After suffering with debilitating symptoms for almost two years, 19-year-old Trevor Kenkel of Montana is finally looking forward to a bright future.
In August of 2012 during a high school football game, an opposing team member took Kenkel down, forcing him to take himself off the field.
“The trainer asked me basic questions like where I was and the day of the week,” says KenkeI. “I was cleared, and sent back out, only to be hit again.”
Four months after back-to-back concussions, Kenkel’s care team in Montana encouraged him to get back out and enjoy himself, but a mishap on the ski slopes left Kenkel with a third concussion. The dates of expected recovery came and went, discouraging Kenkel and his family.
A year later, Kenkel was referred to the Sports Concussion Clinic at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC). The team approached his injury in a collaborative way, including a medicinal regimen, physical therapy and emotional support. “Our goal was to enable him, as opposed to disable him,” says Walter Panis, MD, of the Sports Concussion Clinic and the MGH Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
“Trevor was hypersensitive to light, sound and smell. He couldn’t listen to music or watch TV – even unloading the dishwasher or doing laundry was too loud. He would forget to eat and couldn’t sleep,” says his mother Stephanie Kenkel.
Trevor Kenkel was encouraged by the MGHfC team to go out and do as much as possible. Panis says a major key to his success was the physical therapy led by Lenore Herget, PT, DPT.
“So often, with these prolonged recoveries, patients develop almost a secondary psychosocial limitation from being shut down from school, sports and life,” says Herget. “It becomes a priority to slowly and carefully reintegrate into their prior activities. With Trevor, it was clear he was not himself. I could tell the patient sitting in front of me was not the innovative, personable athlete I came to know.”
Adds Kenkel, “Lenore knew when to push me and when to back off, which made me feel less nervous.”
Herget says she knew Kenkel was willing to work hard to recover. “Sometimes just enabling patients to be active participants in their own recovery can be powerful.”
Kenkel’s mother recalls the first time he was able to sit with friends for a period of time. She immediately emailed Herget. “I wanted to tell her how awesome it was that he could be with friends, not just sitting blankly but involved.”
As he prepares to enter Bowdoin College, Kenkel also is starting his own agriculture business that soon will launch a new product. He is looking forward to enjoying nature again, especially hiking and fishing. With the support of his family and the MGHfC team, Kenkel is off of all major medications and has few headaches.
“I am excited to experience new things and to finally be able to enjoy the opportunities I worked so hard for.”
Read more articles from the 08/01/14 Hotline issue.