A teen’s life returned

A teen’s life returned

On March 16, 2013, the Crippen’s lives changed forever. Conor, an 18-year-old freshman at Loyola University Chicago, was hit by an SUV while crossing the street, resulting in severe traumatic brain injury. His parents, Kathy and Phil, received a phone call around midnight about the accident and a new chapter of their lives began. 

“It’s normally a five-hour drive to Chicago (from Dayton, Ohio), but that night we made it in about three and half,” Kathy says. “We had absolutely no idea what new life we were walking into.” 

Kathy and Phil Crippen made their way to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, the same place where their son had been volunteering prior to the incident. “He was critically ill, despite our very aggressive monitoring and care,” says his neurosurgeon Dr. Kenji Muro. “His situation was very dynamic and those changes added to our concerns.” 

“[Conor] was placed in the surgical intensive care unit (SICU) on a ventilator among other life saving support machines,” according to Anne Romer, Kathy’s sister, who created a dedicated Facebook page to provide updates. “Merely 24-hours ago, we were not sure of his ability to sustain life, but we believe through the power of superb medical care and the profound power of prayer, I can tell you that Conor has had a stable day.” 

Kathy remembers how quickly Conor’s care team felt like family. 

“They cared for Conor like he was more than just a patient, with such passion and meticulous care,” she says. “We couldn’t help but be in awe.” 

Kathy and Phil started learning everything they could to help Conor fight back. They said the nurses and staff in the SICU began explaining every procedure and monitor, what they did and how it impacted their son.

A few days after the accident, Conor required surgery to relieve pressure on his brain.

“His clinical course was not expected so we always had a plan to address any possible scenario and stay steps ahead of any potential problem,” Dr. Muro says. “The thought of whether or not he would make it definitely crossed our minds, especially when problems seemed to compound rather than go away.” 

“I think we’ve had blindfolds on this whole journey,” Kathy says. “We are making our way through unknown territory, and it has been long, exhausting and awful. But on the same token, every day someone has made it better for Conor. Bridget and Jack, Conor’s siblings, have risen to the occasion to help Conor fight and that’s something we are very proud of.” 

The Crippens think of the past year as playing “connect the dots,” taking lead from the care team in the SICU to the rehabilitation team. The Facebook page continued to report all of Conor’s triumphs and setbacks during his rehabilitation. Conor has worked eight to nine hour long days of physical, occupational and speech therapy and some alternative therapies such as acupuncture, rock climbing and yoga.

Now back home in Ohio, Conor’s hard work and support from his family and friends has paid off. On March 21, 2014, one year after the accident, Conor walked tall and confidently back into the SICU for, what they call, a “family reunion.” 

“It was a very joyous occasion,” Dr. Muro says. “Our lasting image of Conor was him lying in bed, wearing a helmet to protect his head and with tracheotomy or gastronomy tubes. It was remarkable to now see him standing vertical, in normal clothes and talking. It was the first time I heard Conor’s voice. It was fantastic to see.”

“They gave us our son back, they are and forever will be our family,” Kathy says.

One year later, Dr. Muro is optimistic for Conor. “It is very uncommon for a patient who suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, like Conor, to come back and talk with me. He still has a long way to go, but the hardest part of therapy is that no one else can do that for him. So Conor really fought to bring himself back to life.”

Kathy and Phil believe the sky’s the limit for Conor. 

“Conor today is a reflection of combined love and intentional and purposeful days and we will not stop until Conor is back at Loyola and spreads his message,” Kathy says. 

While their journey still remains unknown, everyone who cheered “Go, Conor, Go” is now watching him go farther than anyone thought possible. Throughout all his rehabilitation and therapy, his father shares Conor’s message, “Every day is a good day. Every day is valuable and every day is special.”

 

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Comments

7 Comments

  1. Julie Nakis

    Wow, what an inspiring story! Thanks to the family for sharing Conor’s journey. Wish him the best of luck as he continues through his recovery.

  2. Cindy Vashkelis, R.N. May 7, 2014 at 2:41 pm · Reply

    Congratulations now and as you continue through your recovery Conor! You and your dear family are an inspiration to us all! I believe with all my heart that God does not give us what we can handle…..no, no….He helps us Handle What We are Given! Woohoo! Go Conor!

  3. What an amazing story! So glad to hear the outcome and hope Conor continues to do well and achieve whatever he puts his heart and mind to in life!

  4. Kelly Jo Golson

    Thank you for sharing Conor’s story as it will inspire so many dealing with traumatic brain injuries. Wishing Conor continued success and good health! Also on this National Nurse Appreciation Week – a special thanks to the amazing Advocate Illinois Masonic nurses who were at Conor’s side!

  5. SYED SHAHABUDDIN May 8, 2014 at 10:46 pm · Reply

    VERY GLAD AND INSPIRED.MAY THE ALMIGHTY GOD GRANT CONOR ALL THE SUCCESSES AND HAPPINESS IN THE YEARS TO COME.PHILL AND KATHY! YOU ARE A VERY VEY LUCKY AND A BLESSED PARENT.ALWAYS REMEMBER GOD.I AM SURE YOUR GOOD DEEDS AT ANY POINT OF YOUR LIFE HAS GIVEN YOUR SON NEW LIFE.CONGRATULATIOIS TO DR.MURO AND HIS ENTIRE STAFF INCLUDING ALL THE NURSES WHO PLAYED A VERY MAGNIFICIENT PART IN CONNOR`S RECOVERY .MAY GOD SHOWER HIS BLESSINGS TO ALL THE PEOPLE WHO ARE IN DISTRESS ,ANYWHERE,ANY CREED AND ANY RELIGION.

  6. Amazing! This is inspiring to see how hard a young man and his family can fight to make it back to walk into the SICU. This is a great way to celebrate the tremendous comprehensive care that Advocate delivers from from its nurses, techs, physicians and leaders. I am proud to be an Advocate physician and part of the team!

  7. love to read these stories! thanks for sharing!

About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.