CINCINNATI—Nicholas Gattermeyer, a 25-year-old West Chester, Ohio, police officer, was discharged from Drake Center Friday following a meteoric recovery from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) suffered two and a half weeks ago when his cruiser struck a tree in early morning fog.
Although Gattermeyer still has significant rehabilitation ahead of him, his doctors at Drake Center and UC Health University Hospital expect a full recovery and predict that he could be back at work within three to six months.
Gattermeyer thanked emergency personnel, his doctors and nurses, his family and friends, and fellow officers during a press conference prior to his discharge.
Gattermeyer was in critical condition and in a coma following the Nov. 24 car crash. He was rushed to University Hospital’s Level 1 trauma center with bleeding in and around his brain, lacerations, and broken bones in his right leg and foot.
He spent a week in the hospital’s neuroscience intensive care unit, relying on a ventilator to breathe. Doctors placed a shunt in his brain to allow drainage and alleviate the pressure. Advanced brain monitoring devices helped the hospital’s neurocritical care team optimize the pressure, oxygen and blood flow to his brain. The team also monitored him around the clock with equipment that can detect very subtle seizure activity that may not be visible to the human eye.
“University Hospital is the only facility in the region that has a dedicated Neuroscience ICU with neuro-intensivists—critical care physicians who specialize in problems of the brain and spine—as well as nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, and many other health care personnel who specialize in this type of problem,” said Lori Shutter, MD, director of the neurocritical care program at the UC Neuroscience Institute and a neuro-intensivist with the Mayfield Clinic. “Other than University Hospital, the nearest hospitals that could provide this level of care are in Cleveland, St. Louis, or Chicago.”
Shutter said Gattermeyer’s seatbelt kept him from striking his head against the windshield, likely saving his life. But the impact of the crash resulted in an acceleration-deceleration phenomenon, causing the soft brain to shake within the rigid skull. "You've heard of shaken baby syndrome," Shutter said. "A traumatic brain injury of this kind could be considered a shaken adult syndrome."
Gattermeyer regained consciousness while in the NSICU and on December 1 was transferred to Drake, where he continued his recovery under the direction of Mark Goddard, MD, medical director of Drake Center’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Services, chair of the physical medicine and rehabilitation department at UC and a member of the UC Neuroscience Institute.
“After he joined us at Drake Center, we took over our part of rebuilding and restoring,” Goddard said. “Nick was talking when he got here, but he was still in a lot of pain. He had a lot of headaches, which is very common with TBI. He also had some pretty significant fractures in his right leg. We had to keep reminding him that he couldn’t bear weight.”
Gattermeyer underwent intensive physical and occupational therapy during his 11 days at Drake Center and will continue to undergo therapy on an outpatient basis as he works to regain skills related to cognition, memory, and balance.
“It is extremely satisfying to see someone recover this well,” Shutter said. “It brings tears to the eyes of even the most experienced team member. This is why all of us in the Neuroscience ICU at University Hospital do what we do. This is what we hope for with all of our patients.”
The UC Neuroscience Institute, a regional center of excellence, is dedicated to patient care, research, education, and the development of new treatments for stroke, brain and spinal tumors, epilepsy, traumatic brain and spinal injury, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, disorders of the senses (swallowing, voice, hearing, pain, taste and smell), and psychiatric conditions (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and depression).
UC Health is a partnership of the University of Cincinnati, University of Cincinnati Physicians (Cincinnati’s largest group of specialists) and University Hospital, the area’s premier teaching hospital and trauma center. Together, they comprise more than 650 clinicians, a 650-bed hospital, 20 clinical locations across the region and a growing medical campus in West Chester, which includes a medical office building and UC Health Surgical Hospital (formerly University Pointe Surgical Hospital). More information at uchealthnow.com.