Matthew’s TBI journey, his participation in a research trial, and his reunion with those that cared for him

Matthew Hector Wanda And Daughter TBI Patient

All Matthew Hector remembers on that beautiful July day after swimming in Lake Minnetonka, is riding his motorcycle with his buddy, Donovan. After the crash, nothing was memorable.

Witnesses called 911, and police arrived at the crash site in Mound, MN at 6:30 pm on July 10, 2023. Donovan, Matthew’s friend of ten years, was an EMT so attended to Matthew until paramedics arrived and rushed him to HCMC’s Emergency Department. He was admitted to the ICU, and neurosurgery called his wife, Wanda. She was told Matthew’s brain was severely damaged and was quickly swelling and they needed to perform a decompressive craniectomy, in which a piece of the skull is removed to alleviate swelling and is put back later in another surgery. They needed consent. Wanda quickly gave it and immediately drove from their small town in Winthrop and headed to HCMC.

Matthew Hector in SICUAfter a 4-5 hour surgery, Matthew spent about three weeks in the ICU. One day shy of the one-month anniversary of the crash and their 19th wedding anniversary on August 9 he was transferred to the V.A. As an army veteran for 13 years, with two deployments and three years in Iraq, Matthew started his rehab in the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Minneapolis. He was discharged from there on September 21.Matthew in SICU

During his stay at HCMC, Wanda saw a lot of doctors and nurses care for her husband. At one time she heard someone say “he would be a perfect candidate for the HOBIT study”. The HOBIT study? Wanda wanted to hear more, and a coordinator of the trial called to explain what it was, what was involved and why it was important. “They explained it very clearly and we were happy to give back and join the study”, said Wanda. “We were in.”

Matthew Hector TBI patient HOBIT trialThe Hyperbaric Oxygen Brain Injury Treatment (HOBIT) trial is a national study of twelve Level I trauma centers in the nation of which Hennepin Healthcare is one. The trial centers on how the injured brain utilizes oxygen, and how hyperbaric oxygen, which delivers 100% oxygen at increased atmospheric pressure in a chamber, helps heal the brain and may improve outcomes. Matthew received 7 total treatments or “dives” in our hyperbaric chamber.

Matthew still has slight side effects. He struggles a little with memory. As a welder, he works with blueprints and plans and admits some days are easier than others. But Matthew says, “I have no complaints. I know where I could be, and I know where I am”.

Wanda said, “Throughout this ordeal our daughter, Calliope, who is now 11 years of age, was scared but very brave. The first time I took her to see him I carefully explained what everything was that was attached to her dad and what it was doing to help him just to help mentally prepare her for what she was about to see. She was pretty brave about it. She was afraid to touch him but not talk to him. I remember her asking me and his nurses so many intelligent questions about what was happening.”

Matthew Hector in SICU

The Hectors with Jimmy, Erin and Blake in the SICU

When asked if he has any standout providers he remembers, Matthew says “I don’t know anyone who worked on me, but they earned their money that day”. On January 26, Matthew came back for a HOBIT related blood draw with his wife and daughter and got to meet those who cared for him and tour the areas where he was treated and recovered.

Matthew Hector in SICU with OT

Matthew with his Occupational Therapist Briana

Starting in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU), many staff did a double take when they came in. Matthew didn’t remember too much, but Wanda and Calliope recognized everyone and, of course, staff remembered Matthew. All were amazed at his progress. Some of the SICU nurses are trained to take patients to the HBO chamber and they provide continuous care and monitoring while the patient is in the chamber.

Matthew Hector in HBO with Dr. Masters HOBIT

Matthew with Dr. Masters in HBO

After that was a trip down to Hyperbaric Medicine to visit and thank staff and actually walk into the chamber he dove in and even hear the sounds made during the dive. Those two units, SICU and HBO, don’t usually see patients after they leave their care, so not only was it heart-warming for the Hector family, but for the amazing staff who helped him on his journey back to life.