Photo: Working his fine motor skills, Mike Honeyman wraps a gift for his son as Occupational Therapist Nicole Kutch, OTR/L, CHT, lends a hand.
Not long ago, Mike Honeyman couldn’t feed himself. Now, he’s making his own breakfast.
It’s one of countless milestones that Mike has achieved on his journey back to independence following a motor vehicle crash in July 2018 that left him on life support with multiple severe injuries, including a traumatic brain injury.
Honeyman, 38, the husband of Trinity Health Sports Medicine Manager Robyn Gust, has been the focus of countless prayers in the community among those who have followed his recovery. It began with a lengthy hospital stay and continued with intensive rehabilitation at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, NE, for four months, then six months at Quality Living Inc. in Omaha.
He returned home to Minot last May and has been undergoing his next phase of therapy with Trinity Health’s team of physical, occupational, and speech therapists.
“I’ve been working with Mike since November,” said Occupational and Hand Therapist Nicole Kutch, OTR/L, CHT. “His biggest improvement is that he’s globally much more independent, and his balance has improved a lot.”
During a recent therapy visit, Nicole led Mike through various tasks and exercises, each designed to meet specific therapy goals in the areas of upper extremity, mobility, strength, coordination, fine motor skills, and activities of daily living. She alternates visits between Trinity’s Outpatient Therapy Clinic and Mike’s home.
“He has some left side neglect,” Kutch explains, referencing a condition common to TBI sufferers. It’s characterized by a tendency of the brain to ignore one side of the body. To address this tendency, Nicole has Mike perform exercises that work both sides of his body, including upper and lower extremities.
Next, they work to improve Mike’s fine motor skills. He practices writing his name with an assortment of special oversized pens that are easier to manipulate than conventional writing instruments. “Is that how your signature looked before the accident?” Nicole asks. “No,” Mike says. But being able to produce a clear and legible signature is a triumph nonetheless.
At a session prior to the Christmas holiday, Nicole had Mike wrap a gift for his son, Austin. “It was a pretty big gift – a travel bag,” Nicole said. “I didn’t expect it to go all that smoothly, but he
cut the paper and fastened it with tape. It looked great.”
Not only is Mike working with an excellent team of therapy professionals, he has the love and support of his family. Last year, he and Robyn moved into their new home, which Robyn’s father has been adapting to Mike’s needs. Mike also has in-home caregivers, the most frequent of which is G.G., an associate of ProHealth Home Care of Minot. She keeps him busy running errands, doing
chores, and engaging in games and other activities that are mentally and physically stimulating.
“One thing I never do is park him in front of the TV,” G.G. said. “We’re always doing something.”
A possible exception to that rule is watching sports. A former wrestler, Mike is an avid fan of local and national teams.
Another skill that’s making a comeback is Mike’s speaking ability as well as his sense of humor. With a little prompting from Robyn, he expresses approval that he’s able to do more for himself.
“You help out a lot, don’t you?” Robyn says. “You do dishes, you cook. The other night you took Diva (their dog) outside, remember that?”
“Yeah,” Mike says.
“Diva is our little ball of fur,” Robyn explains. “She adores Mike and has been his constant little guardian since his injury.”
Communication with a patient’s family is an important part of what a therapy team does. Nicole and the other therapists compare notes with each other, but they also gather as much information as they can from family members and Mike’s caregiver. Even small details about his functioning can be used to tweak his therapy regimens.
“One thing about Mike, he’s eager to do anything we challenge him to do,” Nicole says. “He might get frustrated, but he pushes through. It’s that ‘Honeyman Strong’ quality.”