TBI Tales: Michael Coss Awakes After 6 Months in Coma
Meet Michael Coss
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
Michael Coss is the author of The Courage to Come Back: Triumph over TBI – A Story of Hope (2011) and the inspiration behind the creation of the Michael Coss Brain Injury Foundation. The foundation was created to raise money for children in need of financial support to access brain injury treatment. The proceeds from the sale of Michael’s book go directly to help the kids. The book is a moving account of Michael’s journey facing the challenges of traumatic brain injury.
Michael is also the winner of the 2011 Courage to Come Back Award for Physical Rehabilitation (Coastal Health). Michael will tell you that his life was changed forever, and it’s been changed for the good. First though, he will usually tell you that he is the very proud father of twins, Nathan and Danielle, who are now eight years old.
On May 18th, 2006, Michael was driving to Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, with his former spouse and seven-month-old twins to attend a work function and stay with friends. Catastrophe struck while on the Coquilhalla highway — Michael lost control of the van, and it rolled at least one and a half times.
Miraculously, Michael’s former wife, Ann, and daughter, Danielle, escaped with only minor injuries, but Nathan and Michael were not as fortunate. Nathan spent several weeks at BC Children’s Hospital with head injuries. When the medical services arrived at the scene of the accident, Michael was unresponsive, even though the airbags had deployed and Michael had been restrained by his seatbelt. The Glasgow coma scale (CGS) rating at the scene was 8 out of a possible 15, which indicated a comatose state.
Michael was transported by air to Royal Inlands Hospital in Kamloops, where he was assessed by Neurosurgery. Bilateral ventriculoperitoneal shunts were inserted to relieve the pressure on Michael’s brain from the accumulation of fluid. Later he was transferred to Royal Columbian Hospital to be closer to his family. He remained comatose.
Michael’s injuries were nearly fatal, and despite comprehensive treatment at two hospitals, Michael remained in a coma for six and a half months. Doctors told his family that his chances of recovery were remote. His wife was devastated because she faced the possibility of raising their two babies without a father. Recommendations were made to Michael’s family to look for a long-term-care facility to look after him for the rest of his life.
But they did not know Michael Coss and his family. Michael’s family had researched hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), the medical use of oxygen at a level higher than atmospheric pressure. The treatments are commonly used in Asia and Europe and are available in Canada. But the treatments are not approved by Health Canada, and, therefore, they are not covered in Canada by medical insurance. The more the family learned, the more they came to believe that these treatments might work for Michael, though the treatments were prohibitively expensive and came with no guarantee.
His friends and co-workers saw a chance to mobilize and make a difference in Michael’s life. Within a few weeks, funds were raised by donations from friends, family, and his former work-colleagues at Molson Coors Canada.
Michael was transferred daily from Royal Columbian Hospital to the Richmond Hyperbaric Health Centre via ambulance. His mother, who accompanied him, would dampen a sponge with water to make him swallow and equalize the pressure within his ears. HBOT worked quickly, and on Christmas Eve of 2006, after half a year in a coma, Michael awoke and uttered his first words.
Only three months out of his coma, Michael learned about Rick Hansen’s Wheels in Motion events to raise funds for research and to improve the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries. Michael was inspired by Rick Hansen and wanted to be a part of the event. In the midst of his rehabilitation, Michael canvassed his network, and once again they rallied in support. Friends, family members, Molson Coors co-workers, and other corporations raised over $22,000. His team (Team Cosco) not only won the award for the top fundraiser in Canada for Wheels in Motion 2007, but they also set a fundraising record for the entire six-year history of the program.
Through a long, intensive, and grueling rehabilitation, Michael relearned how to talk and eat. He is now relearning how to walk.
Today Michael serves as an inspiration, a motivational speaker, and a catalyst for traumatic brain injury survivors everywhere. He currently resides in a group-home not too far from his family and visits with them several times a week. His long-term goal is to be an able and active participant in his family’s life. Michael is not yet ready to walk to the park hand-in-hand with his children, but at least he is in training for it.
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(Pictures compliments of Michael.)
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)
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