For over 17 years, Eric Blumentritt has worked for a power tool service company in Deer Park, Texas. Away from his job, he is a husband, father and musician who plays with a local band. After an accident at work resulted in a traumatic brain injury, Eric went to TIRR Memorial Hermann for rehabilitation. Today, he is back at work and back making music.
In October 2021, Eric was working on a piece of hydraulic equipment when it malfunctioned, causing metal shrapnel to hit him in the head. The result was a traumatic brain injury. Eric was taken via Memorial Hermann Life Flight® to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. There, surgeons performed a craniectomy and removed a portion of his skull, which allowed space for his brain to swell. Months later, a titanium plate was implanted in his skull to replace the missing bone.
“Once I was medically stable, about a week after my initial admission to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, I was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann for rehabilitation,” said Eric. “When I arrived at TIRR Memorial Hermann, I wasn’t able to walk, so I had to use a wheelchair.”
TIRR Memorial Hermann Workers’ Compensation Program provides expedited access to comprehensive care from experienced providers to individuals, like Eric, who are suffering from work-related injuries.
“During his transition from Memorial Hermann-TMC, Eric was significantly cognitively impaired: disoriented, with poor safety awareness, and impulsivity,” said P. Jacob Joseph, MD, associate professor and vice chair of clinical operations in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and Eric’s affiliated attending physician at TIRR Memorial Hermann. “For example, he pulled at the tubing used to feed him and we had to maintain one-to-one direct supervision to protect his safety, including making sure he continued wearing his helmet (as he was missing part of his skull).”
“Mr. Blumentritt made amazing progress during his stay at TIRR Memorial Hermann,” said Dr. Joseph, who is medical director of the International Program at TIRR Memorial Hermann, clinical chief of Neuromuscular Rehabilitation and director of Medical Affairs and Services, Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Network. “With time, he showed ongoing improvement in his cognition, and he cleared a confusional state called post-traumatic amnesia. With the diligent work of his multidisciplinary team and addition of medications to facilitate his cognitive recovery, he made tremendous progress in his cognition and was nearly independent with much of his mobility and daily activity performance by discharge.”
In November 2021, Eric was discharged from TIRR Memorial Hermann inpatient care. At that point, he was able to walk and complete many activities of daily living, such as daily personal care in the bathroom. Because he reached his inpatient goals, he was ready to transition to TIRR Memorial Hermann’s Challenge Program and prepare for his return to work.
The Challenge Program provides a comprehensive range of services to help brain injury survivors maximize their independence. Specialized services focus on community integration skills that are critical for transitioning into independent living, school, work or volunteer activities following a brain injury. This outpatient day treatment approach addresses the physical abilities, memory strategies, interpersonal communication and problem-solving skills survivors need for long-term success.
“Eric came to the Challenge Program with the desire to return to work,” said occupational therapist Jenna Compton, OTR. “He was having difficulties with his cognitive skills (attention, memory, dual tasking), cognitive endurance and fine motor coordination. We were able to target those skills in our OT sessions through simulated work tasks, high-level meal preparation, and dual tasking activities. Eric pushed through the pain and discomfort of his craniectomy to give 100% in each session in order to achieve his goal of returning to work.”
“We used a variety of strategies not only to help him return to work, but also return to his life as a dad,” said his inpatient physical therapist, Dana Cherry, PT, DPT. “His dedication and willingness to try to new things was a huge asset to his recovery. Eric always showed up to therapy ready to put in the work to maximize his outcomes.”
Within the Challenge Program, his TIRR Memorial Hermann Employment Specialist Angi Holley COTA, CESP, added, “We ensured that Eric was prepared to return to work and utilized his job description as a check-off list. We were able to get Eric back to work with a gradual return-to-work plan that his employer supported."
In June 2022, Eric started working 30 hours a week, and he gradually increased to working 40 hours a week over the course of the next three months.
“My coworkers were amazed at how well I was doing,” said Eric. “Today, I am on my way to a promotion! I’m also back to playing music with my band and playing with my kids. I’m so pleased with how far I’ve come!”
For the 34th consecutive year, TIRR Memorial Hermann is recognized as the best rehabilitation hospital in Texas and No. 4 in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report's "Best Rehabilitation Hospitals" in America.Learn More
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