From Consumer to Employee
by Clara Reinecke, Seneca Courier-Tribune staff
Mike Huber, like most young folks, thought he was indestructible. Unfortunately he found out differently late on the night of November 16, 2003.
Driving home that night, admittedly after spending the evening partying, he lost control of his vehicle, hitting a light pole and slamming into a bank. Anyway, that’s what he has been told. He has no memory of any of it, and very little of the months to follow.
The family would find out, that as a result of the accident, Mike had suffered a severe brain stem injury that would change life as he knew it. “I remember being in KU Med Center but I don’t remember any details about it,” says Huber who would remain there until February of 2004.
His next step on the road to recovery was a three month stay in a rehabilitation center in Gardner, Kansas. His parents, Mick and Virginia Huber, along with Mike’s daughter, Casey, were weekly visitors to him during that time. They also took him home for weekend stays until technicalities in his insurance coverage no longer made that possible. Frustrations mounted as a result and his parents decided to bring him back to Seneca to continue his recuperation.
In order to bring him home, his mother knew they would have to have help, so she checked into Three Rivers Inc., and what they could offer Mike through the Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver. Within days he was on their services, enabling him to be in his home surrounded by his family.
“Three Rivers services supplied me with a ramp because I was still in a wheelchair. I had a skills trainer who made me walk every day and helped me to relearn some of the skills I had lost,” says Mike. “I had to learn simple household chores and how to manage money so I could someday live by myself again.”
Mike has had to endure a lot of physical and speech therapy, two things he still has to do today. He has made many strides that the doctors didn’t think he would accomplish, including learning to walk again. One of the things he has lost is much of his memory from before the accident. “I don’t remember many of the good things that happened in my life. I don’t remember my daughter being born or being best man in my brother’s wedding. Sometimes though I will hear a song and remember the words. It’s strange.”
Mike’s hard work and diligence has obviously paid off. Today Mike, at 29, is not only walking, but is again able to drive. He’s also proud to say that he can help care for his two daughters, Casey who is now seven, and Emmery, two, and is working 20 hours a week at Three Rivers as a receptionist. “I feel good about being able to work. As a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, it’s important to me to not have too much time on my hands. I want to feel useful.”
And useful he is. “Mike’s story makes me proud,” states Lynn Niehues, Mike’s Targeted Care Manager with Three Rivers. “I knew Mike and his parents before he had his accident, so it was heartbreaking to see him go through his recovery. I remember the day I was driving by his house after he had been on our services for a while, and I saw him out mowing his lawn; it was refreshing!” Lynn adds that just as refreshing was watching Mike give one of his presentations to legislators at the state capitol. “Mike told them that here he was, three years ago he was a consumer, now he is able to work on our staff.”
Lynn also points out that seeing a success story like Mike’s makes budget cuts that much harder to accept. “Kansas has been so fortunate to have programs like these and it is going to be a real shame to lose these services because of the extreme budget cuts that are being imposed.”
As for Mike, he is happy to have regained many of the functions he was told he may not. He chooses today to present himself as a positive role model and give words of encouragement to others who may think that they too are indestructible, including giving a presentation to a high school religion class recently. “You may think you’re just out for a night having fun, but being irresponsible can really throw a kink in your life. No one is invincible. People may think that I’m not so smart because of my injury, but I’m a lot smarter today than I was then.”
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