At age 30, Greg Filipek of Naperville suffered what he thought was a minor head injury. After bandaging it up, he never even imagined what would happen next. Three days later, alarmed that his son was late waking up, his dad Dave went downstairs and found Filipek halfway off his bed and unconscious.
What transpired next would change the lives of Filipek and his family forever. Emergency neurosurgery stopped a slow brain bleed, saving his life, but Filipek’s prognosis was grim.
He spent almost three months in a coma, and doctors were not sure he would ever walk or talk again. The brain injury had partially paralyzed the right side of Filipek’s body and affected his ability to speak.
After months of inpatient rehabilitation, Filipek was ready for outpatient physical therapy and found physical therapist Liz Barajas at ATI Physical Therapy’s Naperville East location.
“Growing up in Naperville myself, it really seemed like a good fit,” said Barajas. “We became more like a family.”
“He connected with Liz right away . . . they have almost a brother and sister kind of relationship,” shared Filipek's father.
Filipek’s initial goals were very ambitious compared to the family’s goals. He wanted to get up and walk right away. His family, however, wanted him to become more mobile: getting in and out of his wheelchair, getting dressed and staying safe while doing so.
In therapy, Barajas challenges Filipek more during each session, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. If she questions whether he can do a few more reps during an exercise, he will do it just to prove her wrong. There is plenty of playful banter mixed in with a lot of hard work.
“When I first met Greg, he was in a wheelchair and wasn’t transitioning out of it very well. I knew we had a lot of work cut out for us. Now, the sky’s the limit! Greg has transformed me into a better person. He and his family are the most genuine people I’ve ever come in contact with. They make me want to be a better therapist,” she said.
Today, as a result of his perseverance and determination, Filipek is taking steps on his own with the help of a cane, and has even progressed to practicing on uneven surfaces like stepping off curbs and walking on grass.
Getting out of his bed, dressing himself, riding his stationary bike, sitting and standing independently are no longer challenges for him. Wanting to say more, but unable to since the trauma affected his speech, Filipek shared, “Liz is awesome. She pushes me . . . motivates me.”
Since then, the progress he has made has not only motivated Filipek but everyone around him, including his physician Dr. Robert Rozner with Hobson Meadows Family Medicine in Naperville.
“Honestly, after he had this injury, we weren’t even too sure he was going to get out of the ICU, let alone get to the point of being as functional as he is now,” said Dr. Rozner. “Whether you’re practicing medicine . . . whether you are a therapist practicing physical therapy . . . you should never become complacent with what you are doing. You should try to learn from every patient that you have. I think that’s something that Liz has really brought to the table. Her desire to learn about what to do in a case of severe brain trauma has really made a huge difference in Greg’s prognosis and progress.”
Recently, Filipek was able to take his son Anthony to watch their favorite hockey team, the Chicago Blackhawks. This is something they would not have been able to do, even a few months ago. “I can walk. I need the cane now, but I can walk,” added Filipek. “I’m a miracle!" See a video on his story by visiting www.ATIpt.com/blog/step-step-greg-liz-defy-odds
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