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Joseph: Recovery After A Skiing Accident

HuertaOn March 13, 1998, Joseph Huerta and his siblings took off for a skiing trip. As they prepared to hit the slopes, Joseph decided to be the first one to go. As he skied down the hill, Joseph lost his balance and was unable to recover. He went over a 15-foot cliff and hit his head on a tree. He was rushed unconscious to the Denver Medical Center, where they found his skull to be broken into 23 separate pieces. The doctors performed a nine-hour surgery, drilling two 1-centimeter holes in his skull and inserting tubes to relieve the pressure of the swelling. They also removed some of the fractured bones and replaced them with a titanium plate. After the surgery Joseph was left in a coma and his doctor informed his parents that he would likely never wake up from it. However, after 12 days, Joseph beat the odds and regained consciousness.

After being discharged from the hospital, Joseph was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann where he was under the care of Cindy Ivanhoe, M.D. When he was admitted, his condition was that of a child learning to walk and move all over again. Over a period of three months, therapists at TIRR Memorial Hermann worked with him every day on his speaking and moving abilities, steadily strengthening his cognitive, neurological and behavioral capabilities. 

Joseph continued seeing Dr. Ivanhoe in the TIRR Memorial Hermann outpatient clinic, where she and other doctors concluded he suffered from dystonia, a movement disorder that causes the muscles to contract and spasm involuntarily, and she recommended treatment with Botox® injections. Joseph has continued to build his body strength by doing personal training for the past 10 years. 

Even though Joseph no longer practices law, he is devoted to community projects like “Puedo,” a scholarship fund he created for young minds that are eager to further their education. In 2014, Joseph also published his memoir, “Broken Brain,” where he tells the story of his life before the accident, and his journey to recovery. Having been an injury attorney prior to his injury, he is now able to see things from the perspective of his former clients. He carries within himself the desire to help those in similar conditions and provide support and hope for them as well. At the time of his injury, doctors believed he would not wake up. Today, Joseph lives a normal and independent life, caring for his 17-year-old son and continuing to encourage and inspire brain injury survivors by sharing his story.

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