Christian Busch is a senior at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School. He’s set to graduate in May 2022. Additionally, he’s received vocational training at Cuyahoga Valley Career Center. His goal is to work in sales and/or services after graduation.
We think he’ll accomplish that goal because Christian is a go-getter. He doesn’t let obstacles defeat him. Born with Down syndrome, he’s learned to make the most of every opportunity—and have fun doing it! But most of all, Christian is just a happy person who brings joy to everyone around him.
“He is pretty much always happy and incredibly loving. Christian thinks about others a lot and often goes out of his way to do nice things for other people,” says his sister Courtney.
His happy-go-lucky life changed suddenly on May 24, 2020. Christian was hit by a minivan while riding his bicycle near his home.
Christian was immediately transported to MetroHealth, the nearest Level 1 Trauma Center, and admitted to the Surgical ICU. Along with a traumatic brain injury, he suffered fractures to his jaw, shoulder, collar bones, ribs, orbital sockets and cheekbones and temporal skull.
The trauma team placed a chest tube in Christian to alleviate some of the blood around his lungs. He was sedated, intubated and placed on a ventilator. The prognosis was initially grim. However, once the neuro-intensivist, Dr. Ari M. Wachsman, saw Christian, they received some hope. Because Christian was young and healthy there was a better chance of recovery.
After 22 days in the SICU—which included jaw surgery, a feeding tube and tracheotomy—Christian was transferred to Select Specialty Hospitals – Cleveland Gateway, a long-term acute care facility. Because he was in a minimally conscious state and unable to actively participate in rehab efforts, he needed to go to a long-term acute care facility first.
As he progressed, it was time to pick a rehabilitation facility. The choice was obvious to his family: MetroHealth’s Rehab Institute.
“When it came to picking a rehab hospital, MetroHealth was the clear answer,” said Marti Neff, Christian’s mother. “Given the level of trauma MetroHealth sees on a regular basis, they have experience treating and rehabbing trauma. MetroHealth was our first choice and the only acceptable option for a rehab facility.”
In July, Christian returned to MetroHealth for acute rehab. Five to six days a week, he devoted one hour each to physical, speech and occupational therapy Christian set goals with all of his therapists:
- PT (Amy Lengyel): Walk independently
- OT (Michelle Stang): Put his arm around his girlfriend, Grace
- Speech (Tracey Kosunik): Swallow so he could get rid of his feeding tube
“After the brain injury, Christian had to learn every basic function all over again. He still had his memories, and he knew who everyone was, but breathing, sitting up, standing, walking, using the bathroom, eating—these all were new experiences for him,” Courtney said.
On Sept. 4—103 days after his accident—Christian finished his last day of inpatient therapy and went home. Christian continued outpatient therapy at MetroHealth, and on Nov. 3, 2020, he returned to classes at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School. By Christmas, the walker was put away and Christian was able to walk on his own.
In April 2021, he took a 19th birthday trip to Florida and rode a recumbent bicycle for the first time since his accident. In June, he completed outpatient therapy. And in September 2021, he was the best man at his sister’s wedding.
“There is no doubt that Christian would not be where he is today without all the physicians, advanced practitioners, nurses therapists, and other medical personnel at MetroHealth,” says Courtney. “They set him up for success and lovingly pushed him along his road to recovery until they were able to teach him to support himself.”