The Journey Back From Brain Injury

Some patients, he adds, may never recover past the minimally conscious state they entered after their injury.

But for "success stories," such as Baglione's, a question remains: Can patients recover completely?

"I've never seen that happen in 26 years of treating 11,000 patients," O'Shanick said. "Can they get close? Yes. But do they have to make concessions? Yes."

Sometimes, though, even small steps toward recovery can make a big difference to loved ones.

On a Monday morning in March, Woodruff's wife, Lee, pulled back the curtain in his room to find him fully conscious for the first time in a long time. He was sitting up in bed with bright eyes.

He turned to his wife and said, "Sweetie, where have you been?"

As Woodruff continued his recovery from this point, he began a life forever changed by his injury, but not without hope.

"It's about regaining cognitive skills, but also about managing loss, as well as acceptance and finding your own new place in the world," said Susan Connors, president and CEO of the Brain Injury Association of America.

"My hope is that others who sustain brain injuries show the same kind of courage that Bob and the Woodruff family have."

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