Keishon Emmens says he is lucky to be alive. In December 2016, he was in a devastating auto accident that crushed his Ford Taurus “like a taco.”

The 20-year-old New Castle man emerged from a weeklong coma to endure eight back surgeries. He continues to recover from the traumatic crash, which resulted in a brain injury that significantly impaired his balance, memory and speech.

Emmens is grateful to his care team who provided physical, occupational and speech therapy in early 2017 at Springside Plaza in Glasgow, one of Christiana Care’s Rehabilitation Services facilities. Because of this and other medical care, he is back to athletic activities, such as running, and has been interviewing for jobs.

Emmens is especially grateful to speech therapist Nora Walstrum, MA, CCC-SLP, who is a certified brain injury specialist through the Brain Injury Association of America. Walstrum helped Emmens overcome cognitive impairment caused by his accident, along with voice and swallowing disorders.

“It’s very broad, what we do, working on a range of areas such as language, speech, articulation and cognition, which includes memory and problem solving,” Walstrum said. “My job is to take a patient’s history and their assessment data in order to focus on meeting their needs so they can fully participate in life.”

At their first meeting, Emmens had a breathy, harsh voice, and difficulty with his memory and the sequencing of ideas.

He also had a hidden passion that Walstrum discovered.

“I always ask patients ‘what is your greatest challenge,’ and Keishon said that he wanted to be a rapper and perhaps one day do music engineering,” she said.

So Walstrum and fellow speech therapist Mindy Myers, MA, CCC-SLP, concentrated on strengthening Emmens’ breath support along with his cognitive sequencing so he could lay down a musical rhyme. As he achieved proficiency, the speech therapists arranged for Emmens to perform in the Springside Plaza physical therapy and occupational therapy gym. His performance included a rap about his positive experiences at Springside with Rehabilitation Services staff.

“He rapped beautifully,” said Walstrum. “Brian Catania, our site manager, happened to hear him and invited him to perform at a staff meeting. It was wonderful watching Keishon get back to something he loved.”

Rekia Lawson, Emmens’ mother, was pleased with the empathetic way that Walstrum and others drew out her son with exercises tailored to his needs.

“With the accident, Keishon lost much of his confidence, and I noticed that through his therapy he began to relax a bit and joke more,” said Lawson. “I was pleased because all of his therapists treated him well and gave him kudos as he progressed.”

Emmens said prior to therapy, he doubted that he would ever rap again, and he was delighted to learn that he could.

“I love Springside and what they were able to help me achieve.”