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September 19, 2012

Chance of a Lifetime

Doctors gave man hit by drunken driver little chance of waking from a coma

TERRE HAUTE — Five years ago, David Osadchuk was in his car at a stoplight in Lafayette when a speeding, habitual drunk driver slammed into him, knocking David’s car the distance of two football fields.

The accident left Osadchuk near death and in a coma for the next 11 weeks. He suffered brain injuries from which doctors at the time believed he could not recover.

“But they didn’t know Dave like I know Dave,” said Amy Osadchuk, David’s wife. She stuck by his side 15 hours a day as he lay unconscious at Wishard Hospital in Indianapolis, at a long-term care facility and then finally when he was moved to the inpatient rehabilitation unit at Terre Haute Regional Hospital.

After a while, Dave showed signs of response. He could blink or squeeze Amy’s hand. Thanks to those tiny signs of hope, specialists at Terre Haute Regional admitted him to their 12-bed inpatient rehab unit.

“We had to give this guy a chance,” recalled Karen Cotner, director of rehabilitation services at Regional.

And a chance was all Dave and Amy needed. Eventually, Dave was tossing a ball to his wife and learning again how to do simple things, such as tell time. Soon, rehabilitation specialists were helping him walk laps around the rehab unit and regain his strength.

“By them pushing me, I began to do more,” Dave said, admitting he needed pushing. Rehab is typically three hours a day, six days a week, Cotner said. That can seem like a lot to patients, she said.

On Tuesday, Dave and Amy were back at Regional for the Inpatient Rehabilitation Services open house marking National Rehabilitation Week. The open house allows former patients to visit with nurses, doctors and therapists who helped guide them through very difficult times.

“This place saved our lives,” Amy said looking around the fifth floor of the southside hospital.

National Rehabilitation Week, Sept. 16–22, is designed to draw attention to those going through rehab and also the work of therapists and others who help them.

“We have a lot of amazing stories,” Cotner said.

Terre Haute Regional is also planning to celebrate National Rehabilitation Week on Thursday with an open house at its outpatient rehab unit. There, on Tuesday, therapists were working with patients who are able to live at home but still need help recovering from accidents, surgeries or other conditions.

Patients in inpatient and outpatient rehab often spend weeks or even months with therapists. The experience can make a tight bond. That’s clearly the case with the Osadchuks, who return each year for the open house and a chance to see familiar faces who helped them during Dave’s six-week stay in room 538.

After leaving the inpatient rehab unit, Dave spent time in outpatient therapy. Now he continues to make improvements on his own each day.

“I like to think of it as still being a work in progress,” Dave said of his recovery. But the help provided by the rehabilitation specialists at Terre Haute Regional clearly holds a special place in the Osadchuks’ hearts.

“We’re here every year,” Amy said of the annual open house. “They pretty much saved our future.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or

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