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Learning to Fly

Adam Keszei remains positive about dream of becoming a pilot

Less than three weeks before Adam Keszei was set to enter pilot school, his dream of flying planes was grounded – changing his life forever. But despite a debilitating injury, Adam, who remains fiercely positive and determined, hopes to one day still achieve his goal of flying professionally.

Adam was with friends in a parked vehicle on Christmas night 2014 in Edwardsburg, Michigan, when they were rear-ended by a vehicle traveling 50 mph. Following the impact, Adam, who was unrestrained in the backseat, regained consciousness, but was pinned inside the wreckage.

“I knew something wasn’t right. I couldn’t feel my legs,” he recalls. “But I still had a sense of peace in the car. I knew I would be okay.”

As firefighters prepared to use the Jaws of Life to extricate him from the vehicle, Adam remembers asking them about their Christmas. He also heard the sound of a helicopter – it was Memorial MedFlight landing in a nearby field. Ironically, the Marian High School graduate who dreams of flying was led to safety thanks to the air medical service.

MedFlight transported the then 20-year-old Adam to Memorial Hospital Trauma Services where imaging tests confirmed the worst: He suffered severe fractures in the lumbar region of his spine, causing paralysis from the waist down.

On the day after Christmas, neurosurgeon Robert Yount, MD, performed a six-hour fusion surgery on Adam, inserting three rods in his broken back. Adam remained in the ICU for four days before moving to the rehabilitation floor for two weeks where he began the road to recovery. It was at this time after surgery that Adam began to feel significant pain resulting from the injury.

From January to March, Adam underwent extensive physical and occupational therapy at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, learning to use a wheelchair, cook, get in and out of a car and maneuver around a home.

Today, he has feeling in 80 percent of the upper part of his left leg, but none in his right leg. However, he does feel nerve pain in both legs – a hopeful sign that over time he will regain the ability to walk again. In the meantime, he stays busy exercising and rebuilding muscle in his lower half. In addition to swimming, Adam uses a special device at Memorial Health & Lifestyle Center that allows him to walk on a treadmill.

For the last six months, Adam, now 21, can also be found at Memorial Outpatient Therapy Services. Through Memorial’s Driver Rehabilitation Program, he quickly picked up driving with the use of his hands. That was no surprise to the mechanically minded Adam who rebuilt car motors and changed transmissionsbefore the accident. He still is able to work on cars, though it takes some ingenuity on his part. “There’s always another way to accomplish something. It may take longer, but there’s always a different way.”

Adam and his family appreciate MedFlight, Memorial Trauma Services and the nursing staff for helping to advance his recovery. “I couldn’t have expected anything more. They were fast and very attentive,” says Adam. Adam plans to return to college in the fall of 2016. And his dream of becoming a pilot hasn’t ended. He is charting a new path – a helicopter pilot. “I don’t like to be in one spot,” says Adam. “I like the freedom that flying offers. It would be so rewarding to fly.”

Adam doesn’t feel any self-pity or anger about his injury. In fact, he has risen above such feelings and considers the accident a kind of blessing. “I never despaired. My faith in God prepared me for this injury,” he admits. “I’m as happy or happier than before the accident.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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