Place yourself in Mangum, Oklahoma. And for a moment, imagine yourself in Kenny Hall’s shoes.
On May 12th, 2016, Kenny is on top of the world. At 21, he’s an athlete, a sports fanatic, someone who’s played baseball for most of his life. He’s bright, sociable, sarcastic, and wields a knife-edged sense of humor. The world is a blank slate before him.
He’s hours away from his first deployment with the Army National Guard, a new chapter of his life that will take him overseas—far away from home. And right now, he and his friends are celebrating. After all, it might be the last time they see each other for months. Years, maybe. So they have to make this night count.
Late in the night, the group drives through the streets of their small Oklahoma community, and Kenny decides to up the stakes. Perhaps in response to a dare or in some brazen effort to prove his youthful invincibility, Kenny leaps from one of the moving vehicles out onto the road. He expects his athleticism to win out, expects to land on the pavement and roll through unscathed.
The reality is radically different.
On impact, Kenny suffers a massive blow to his head, a blow whose terrifying force results in a traumatic brain injury. Kenny treads consciousness in only tragic, fleeting glimpses. Emergency crews rush him to a local trauma hospital, where the catastrophic sum of his injuries forces doctors into a race to save his life.
“The staff at the hospitals kept telling me ‘We don’t know,’” said Lisa Hall, Kenny’s mother. “A chaplain met with us at one point. We didn’t think he was going to make it.”
Miraculously, Kenny survived the events of that night. But survival only began his journey. Bouncing between hospitals in Oklahoma, Kenny underwent wave after wave of emergency surgeries to treat a crop of relentless new obstacles.
Every part of Kenny’s life sustained major setbacks. His expressive language faculties saw enormous impairments. It was a labor to produce the simplest of statements, and even these were garbled and unintelligible. Physically, once well enough to take to his feet, Kenny lacked the strength to walk more than eight steps, relegating him to a wheelchair. Even his previously charismatic demeanor suffered noticeable changes.
“His personality was gone,” said Lisa. “He showed no emotion when anyone spoke to him.”
Kenny and his family worked with the specialized team at Denver’s Craig Hospital. His muscles regained a fraction of his lost strength. His thinking slowly became clearer and more logical. But more work was needed.
In December, seven months after Kenny’s accident, the Hall family sought out QLI in Omaha.
There, now medically stable, Kenny participated in a different kind of rehabilitation. Still built upon a sophisticated clinical foundation, Kenny’s time at QLI skewed toward a practical, functional vision, coiling every aspect of his recovery plan within his interests, passions, and goals.
“Our adaptive sports team provided huge motivation,” said Meegan Griggs, Kenny’s Life Path Services specialist.
“Kenny played a ton of sports before his injury occurred, so we quickly found ways to challenge his physical and cognitive skills with sports. It was also pretty common to see him at the archery range with our team or helping with any number of programs and other residents alongside the adaptive sports team.”
Kenny’s passion for sports became a springboard, one that would propel him through rehabilitation toward countless opportunities.
These were opportunities his squad of QLI therapists maximized: intensive work with his speech-language pathologists augmented his vocal strength and clarity of speech. His physical therapy transformed into something akin to athletic conditioning. His cognitive therapy—the result of his time with occupational therapists and QLI’s Life Path Services team—boosted his ability to manage demanding intellectual tasks. By March, Kenny not only walked with surging confidence, but comfortably handled his own daily routines with minimal support.
The success continued. Kenny proved he possessed the skills and abilities necessary to return to work and functional independence. With oversight from QLI’s vocational specialists, Kenny volunteered at a local business—crystallizing his ability to fulfill true-to-life tasks within a real workplace environment. In March, Kenny passed a driving assessment program with QLI’s adaptive driving specialist, receiving clearance to operate a motor vehicle.
Perhaps most striking of all, Kenny’s personality reemerged. His patented bent for sarcasm made a welcome return, and he showed a resilient, eager passion for the potential every day offered. Kenny wasn’t simply going through the motions to complete therapy benchmarks—he was hungrily pursuing new opportunities to grow.
This April, Kenny came home. In the comfort of Mangum, Oklahoma, he experienced something a life-changing injury had made entirely unfamiliar:
His journey tallied eleven months and almost 2000 miles of cross-country travel between healthcare providers. But it paved the way for Kenny to live on his terms. He continues to readapt to life after injury by helping on a local farm and with his stepfather’s general contracting business, putting his newfound skills to practice. And in other ways, the Hall family has welcomed a sense of normality back into Kenny’s life.
“This June, he turned 23,” Lisa said. “That’s a birthday we frankly didn’t think we’d see together.”
On that day, June 10th, friends, family, and his hometown community came together—not simply to commemorate a birthday, but to celebrate Kenny’s triumph over horror and heartbreak.
“If you look at Kenny today,” Lisa said, “You would never know he suffered a brain injury. That’s just how far he’s come.”
Despite facing the bleak nightmare of traumatic brain injury, Kenny Hall endured.
Now, he thrives.
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