Steven Jones, 18, of Bells, Texas, was shot in the face four years ago by a neighbor boy with a 9-millimeter handgun. The blast left him blind in his right eye and deaf in his right ear, with difficulty walking. Doctors had to remove 40 percent of his brain and part of his skull. He is receiving therapy now through April at Pate Rehabilitation, a private brain injury center in Anna, Texas, but most of his care has come through Medicaid. Here, therapist Elizabeth Raymond holds Steven's left hand in place while he practices focusing on tasks with his right hand. Randy Jones, Steven's father, looks on.
Steven Jones greets another patient at Pate Rehabilitation. Since he was hurt, Steven has become more "mellow," and affectionate toward family members, his dad said. "He's never emotional. He doesn't really get mad," said Randy Jones.
Steven Jones wrote an essay about brain injury and the role of therapy. Thanks to rehabilitation, he was able to finish high school and last year attended his first class in junior college, an English class. Therapy has helped Steven recover many skills, but experts say more intensive care could have helped him improve even more.
Steven Jones keeps a small skull on his keychain. "It gives me sentimental support," he says. Repeated infections forced removal of permanent plates to cover his brain. "This way I always know I have my skull with me," Steven says.
Steven Jones walks between buildings at Pate Rehabilitation with his therapist, Elizabeth Raymond. Steven had to re-learn to walk once after the shooting, and again after a long-term hospital stay following a nearly deadly infection in his skull. His gait remains unsteady, but is improving.
Steven Jones wears a device on his left leg to stimulate muscles that help prevent his foot from drooping while he walks. He once was a talented runner, but he no longer can run, his father says.
At Pate Rehabilitation in Anna, Texas, therapy for Steven Jones' brain injury might run between $550 and $1,000 a day, said Jane Boutte, senior vice president for the Dallas-based firm. Steven received three months of therapy in 2007 thanks to a scholarship program and is enrolled in another three months now, with brief payment through a state fund. In between, he had three years of limited, less-skilled therapy through Medicaid, which will not pay for Pate's services.
After a long day of therapy, Steven Jones is tired. People with brain injuries get fatigued more quickly, according to Steven's therapist, Elizabeth Raymond. Steven is performing his daily activities with only 60 percent of his brain, so his brain is working harder than most and tires more easily.
Steven Jones' occupational therapy includes skills like cooking and household tasks that will prepare him for a future of independence. Here, therapist Elizabeth Raymond helps Steven cut mushrooms with a specially designed rocker knife that can be used with one hand, and put them in a plastic bag.
To improve his motor skills, his therapist Elizabeth Raymond is teaching him to to play Wii Golf. "I could beat you with one hand!" he tells her. The objective of the therapy is to help him relearn to use his left hand, so he must use both hands on the control.