University of Houston-Clear Lake helping patients rehabilitate from brain injury for free

Here's what we know

HOUSTON – University of Houston - Clear Lake has a center called the Health and Human Performance Institute, which helps patients maintain physical therapy and rehabilitation after a traumatic brain injury long after insurance stops coverage. Right now, the sessions are free.

How does this work?

Graduate students, alongside professors, currently work hands-on with patients. Meaning the students are getting real world experience by working daily with patients who have long-term complications caused by traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries.

Aya Williams suffered two traumatic brain injuries: one in a car accident, then another as a victim of domestic violence.

“All of a sudden, I had this fatigue that would not go away. I had difficulty putting thoughts together,” Williams explained. “There is no answer in conventional medicine, and so, I found myself just as a racquetball ball left on the floor because they exhausted all they could do for me.”

Williams’ TBI complications include difficulty speaking, slow response, and limited function of her left arm.

Dr. Joseph Hazzard, clinical director of the HHPI, says in cases like Williams’s, the patient is unable to maintain employment. In those cases, this program might be the only way they can obtain affordable quality treatment.

“It’s an underserved area that we can lend expertise to and make a difference,” Hazzard said. “One of the reasons why this works is because we know exercise generates certain proteins that travel to the brain and enhance recovery.”

The program isn’t limited to victims of domestic violence. David Brower found them after a ski accident where he initially lost his short-term memory.

Brower said questions about everyday knowledge: what day it is, the current president, etc., were impossible to remember. However, he said his memory regarding his job was still intact.

“I could tell them how to put a craft into orbit around the earth, you know the equation to do that,” Brower laughed.

He wasn’t satisfied with just improving the ability to answer simple questions though, he wanted to strengthen his brain as much as possible.

“When I go back in time to when I first came here, shortly after my accident, I’m in a whole different world right now,” Brower described his progress over the last nine months.

How many times do patients have to come?

HHPI has no deadline to leave.

Williams was previously told she had plateaued and wouldn’t be able to reach a bigger potential. Some doctors told her there was nothing more that could be done for her. So, having as much time as she needs to make more progress means a lot.

HHPI has been tracking her progress and is able to show her the improvements she’s making from week to week.

“To see the result, the progress in a month, it’s like... I cried. It was a miracle,” Williams said.

How much does it cost?

Sessions are free.

Hazzard hopes they can continue operating for free with donations.