Giffords isn't only inspiration as man shares story of recovery

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PHOENIX - Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is just one Arizonan showing strength in overcoming a traumatic brain injury, but there are others who are working to make full recoveries from their brain injuries.

“I remember looking into the backseat and seeing my trunk,” Raymond Popp said.

January 6, 2011 is a day Popp will never forget.

He was driving to a client's house in Wickenburg when he was rear ended at a red light.

“I remember touching the back of my head and my hand was all full of blood,” Popp said.

He is just one of the 1.7 million Americans who suffer this type of injury every year.

“I pretty much had to learn how to walk and talk again,” Popp said. “I was using a walker because I had left sided weakness.”

Whether the injury is considered mild or severe the key to recovery is therapy.

Popp went to the Center for Transitional Neurorehabilitation or CTN at Barrow Neurological Institute at Saint Joseph's Hospital.

“My motivation is my wife, my son, my unborn child and so I was determined to do whatever it takes to get back,” Popp said.
“We do a start with the areas we feel the person is going to succeed,” Dr. Pamela Klonoff said. “So gradually we add responsibilities and challenges for the person. First here in the clinic in terms of cognitive language or physical activities and then the next step is what we call generalizing or transferring of those skills from here to the community.”

Klonoff is a clinical neuropsychologist at CTN.

She said while every patient's injuries are different the goal is to help them get back to doing basic things.

“We're helping each person adjust and cope to their maximum level which may or may not be a full recovery, and yet they can still be productive,” Klonoff said.

Popp has been in therapy since February.

While things are gradually improving, he still has trouble.
“I still have problems with my executive thinking which we're working on and today I made some progress,” Popp said.

His progress includes making a transition back to work as a physical therapist at Amedisys home health of Surprise.

A therapist from CTN shadows him during the day. And while Popp’s battle to get better continues, giving up is never an option.

“It’s just a minor setback,” Popp said. “I do forget things, but I do have compensations that help me. I'm still the same person, in fact, I'm even better.