Wrestling accident causes a brain injury that went from devastating to miraculous within one year

Brenden Bryce TBI OP With His Therapists, tbi, wrestling accident causes a brain injury, traumatic brain injury, occupational therapy, speech language pathology, physical therapy, grateful patient

Brenden Bryce was just a freshman on the wrestling team at Alexandria Area High School when on Monday, January 9, 2023, something happened that would make his next year a struggle beyond any words a young man could imagine.

Brenden Bryce On Zero G physical therapy

Brenden using the Zero G Gravity machine

Brenden, who began wrestling in kindergarten, was at practice doing a live match, when he hit the back right of his head on the entry door to the wrestling room. He brushed it off but said “there were only like twenty minutes left, but my teammates said I just wasn’t with it”.

A day or two later, he went to his trainer who performed concussion protocol. One of the requirements was you need to stand on one foot, and Brenden couldn’t do it. By Friday, he couldn’t stand or see right. His family took him to Glacial Ridge Hospital in Glenwood, MN.

On Sunday he spiked a 102-degree temperature, and Glacial Ridge had told him that if he spiked a temperature they were to call. Glacial Ridge sent them to Sanford in Fargo and sent a referral to the Hennepin Healthcare Traumatic Brain Injury Outpatient Program. The hospital in Fargo admitted him and over the course of four days, ran a lot of tests. In the end, it was diagnosed as a brain injury, and he was sent home in a wheelchair. He could not walk.

Brenden’s bedroom was in the basement of the Bryce home, so they had to modify things for his access. He had severe headaches all the time. The following week, he went down to Minneapolis to begin outpatient therapy, one of 148 (total of his local, Fargo and HCMC) appointments he would endure during the year.

His first appointment was with Dr. Min Jeong Park Graf, Medical Director of the outpatient program. Tests confirmed he had a moderate to severe brain injury. He also saw the neuro-optometrist who had special glasses made for him. Both eyes had been affected and had sensitivity to light, rapid eye movement, blurred vision, and visual pathway disorder, which basically affected his ability to see.

Brenden Bryce with his cow Legacy

Family brought his heifer, Legacy, in to say hello while still in his wheelchair

Carrie DeNeil, PT, DPT was Brenden’s physical therapist. Carrie said Brenden had impaired mobility & gait. Brenden recalls Carrie moved his therapy to a place where they could practice showing his cattle, for Brenden was in was involved with the Minnesota Youth Beef Experience Program. He explains, “She came in with a makeshift halter (a head collar that fits cattle behind the ears and around the muzzle) and stick so we could practice. It was great. We worked a lot with ankle weights as well and on the Zero G and balance box to learn to walk again”.

Brenden’s speech-language-pathologist was Allison Carolan who has since transitioned to become the manager of the TBI Outpatient Program. Brenden had alexia without agraphia, which allowed Brenden to see letters, but he was unable to comprehend written words. Brenden recalls, “Allison would tell me about the area she grew up in (Decorah, Iowa). Wrestling was a big deal there too. Her family has cattle so she could relate to the work I do”.

Elise Schultz, MS, OTR/L worked with Brenden as his occupational therapist. “Elise set me up with a boxing bag so I could work on my hand-eye coordination. I got to wear boxing gloves”. Elise diagnosed him with Activities of Daily living impairment which meant he needed to relearn home safety and activities. She also helped to retrain his eyes to work together again.

Brenden Bryce TBI OP Patient with therapists and family

Allison Carolan, SLP, Elise Schultz, OT, Brenden, Carrie DeNeil, PT, dad Joe, mom Lacy, and sister Briella

Around the end of March, Brenden was out of his wheelchair more often and using a walker, and by June he was walking with a walking stick. He started his sophomore year of school with the cane, but by the middle of September, he was walking on his own.

Brenden lives in Lowry, MN, a town of less than 500 people about 18 miles outside of Alexandria. Brenden is a member of the Lake Mary Troopers 4-H Club. His family has been farming for the last three generations since his great-grandfather began farming outside of Glenwood, according to the Alexandria Echo Press. He recently won a heifer, Legacy, from the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association. The Echo Press ran a story about Brenden when he visited Legacy during his treatment.

His family is so grateful, they recently came down to Minneapolis to thank the care team after Brenden graduated from the program. His mom Lacy, with tears in her eyes recalled the dark days and the fear Brenden would never recover and finally, the young man who was helped by the program and the three therapists who pushed him. Brenden presented his therapists with a mug engraved with a saying he got off a card , that obviously touched his heart.

Brenden Bryce Mug