the therapists and doctors, because they know more about your medical condition than you do. After my injury, I really thought I would get up the next day and everything would be fine.

Every brain injury is different, but Dodd Hall therapists and doctors will get the best from you. You will continue to make improvements even after you go home. Don’t give up. 

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