by ROBERT CONNELLY
PEORIA, Ill. - Brendan Quinn remembers waking up in the hospital and seeing tubes running into his neck and then trying to move his legs. He couldn't. Over the next several weeks, he went through periods where he had struggles with his memory.
The 22-year-old still doesn't remember his motorcycle crash at the intersection of East Emerson Street and North Fell Avenue in Bloomington on Aug. 24, 2013. When he woke up at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, doctors told him he had brain damage from a broken skull, a broken back, and had severed his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
Quinn's mom, Teri, said he was originally treated at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, blocks away from the accident. There, he underwent brain surgery, and doctors "realized he had so many multiple traumas that they thought it would be better to bring him here where they have bigger teams," Teri Quinn said.
Quinn was transported by helicopter to St. Francis, where he later underwent four surgeries: neck, brain, spine and spleen. Teri Quinn said his lungs collapsed three times, but the spleen was important because it helps fight off infections, especially in cases of paralysis.
"He had a lot of miracles from all the prayers," she said.
He was released from St. Francis on Oct. 29, finally able to go back home for the first time, in a wheelchair. It hasn't been an easy road, especially at the beginning. "At first, I was hoping I wouldn't live through it. ... I was really down in the dumps," Quinn said.
Quinn began attending physical therapy three times a week with various physical therapists. He worked with Sarah Martin, a physical therapist with Illinois Neurological Society. The first day they worked together, Quinn was surprised she was also a hunter.
Quinn has been a bowhunter since he was 10, the first time he went out with his dad and brother. However, he couldn't shoot the traditional bow in a wheelchair because his balance was now different, and it would be harder to move.
Martin and her husband, Dan, are both members of the River Prairie Whitetails Unlimited Chapter and saw an opportunity to help Quinn.
Dan said they invited Quinn to check out bows with them one night, and he later had Quinn test out a crossbow at Wolf Hollow Archery in Chillicothe. A crossbow resembles a rifle with its shaft and shoulder mount, barrel where the arrow is laid, and trigger to release the arrow at a rapid speed. And it allows him to use a crank the string back to take a shot.
After Quinn tested it out and liked it, Martin and the Whitetails purchased the bow for him.
The group makes a couple of donations a year, including donating archery equipment to Mossville Grade School this year. Their goal is "just trying to get the youth of America involved in hunting and hunting tradition," Dan Martin said.
Teri Quinn said their house was transformed by the help of a group of close friends who call themselves the "Redneck Yacht Club" because they all go boating together. She said she thought they were going to install a temporary wall in their quad-split home, but she came home one day to find "all the walls and ceiling and everything were gone. They had just built a whole room from scratch."
Their home now has a lift chair. A family room was split in half to give Quinn a bedroom that is easier to access. However, when the lift was down for three days recently, Quinn could still get around, by using his arms to lift himself up step by step while sitting on his bottom.
Quinn had gone to Saint Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, for a year before deciding to go into landscaping work for two years. He had been working as a tower technician, climbing cell towers and satellites to make adjustments for a few months before his accident.
His focus is now on finding a job and purchasing a vehicle, one that can be equipped with hand controls. If Quinn can't find a job, he said going back to school would be the next step.