Joshua Tucker, of Alma, Missouri, seems like an average 15-year-old: outgoing, likes basketball and boasts a contagious smile. A traumatic ATV accident in 2012, however, nearly ended his life.
Now a brain injury survivor, Joshua undergoes physical therapy sessions at the Children’s Hospital Therapy Center, where he also cheers on other children.
“This kid is pulling 200 pounds down the hallway at the clinic and never complains about why this hand of cards was dealt to him,” said Mary Meyer, PT, a physical therapist at the clinic.
The Tucker family, then living in Florida, was enjoying a nice spring day before the accident on April 22, 2012. Ryan and his sons, Joshua and Coby, were preparing to put their ATVs up for the day and return home when it happened. Joshua hit a deep rut, fishtailing the four-wheeler into a tree. He smashed his chin on the handlebars, breaking his jaw and fracturing his skull. The impact broke his fiberglass helmet. After flying 10 feet, Joshua hit another tree before hitting the ground. He broke two ribs and two vertebrae near the top of his spinal column.
“The impact on his jaw should’ve killed him,” Ryan said. “He was bleeding out of his ear, bleeding out of his mouth, bleeding out of his nose — bleeding everywhere but his eyes.”
Rushed to a Florida hospital, Joshua spent one month in intensive care and underwent surgeries on his skull, jaw and back. Following the hospitalization, he stayed at a rehabilitation center for three weeks. However, showing no signs of cognition and unable to participate in therapy, he was sent home.
“When we went home, it was like night and day,” said Donna Tucker, Joshua’s mother. “When I looked at him in the hospital, I saw nothing. Nothing was there and then he heard Coby’s voice on the phone. A tear rolled down his face. That was the first response we got from him that showed he was still Joshua.”
While the Tucker family feels they had an amazing support system in Florida during the first year of Joshua’s recovery, they agree that their move to Missouri has been a good one. Joshua has done exceptionally well in his new town and school. Even though his accident changed his life, it has not changed his love for basketball. His team at the Children’s Hospital Therapy Center arranged a meeting for Tucker with another team that he admires: the MU Tigers men’s basketball team.
Returning to inpatient rehab for five weeks, Joshua was able to regain his ability to walk. His family created a physical therapy gym at home and Ryan worked with Joshua to ensure he kept moving.
Working with Meyer at the therapy center, he has regained his ability to jog. Meyer guided Joshua through intensive therapy sessions, which are three-hour sessions five times per week for four weeks.
“He is an inspiration to many and will continue to empower others’ lives through his very example,” said Meyer. “He has definitely challenged me, and I can honestly say that I look at him as a role model for myself.”