Kara: Neurotrauma Recovery
An automobile accident changed the lives of two sisters interested in medicine, crystallizing their career paths. One graduated from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School in December; the other is now an occupational therapist working at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital.
Their life-changing journey began on June 19, 2002. During the summer after her freshman year of college at Texas A&M, Kara Keuthan Beatty was on her way to summer school at a community college when a truck ran a red light and T-boned her car. She lost consciousness, and emergency responders had to use the “jaws of life” to free her from the wreckage. Transported to Ben Taub General Hospital, she remained in a coma for three days in the Neurotrauma ICU, with a moderate traumatic brain injury, two fractures of the pelvis, fractured ribs, a lacerated spleen and a collapsed lung.
One week later she was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann. “When I first arrived, I was unable to walk, write or identify objects,” Beatty says. “While in physical therapy I worked on my balance and gross motor skills. In occupational therapy, I was challenged with writing and other activities requiring fine motor skills. In speech therapy I worked on words and their meanings.”
During Beatty’s stay in the rehabilitation hospital, her mother was constantly by her side. When her mother had to leave to attend a funeral in Ohio, her sister, Julie Keuthan, stayed with her to provide support during therapy sessions.“I was 17 when Kara was at TIRR Memorial Hermann, and I was making the decision of what I wanted to do for a career,” Keuthan says. “I always knew I wanted to work in the medical field. When I went to occupational therapy with Kara, I thought it was the coolest thing. I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
Beatty was discharged after three weeks, and participated for six months in the TIRR Memorial Hermann Challenge Program, which provides specialized services focused on community re-entry skills that are critical for the transition to independent living, school or work following brain injury. She returned to Texas A&M in the spring of 2003.
Inspired by her attending physician at TIRR Memorial Hermann, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist Sunil Kothari, M.D., an assistant professor of PM&R at Baylor College of Medicine, Beatty pursued her dream of becoming a doctor. She is currently applying for residency programs in neuropsychiatry with a start date of July 2013. “I chose this field based on my interest in human behavior and the interactions I’ve had with fellow TBI survivors while volunteering at TIRR Memorial Hermann’s Brain Injury Research Center,” she says. “I want to work with patients who are working to overcome some form of brain injury.”
Julie Keuthan completed her bachelor’s in health science and her master’s in occupational therapy at Texas Tech University in December 2009. She says of her sister, “Her determination to stick with it and keep going forward is what impressed me the most. She’s been an inspiration for me. It’s been very tough for her. She was only 19 at the time of the accident. When I think things are difficult in life, I look at Kara and think what I’m going through is a piece of cake.”