December 23, 2022
A new kind of robo-technology is helping Jon Crais stand tall again. And he’s getting a boost from the community as well.
It was almost a decade ago that the Dahlonega resident was in a life-altering automobile accident near his school in North Carolina.
Fortunately, police officers were in the vicinity of the wreck. They were responding to and handling a domestic violence call. If they hadn’t been, the officers may have responded too late. The accident caused a severe brain injury, leaving Jon comatose.
When Crais arrived for emergency medical treatment, doctors gave him the lowest rating on the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) — a three out of 15. The GCS is often used following a traumatic brain injury, composed of three subsections: eye, verbal, and motor. It’s meant to calculate the recovery probabilities of those in a coma.
Prior to the accident, Crais had considered attending law school, but he fell in love with the culinary arts. So he attained his associate degree from the Culinary Arts Institute in Charlotte, NC. And he was only three weeks away from finals to receive his BA in Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University when the accident occurred.
“He was expected to graduate with honors,” Stan Crais, Jon’s father, said. “Professors said if he’d failed every final, he’d still pass with good grades.”
In one of Jon’s final semesters, he took business law. His professor thought he had one of the finest projects and even asked if he’d ever thought of going to law school. And that was what he planned to do after graduation.
“The last time we [Stan and I] saw Jon before the accident,” Melinda Crais, Jon’s mother, recalled, “it was Thanksgiving break. Jon had bought me earrings for my birthday, and I remember him standing in the doorway of our home, and he said he wanted to go to law school.”
In his final semester, Jon was interviewing for jobs, and some companies shared intentions to offer employment after he graduated. But the accident changed everything. Students, staff, and faculty from Jon’s school supported his recovery. A few people from school even visited him in the hospital when he was in a non-medically induced coma for three months.
Doctors thought Jon wouldn’t survive, that if he did, he’d remain in a coma. That if he emerged from the coma, he’d be a vegetable his entire life. That if he wasn’t a vegetable, he’d never walk again. Jon defied all of these odds, making it through to relearn motor skills and speech.
A tenacious and loving mother, Melinda wanted recovery options for Jon to be expedited. When treatment opportunities weren’t opening up, the Crais family was disappointed.
“I had to slow down, and we ended up seeing everything being in God’s timing,” Melinda said. “I always remember the Red Sea Rules book — number 1: God has you right where He wants you.”
“The right therapy program opened up when it needed to,” Stan said.
After living in-patient Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Jon partook in the Shepherd Pathways outpatient program. That’s where his medical professionals introduced him to their Beyond Therapy program.
This program had the AllCore360° that leverages the force of gravity to train core muscles. Patients and athletes alike use it for training. Having played golf before the accident, Jon was excited about interactive therapy. The toughest goal to reach was 0 degrees.
“I told them to put me on that trajectory,” Jon said. “Every session, I went to a lower degree.”
Doctors calculated when Jon would hit 0 degrees and invited the entire AllCore360° team to witness it. Their team had never seen someone with a brain injury leave their wheelchair and partake in the program. Tears of joy were found in all witnesses. Months later, Jon made 35 consecutive 0-degree angles.
“That’s when Mama said ‘no more…’” Melinda shared. “It was intensive. But after the AllCore360°, we asked, ‘What’s next?””
As Jon was committed to the Pathways Program, his doctors introduced him to the Lokomat which was also through their Beyond Therapy program.
‘A GOOD HURT’
The Lokomat has robot-assisted therapy to enable effective and intensive training to improve walking. Individual adjustment to lower extremity orthosis ensures physiological movement. It’s combined with the patented dynamic body weight support system.
Patients are motivated to reach their goals with various game-like exercises. Their level of activity influences the performance of the task, pattern, and speed. This Augmented Performance Feedback (APF) maximizes the effect of Lokomat training.
“I’m a full-time recoverer now,” Jon joked. “Shepherd has helped me move muscles I haven’t moved in nine years — they hurt, but it’s a good hurt.”
Jon currently undergoes hyperbaric oxygen, aquatics, electric bike, and many other forms of therapy at multiple facilities and centers. He has become strong enough to stand on his own.
While attending a wedding in early November, Jon was able to simulate a slow dance with Melinda, something they hadn’t done since before the accident. The Crais family has thanked the Lokomat for helping to facilitate these astounding results.
A NEW HOPE
As the Lokomat treatment doesn’t accept insurance, Beyond Therapy offers limited grants. Jon flooded Beyond Therapy with letters, applying for the grant for three years. In 2022, the Crais family got the call that they received a $5,000 grant. Unfortunately, the grant only covers half the cost of treatment and expires at the end of December 2022.
The folks at Woody’s Barber Shop recently hosted a fundraiser to help Jon continue treatment with the Lokomat. To donate Venmo donations can be made through the end of the year at—@CRAISTRUST. Use 5851 if the last 4 digits of the phone number are required.
“We’re a simple, modest family,” Melinda said. “A community-loving family. I’m proud to be Jon’s caretaker, and we’ve accepted our lot in life — we have new dreams now. And we have hope that Jon will walk again.”
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December 23, 2022