Fighting Back After a Traumatic Brain Injury: Mike's Story

Mike Hauger doesn’t remember the accident that changed his life.

The 25-year-old was driving through Gloucester County en route to a work site on a hot afternoon in August 2021. He braked at a stop sign and a large dump truck plowed into the passenger side of his car. 

The car was decimated, and Hauger’s injuries were devastating: broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken collarbone, and a traumatic brain injury that would leave him in a coma for nearly a month and hospitalized for more than six weeks.

It would be weeks before his doctors and family even knew Hauger would survive, let alone how his recovery might look. 

“It’s amazing the amount of fight he has in him,” his mom, Kelli Wilson, recalls. 

When he was discharged from Cooper University Hospital in mid-September, Hauger was transferred to an acute rehabilitation facility to ease back into consciousness and begin the long process of learning to walk, talk and care for himself again. Hauger wanted to go home – back to his mom, his girlfriend, and the life he knew.   

Wilson wanted her son home more than anything, too, but knew she’d need time to give him a safe homecoming with the level of support he would need – so she turned to Bancroft NeuroRehab’s residential rehabilitation program
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“A few people we knew knew Bancroft, and it was close enough to home that I’d be able to see him every day,” she says.

Living in a supported environment while he attended intensive daily physical and occupational therapy sessions at Bancroft NeuroRehab’s Resnick Center in Mt. Laurel allowed Hauger to practice at home the skills he and his clinical team would work on during the day. 

At the same time, Hauger’s care team – including Occupational Therapist Jillian Gordon – worked closely with Wilson to structure weekend outings, and determine what modifications she could make at home to support her son safely. 

“We did a telehealth session while he was at his house visiting his family, so I could see him in the actual environment and come up with ideas for grab bars, equipment to modify his surroundings, and put together a plan for the family,” Gordon said.

“One of the benefits of being in our program is our interdisciplinary, full-team approach. We were able to work together with OT, PT, speech, the residential team and his family to get him where he wanted to be. I felt like we were giving him power over his life again.” 

Hauger was itching to get back to life – and his clinical team credits his work ethic and family support with the progress he’s made. 

“Mike is a hard worker,” says Jamie Young, Hauger’s physical therapist. “He and his family have really committed to the process of an intensive interdisciplinary rehab program, and we are seeing great results.”

In January 2022, less than six months after his accident, Hauger moved back home with his mom. While he still has a long road ahead of him, and continues daily outpatient therapies through Bancroft, Hauger is excited about what’s to come. 

“It’s been scary at times,” Hauger says. “I feel like all the plans I’ve had have changed. There have been times where I’ve wondered, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ But I know what I need to do, and I feel like every day is something new. I feel hopeful.”  

Hauger doesn’t remember the accident that changed his life. But he remembers who he was before the crash – what he wanted; his vision and desires for his life. That, he says, is what keeps him going on the toughest days. 

“That’s the way he’s always been,” Wilson says. “Even as an athlete, he was the kind of player who’d rather play the entire game than sit on the bench. As hard as his recovery has been, he’s been determined to do it. He’s a superhero.”