PHOENIX – A former University of Arizona student who was nearly taken off life support after suffering critical brain injuries has made a dramatic recovery at Barrow Neurological Institute.
Sam Schmid, 23, was critically injured in a 2011 car accident in Tucson. Emergency responders originally declared him dead at the scene, but Schmid began to respond and he was flown to Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix to undergo brain surgery.
"They found that I had an aneurysm," Schmid said. "They realized that I also had a stroke from that aneurysm."
A week after brain surgery, with no responsive signs and being close to brain dead, discussions began about taking him off life support, according to hospital spokeswoman Carmelle Malkovich. However, Schmid's brain surgeon recommended keeping him on life support for one more week before deciding. That evening, Schmid stunned everyone by holding up two fingers.
Schmid had to relearn how to speak and walk. He then spent nearly 40 hours a week for two years undergoing intensive speech, physical and occupational therapy. Schmid also began learning to transition back to work by volunteering in the hospital and working at Safeway.
Malkovich said Schmid recently graduated from Barrow's neuro rehabilitation program and has returned home to Tucson where he has enrolled in a college course and is applying for jobs.
"When I first started treating Sam, he was learning the basic functions of life such as swallowing," said Dr. Kristi Husk, Schmid's neuropsychologist at Barrow. "Just two years later, he's back in school and playing basketball. His recovery has been incredible."
"It's not so much that I was lucky that I had such a remarkable recovery, it's that I worked for this remarkable recovery," Schmid said. "And if you put your mind to it, you too could have the same recovery I have. It just takes hard work and dedication and perseverance."
Barrow, which is part of Dignity Health's St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, is one of the world's leaders in treating neurological disorders and performs more brain surgeries than anywhere in the United States.