Rehab for brain injuries helps patient recover

Charlie LaFever pets Magic, one of the Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses that often visit UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital. The visit was special for LaFever because his family once owned a miniature horse farm of their own when he was a middle school student.Charlie LaFever survived several tours overseas while in the U.S. Army — but one night, back in the States, he suffered an injury that changed his life forever.

On Oct. 6, 2013, LaFever, 31, was hit by a pickup truck and sustained a major brain injury. Eventually, he was transferred to UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital for intensive rehab therapy.

When LaFever first arrived at UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital, he was confused. He had little control over his head and body. He couldn’t walk or speak. He had a feeding tube and a tracheotomy.

Two days before he was discharged, however, he was talking and eating on his own, walking with help and sitting up by himself. LaFever’s primary physical therapist, Jennifer Fogel, D.P.T., said his progress was phenomenal.

“It has been an honor being part of his rehab journey and seeing how motivation can really affect progress and the return of function,” Fogel said. “He is one of those people that you remember for a long time.”

The Brain Injury Association of America designates March as Brain Injury Awareness Month. According to the association, 2.4 million people sustain major traumatic brain injuries in the United States every year, and comprehensive treatment and rehabilitation are the keys to helping people recover.

UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital has highly specialized teams of physicians, physical, occupational and recreational therapists, speech language pathologists, rehabilitation psychologists, case managers, dietitians and rehabilitation nurses working together to treat patients who are recovering from traumatic brain injuries, such as the one LaFever experienced, as well as other major conditions and injuries.

For more information about UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital, visit

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Nickie Doria's picture

Nickie Doria

Nickie Doria, A.P.R., joined the UF Health Communications team in 2010. She has 18 years of marketing and public relations experience. Currently, she serves as a marketing and public...Read More