Doctors told Zachary Young's family "they didn't know what kind of person I was going to be" following a brain injury in 2011.
Young, 23, of Plainview, was a senior at Binghamton University when he suffered sudden cardiac arrest due to a genetic heart condition. His brain lost oxygen long enough to do damage, and after two hospitalizations and having a defibrillator implanted in his heart he needed to relearn how to walk, talk, write and remember things.
Young's recovery began with three weeks of intensive rehabilitation at Glen Cove Hospital. After continuing treatment elsewhere, he graduated from college in December and has been accepted to several law schools. He returned to Glen Cove Hospital Friday to share his experience at the opening of the new Brain Injury Unit, which will better serve patients like Young with state-of-the-art motion and cognitive function training equipment.
"Although I have slight physical limitations, my life has gotten better…I have more conviction in my studying and my family has gotten closer,” he said.
Adam Stein, chair of physical medicine and rehabilitation at North Shore-LIJ, said the new unit fits into a system of care within the hospital network that provides continuity for patients with challenging recovery needs.
"Brain injury is a process; it is not just a single event. Achieving the best outcomes for patients affected by brain injury requires an integrated team of medical and rehabilitation specialists. We are fortunate to be part of a comprehensive health system that can provide the full continuum of care, from acute management by neurosurgeons, neurologists and physiatrists to inpatient rehabilitation to home and community-based care," Stein said.
The unit boasts a quiet room for patients who can't be exposed to too much visual or audio stimulation, and a large square piece of equipment with lights scattered across it that tests and enhances peripheral vision. It is the same tool used by professional football quarterbacks who need to learn how to focus on a single player while tracking oncoming opponents.
As he spoke, Young smiled to applause over his accomplishments.
"I feel like I got a second chance," he said.