Thirteen wooden steps and a hard tile landing – that’s all it took to forever change 21-year-old Taylor Bingaman’s life.
“It was around 1 a.m. on Thanksgiving day and Taylor was coming out of the bathroom upstairs,” says his mother, Nicole Bingaman. “We think he saw a light on in the basement and he went down to check it out. He misstepped and fell down the stairs…hard.”
Taylor’s younger brothers heard him fall and rushed to his side. Although he looked OK, he was unconscious and they noticed blood on the back of his head. The family called 911.
“The paramedics came and opened one of his eyes, and that’s when they called for a life flight helicopter,” says Nicole.
At the hospital, the family learned that the right side of their son’s skull had been crushed and the left side fractured. He required immediate surgery to remove part of his skull and relieve the building pressure in his head.
Following the surgery, doctors said that Taylor might start showing signs of life and wake up around eight days, but that day came and went with no progress. Weeks went by and the hospital staff began talking to the family about Taylor’s options, including the possibility of placing him in a nursing home if he made no further recovery.
“I said there’s no way my son is going to a nursing home,” says Nicole. “We started looking for a rehab facility that would take him."
Although it was a three-hour drive from their home and they never actually visited it in person, the family heard many positive things about Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital.
“We got a lot of opinions about where Taylor should go, but I believe in mother’s intuition,” says Nicole. “I wanted a place with a proven record and somewhere that had experience working with young people with traumatic brain injuries. I visited a few places closer to home, but they felt like nursing homes. I wanted Taylor to be somewhere that was full of life.”
In mid-December, Taylor was transferred to Bryn Mawr Rehab. He was still in a coma, had only opened his eyes once, and had never moved from his bed.
“When we arrived at the hospital we were met by two nurses, one of whom had already finished her shift but was still waiting there to meet Taylor,” she says. “One of the nurses opened up Taylor’s eyes and introduced herself to him. She looked at me and said, ‘He’s in there.’ I believed her.”
That night, and frequently during the next four months, Nicole stayed at The Laurels Family Center – the hospital’s free, on-campus housing facility. The Laurels offers families a comfortable and secure place to stay while a loved one is receiving care.
“I remember going to see Taylor on the first morning after he was admitted and the staff had him sitting up in a wheelchair!” says Nicole. “A few days later, they got him up and actually walked with him…I was absolutely floored.”
Taylor spent hours each day in various forms of therapy, including physical therapy and speech therapy. Although he grew frustrated at times, he did well and made steady progress. Milestones were achieved – being able to walk unassisted, regaining his ability to dress himself, and the slow return of his speech.
“What makes Bryn Mawr Rehab so special is the staff reminds patients that they’re alive, not just a body lying in a bed,” says Nicole. “I also liked that they always talked directly to Taylor, but they also kept me informed about what was happening. The staff was invested in our entire family.”
After nearly four months in the hospital, Taylor had recovered enough to be discharged. He was able to walk on his own and speak clearly – a far cry from the young man who had arrived at the hospital in a coma. Today, Taylor continues to receive outpatient therapy near his home.
“I remember being at the hospital on the last day and so many people coming to say goodbye to us,” says Nicole. “One person pulled me aside and said, ‘Taylor is a success story, a lot of people don’t walk away with what you have.’ I know he has a lifelong recovery ahead of him and he’s a different person than he was, but I feel that he wouldn’t have made the same recovery if we had taken him somewhere else. Never once did we feel like we made the wrong decision coming to Bryn Mawr Rehab.”