Jonathan’s Story: Outrunning TBI

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

In December 2002, Jonathan Swiatocha and his family were hit by a drunk driver. The then 10-year-old Jonathan suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). When the cars collided, the right side of Jonathan’s brain made impact with his skull, causing swelling and bleeding in his parietal lobes. The damage left him temporarily paralyzed on his left side. He was told that he would never be able to walk again, and several doctors gave his parents a long list of limitations he would experience for the rest of his life, including his cognitive abilities.

Over the last 14 years, Jonathan has focused on training his body and his brain to make physical and cognitive victories.

He began 12 days after the accident, taking his first step. He filled his days with speech, occupational and physical therapy sessions while experiencing the effects of TBI – severe depression, anger, anxiety, loneliness, post- traumatic stress disorder and memory loss.

A year after the accident, Jonathan participated in a study at the Center for BrainHealth in which he worked with Lori Cook, Ph.D., director of pediatric brain injury programs, on strategies to improve his memory, strategic attention and big- picture thinking. He continued to strengthen his cognitive function, participating in Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART) where he learned strategies to enhance his brain performance in a small group setting and practiced brain exercises such as developing themes and abstracting takeaway messages from detailed text and images.

Jonathan says that he still struggles with the ability to remember, reason, stifle negative thoughts, and communicate clear messages on a daily basis. He acknowledges that his recovery is an ongoing process, but refuses to let this injury define him.

Now, Jonathan not only walks but has developed a passion for running. He competes in races several times a year and has a big goal in mind: To be the first Olympic runner to have a TBI.

Jonathan’s career as a professional speaker also defies his initial TBI prognosis

“I am thankful for my ability to run, but I’m also thankful for my ability to tell others about what life is like after a brain injury,” said Jonathan. “My hope is that my TBI recovery story helps provide hope and purpose for someone else after injuring their brain.”

Pictured: Nellie Caulkins, M.S., CCC-SLP, clinical supervisor at the Center for BrainHealth and senior clinician at the Brain Performance Institute and Jonathan Swiatocha.

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