Two years after a car accident nearly ended his life, Jonathan Kistle can still be found at the Middletown complex where Christiana Care Rehabilitation Services is located. But he’s not a patient anymore; he’s working as an apprenticed electrician at CECO Electric across the street.
Jonathan’s story is nothing short of miraculous, a testament to human strength, and the power of kindness and compassion. On December 29, 2011, Kistle was returning from a vacation with his family when his aunt had a lupus-related seizure while driving. She floored the accelerator to 95 mph and drove straight into a tree. One passenger died, all other passengers sustained major injuries. Kistle suffered a traumatic brain injury, several skull fractures and a paralyzed vocal cord. He was not expected to survive.
After two weeks in a medically induced coma, Kistle came to with his family around him. The prognosis was not good. Ninety percent of people with similar injuries don’t regain consciousness. Of those who do, almost all suffer permanent brain damage. Kistle was the exception.
Almost immediately he showed signs of progress. After three weeks in the hospital and another two weeks of in-hospital rehabilitation, Jonathan returned to his home in Magnolia, Del. He could function on a basic level but still had double vision, a paralyzed vocal cord and serious motor impairment.
In mid-February Kistle went to see Dr. Kelly Heath at Wilmington Hospital. She would oversee his recovery for the next seven months. Kistle would need speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and several specialists to get him back on track. For three hours a day, two days a week he worked on his motor skills, vision and speech. His neuro-ophthalmologist had him wearing a prism to correct his double vision. His otolaryngologist pumped up his collapsed vocal chord with an injection while he received speech therapy. In physical therapy Kistle built up his strength and perfected his fine motor skills.
From the way they treated my family, to the knowledge of the staff, I will always be thankful for the people there.
But it wasn’t just the staff’s expertise that helped Kistle recover so quickly. The generosity and the kindness of the doctors and rehabilitation services staff had a major impact on his recovery. “They treated me with so much love and respect, and I think I recovered faster because of it,” Kistle said. “Every step of the way they were there, building up my self-esteem and confidence.”
By the middle of August 2012 Kistle had made a full recovery, an amazing feat.
“To tell you the truth,” he said, “I think my memory is actually better than it was before the accident. Christiana Care played a big part in that.” Not only did his memory improve, but his vision returned to normal and his voice transformed from barely a whisper to a warm tenor. He is now driving, walking and running and has regained the muscle mass he lost over the nine months he spent recovering.
These days Kistle often goes back to the rehab center, but only to say hello and reminisce with the staff about his incredible recovery.
“The whole experience was just fantastic,” he said. “From the way they treated my family, to the knowledge of the staff, I will always be thankful for the people there.”