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Miracle recovery

Richardton rancher survives near-fatal head injury
Rancher Dale Diede credits Medcenter One Rehabilitation for his recovery.
Rancher Dale Diede credits Sanford Health’s rehabilitation team for his recovery following a serious head injury in March 2009.
  Life changed for Dale Diede on March 27, 2009, but the Richardton rancher doesn’t remember anything of that fateful day. He was in an enclosed tractor pulling a semi-truck that became stuck on a gravel road. The chain snapped and came through the back window of the tractor, striking the side of his face.

His son Dillon saw the accident and called for help. The Richardton ambulance was met during transit by an ambulance from Bismarck, which took him to Sanford Emergency & Trauma Center.

Diede, now 49, suffered facial fractures, a broken jaw, lacerations and traumatic brain injury.

“The consequences of his head injury were severe the first few months,” said Dr. Douglas
Eggert, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Sanford Health. “He was profoundly impaired in his thinking skills and memory and mildly paralyzed on his left side. He also suffered behavior issues, including agitation and impulsiveness.”

Diede’s jaw was wired shut. He couldn’t speak, had swallowing difficulties and required a feeding tube. Two people had to help him walk.

On April 16, he was transferred from Sanford Health ’s orthopedic hospital unit to its inpatient rehabilitation unit— Sanford Health ’s accredited hospital program devoted to helping patients who have physical or cognitive deficits as the result of an injury or disease.

“My rehabilitation was excellent,” Diede said. “They brought me back. The odds of
surviving the accident were incredible, much less my being able to walk, talk, drive and function again.

Diede’s weekly care meetings involved nursing staff, therapists from occupational, physical and speech therapy, a social worker and a dietitian. As medical director of the rehabilitation center, Dr. Eggert oversaw the team and made certain Diede was medically able to participate in the required three hours of daily therapy.
  Dr. Douglas Eggert
Douglas
Eggert, MD

Rehabilitation

“The communication involved with the team approach is critical to successfully achieving common goals,” Dr. Eggert said.

Marjorie Johnson, speech/language pathologist, focused on Diede’s speech, memory and thinking problems. “He couldn’t remember what he had done 30 minutes ago. We taught him strategies to help with remembering and organizing,” she said.

Diede’s speech was unintelligible when he began therapy. “After working with him, his speech improved so we were able to understand him, even with his jaw wired shut,” Johnson said.

In addition to speech therapy, Diede’s daily routine included physical therapy to assist him in strengthening his left side and learn to walk independently. Occupational therapists helped him relearn activities of daily living on Easy Street, Sanford Health’s innovative simulated community designed to help patients learn to function in real-life situations without leaving the hospital.

On May 14, Diede walked out of Sanford Health.

Diede spent the first few weeks with family before returning home, where his son Dillon was now living and running the ranch.

“I couldn’t drive those first months,” Diede said. “I had to write down everything I did during the day, including eating.”

Diede still keeps a daily log and uses lists whenever he goes shopping. He is driving again and working one day a week at a Dickinson sale barn. His cell phone is always with him if he needs assistance.

“I’m back to horseback riding,” he said. “My left side is still weak, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to rope calves again. It’s hard when your brain wants to do something, and you can’t.”

He’s resumed some chores but is much slower and has to make certain he doesn’t forget anything. “I’m not 100 percent, but I know I’m getting better,” he said.

Diede enjoys stopping by the Sanford Rehabilitation Center to visit. “It’s worth the trip to see the smiles on their faces when they see me,” he said.

Click here for more information on Sanford Rehabilitation Center or call (701) 323-6021.

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