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Client Speaks to Local Teens to Raise Awareness

by Nichole Salva

Shawn Spencer talks about living with TBI

Mon, Apr 28th 2014 09:00 am
HAMBURG, NY (WIVB) - Shawn Spencer, from Buffalo, says he was on a bad path as a teenager. He was in a gang, did "illegal things" and dropped out of high school. What changed his life forever, was his need for speed.

Spencer was going more than twice the speed limit, and hit a speed bump. That sent his car flying into a telephone pole. Doctors later told him if anyone had been sitting in his passenger seat, they would have died.
Shawn Spencer's badly damaged car
Shawn Spencer's badly damaged car

"They told me I was in a Stage 4 coma. The doctor explained to me that a Stage 30 coma is like sleeping at night. More than likely, you will wake up. A Stage 1, he said, is when the doctors are begging your family to take you off of life support. In his 30 years as a doctor, he told me he'd never seen anyone wake up from a Stage 4 coma," he told the high school class.

Shawn did wake up, with a traumatic brain injury and paralysis on his right side.

After 97 days at ECMC, Spencer was placed at the Erie County Nursing Home.

Shawn himself was lucky to be alive. He was in a coma for months at Erie County Medical Center.

Shawn Spencer at the Erie County Nursing Home
Shawn Spencer at the Erie County Nursing Home
Spencer did not like being in the nursing home, but he couldn't do anything for himself at the time. Eventually, he learned how to stand up on his own and take care of himself.
 
With the help of an organization called "Venture Forthe", Shawn was able to live outside the nursing home on his own and he's been on his own for the last 5 years.
 
Shawn, now 30, is sharing his story with the younger generation and showing them that you can still live with a traumatic brain injury.
 
He says, "I go around and tell them all not to speed, because hey, look at me, I am a perfect example."
 
When Shawn speaks, it is slowly and deliberately, but intelligent and clear. He has had to work on his speech, and his mobility. He is able to joke about the benefits of his chair, saying "When I go to the amusement park, I get to go right to the front of the line."
 
He says, "I spent five years and 10 days at the home, but who's counting?"
Shawn Spencer
Shawn Spencer

 

He says, "Now I need to get a job!"

Given the path he was on before his accident, Shawn never thought he would graduate from college. Now he's doing just that, having overcome so much already in his life.

You can learn more about the Venture Forthe organization at www.ventureforthe.com.

Shawn will graduate from college in May with a degree in Computer Networking, 12 years after his accident.