Patient returns to HCMC to thank caregivers

On August 16, 2003, John Frank of Wabasso was involved in an accident where steel scaffolding fell from 6 feet landing on him, fracturing his skull, cheekbone and pelvis. He was immediately transported to Hennepin County Medical Center where he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.

Several times during his 40+ day hospitalization  it appeared that John would not survive his injuries. But his family and caregivers never gave up hope, and he reached a point of recovery where he could be discharged to an extended care facility for rehabilitation. At home, John continued to receive speech, occupational and physical therapy. His remarkable recovery had everyone in smiles when he returned to HCMC 8 years later on Thursday, November 10 to thank his caregivers.

Dr. Tummula and John Frank

“The odds were stacked against him,” said Dr. Ramachandra Tummula, who was a neurosurgery resident back in 2003.  “It’s folks like John that keep us going.”

Dr. Tummula and Dr. Tricia Valusek were two of the many physicians who cared for John and got to know his family. They joined nurses and other staff members to visit with John and his family on November 10. While everyone looked at photos and shared memories, thoughts returned to the severity of his injuries, and the miraculous recovery he’s made.

“I have thought of John and his family so often over the years,” said Dr. Valusek, who is now a pediatric surgeon at Children’s Hospital. “He’s one of the  most memorable patients I cared for during my 6 years at HCMC.” She recalled when he finally made a purposeful movement — a thumbs up.

John Frank and Dr. Trish Valusek

“Two other doctors and I started crying. They won’t admit it, but I will.”

Kelly White, RN, was one of John’s nurses back in 2003, and she’s now the interim Director of Critical Care at HCMC.  She says that hearing positive feedback from patients is extremely valuable for caregivers. “John’s visit really  means a lot to us. It’s just amazing to see how much he has recovered, and to see his wonderful family again.”

“Just to know you had an impact on a patient and family — there’s nothing like that feeling,” says White.

John Frank and his wife, Char have been married for 38 years and have 6 grown children.  Since the time of John’s injury, two more of their children were married and 6 more grandchildren, now totaling 13, were added to their family.  John continues to be highly motivated to heal from his injuries.  He stays busy helping with household chores including cooking and enjoys spending time playing board games with his grandchildren and helping them with their homework.  This past summer he reached another milestone in his recovery – he was able to get on his riding lawnmower without assistance and cut the grass at their rural Wabasso home.

 “I’m so blessed,” said John, “I’m truly blessed.”

Read more about John Frank’s story on his Caringbridge site at