Husband of occupational therapy patient set to graduate from UW’s OT program
He remembers every second, every spoken word and every feeling felt from 10 years ago. They were seconds that changed the lives of a family of three when Tabea Elias went out to get in the car while carrying her 3-month-old daughter, Isabella. Her husband Ted had gone back inside the house.
“I went to the house to get the car keys and a woman came and said, ‘Call 911. I hit a woman with a baby,'” Ted said.
The car hit Tabea as she was getting into the car. Her daughter escaped injury when she was thrown, while in her car safety seat, away from the vehicle by the impact.
“What happened is she was unconscious and had no pulse,” Ted said.
CPR performed by a friend restored Tabea’s pulse and she was taken by helicopter to the hospital. Tabea had suffered a severe brain injury.
“They thought she was going to die after the eighth day because the swelling got so extreme. They called us and said, ‘You need to come to the hospital. We think she is going to die,'” Ted said.
Tabea survived but was in a coma for three months, and her prognosis was anything but good.
“There was one doctor who said, ‘I don’t think she’s ever going to walk again,'” Ted said. He was also told that because of the brain injury, Tabea would likely not be able to talk again.
When Tabea came out of the coma three months later she did speak. Her first words were, “Ted” and “Isabella.”
“It meant there was hope,” Ted said.
Ted grasped that hope with a determination to help Tabea recover. He went with her to all of her occupational therapy sessions. He paid close attention to the work therapists were doing with Tabea so he could work with her at home to further the development.
“I was very involved. I met with the physical therapist, the occupational therapist. I would sit in on their sessions because I knew when she came home, I was going to have to carry on treatment plans,” Ted said.
Tabea was also accepted into a program at University of Wisconsin Occupational Therapy program, that pairs occupational therapy students with patients.
“When I met Ted and Tabea it was an obvious positive match,” said Debbie Bebeau, a clinical instructor in the program.
Bebeau immediately recognized Ted’s commitment to help Tabea and his willingness to learn the skills necessary to provide her therapy at home.
“He came with goals. He came with thoughts,” Bebeau said. “And that’s when I thought, ‘Wow, you’re an occupational therapist waiting to come out.'”
She suggested to Ted that he enroll in the occupational therapy program at UW.
The challenge to do so was enormous. Ted was already filling the roles of a husband, caregiver and father. To add full-time student to that would be challenging, to say the least.
Ted embraced that challenge while retaining his commitment to help Tabea recover.
Now, at age 37, Ted is preparing to graduate from UW-Madison and begin work as an occupational therapist.
“I’m really proud of him,” Tabea said. “He can do so much and not just for me. I think he should do that for other people too.”
Ted need look no further than Tabea to see how much of a difference occupational therapy can make in the life of a person.
Ten years after the accident, the woman doctors said would never walk again is doing just that. With the help of a walker, Tabea is able to get around her home without the use of a wheelchair.
While Ted remembers every second, every spoken word and every feeling from 10 years ago, he and Tabea also live in the present and for the future. Ted and Tabea have both achieved goals because of a strength they have in each other.
“That’s what a husband and wife should do, right,” Tabea said.