Student Nearly Taken Off Life Support Recovers

A young college student who made international headlines in 2011 for his remarkable recovery after nearly being taken off life support is continuing to defy odds. After three years of intensive medical treatment at Barrow Neurological Institute for critical brain injuries sustained in a car accident, Sam Schmid, 24, has returned to college and is coaching basketball at the very school he was coaching the night his accident occurred.

Schmid made headlines in 2011 for wiggling two fingers as medical staff discussed the possibility of taking him off life support. His tremendous recovery is being called miraculous by many.

“It’s taken a great medical team as well as hard work and dedication to make the type of recovery I’ve made,” says Schmid. “Not only did I learn to walk and talk again but I’ve learned how to reintegrate myself back into the community and to be successful.”

Schmid was on his way home from coaching basketball to middle school children at Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic School in Tucson when his accident occurred. He suffered critical injuries including a brain aneurysm, stroke, and a severe brain injury from the five car accident. Emergency responders originally declared Schmid dead at the scene but he began to respond. He was flown to Barrow in Phoenix to undergo immediate brain surgery. Nearly two weeks following surgery with no responsive signs and being close to brain death, discussions began about taking him off life support. His brain surgeon at Barrow, Dr. Robert Spetzler, however recommended keeping him on life support for one more week. That evening, Schmid began following commands by holding up two fingers.

Schmid’s long recovery began at Barrow’s inpatient neuro rehabilitation center where he spent two months re-learning to speak and walk. He then began outpatient therapy at Barrow’s Center for Transitional Neuro Rehabilitation (CTN) where he spent nearly 40 hours a week for more than years undergoing intensive speech, physical and occupational therapy. As part of Barrow’s renowned CTN program, Schmid also began learning to transition back to work and school.

“When I first started treating Sam, he was learning the basic functions of life such as swallowing,” says Dr. Kristi Husk, Schmid’s neuropsychologist at Barrow. “Just three years since his accident, Sam’s back in school and is coaching basketball. His recovery has been incredible.”

To inspire others and to share his remarkable story, a video has been created highlighting Schmid’s recovery.

Barrow, which is part of Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, is one of the world’s leaders in treating neurological disorders and performs more brain surgeries than anywhere in the United States.