‘A lot of fear’: Former GICC golfer recovering from traumatic brain injury

Local4 News at 10
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 10:53 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Blakeley Wooden was at the top of her game in October 2022.

The Wayne State College student was working full-time, going for her bachelor’s degree and making time to hit the golf course with friends. She was on her way to her family’s dry cleaning business in Grand Island when she was in a serious car crash where she sustained several broken bones in her pelvis and clavicle as well as brain trauma.

“I had a lot of tears,” Wooden said. “It was very hard for me. All I remember is, I got lunch with my roommate that day. I don’t remember much from it.”

Wooden spent weeks in the intensive care unit at Bryan West Hospital in Lincoln before coming to Madonna’s specialized brain injury rehabilitation unit unable to eat, speak or walk. In a few weeks, Blakeley progressed from needing a tracheostomy tube to breathe to using her voice, making grocery runs in Madonna’s Independence Square, managing budgets, and even driving on virtual streets with Madonna’s driving simulator.

“When she was first here, she was actually very much emotional,” said Betsy Havekost, an occupational therapist at Madonna. “She started to realize what a big change had occurred. That was where her parents were such a big support for her because her dad was here with her for the whole way just encouraging her and alongside her in the journey of like, ‘This is going to be OK and you’re going to be fine.’”

And as her team got to know her interests, they incorporated her favorite hobbies into therapy too. Madonna’s physician-led care teams recognize the importance of using motivating things like a person’s hobbies in therapy sessions. Showing patients what is possible after serious injury or illness is a huge focus for clinicians like Havekost. She encouraged Blakeley to keep a journal to track her progress, and work on her putting game during recreational and occupational therapy.

“I think Madonna is special because it’s like real life,” said Sonya Wooden, Blakeley’s mother. “There’s not a situation here that we don’t experience outside.”

Now home in Grand Island, Blakeley is back to work at her family business with plans to resume her college coursework. Once the weather gets warmer, she’s anxious to hit the greens again too.

“It’s been pretty difficult, but keeping a positive attitude is what really gets me through it,” Wooden said. “I just kind of accepted it and dealt with it.”

“There’s definitely people that just really make you love what you do and why you do it and she’s one of those people,” Havekost added. “She’s one of those stories of just seeing how the brain is such an amazing thing and how a young, active person can really make a lot of progress.”

Note: Some information from this article was obtained from a press release sent by Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals.