Healthy You - Every Day

Surviving Brain Trauma: Bethlehem Woman Is Grateful to Have Her Life Back

Beverly Looker credits LVHN trauma specialists for her remarkable recovery after she was struck by a car

All that Beverly Looker remembers is being out on her daily walk with her husband David when they started crossing Jacksonville Road in Bethlehem.

“A car came through the intersection and struck both of us,” says the 77-year-old Looker about the April 24, 2023, accident. “I got the worst of it. David said he saw me fly up into the air, land on the hood of the car and slide down to the street.”

Looker was rushed to the trauma center at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Muhlenberg with significant head injuries, including multiple brain bleeds. Trauma surgeon Kathyrn Wheel, MD, with Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence, says burr hole surgery, the process of creating a hole in Looker’s skull to insert a cranial pressure monitor. Neurosurgeon Brandon Kujawski, MD, from Lehigh Valley Fleming Neuroscience Institute, performed the procedure.

“Often, trauma cases are not only about the patient, but about taking care of the whole family.” - Kathyrn Wheel, MD

“Cranial pressure reduces the flow of oxygen to the brain,” Dr. Wheel says. “The faster we can relieve that pressure from the brain, the less chance for significant injury.”

Alison Bruce, CRNP, trauma surgery, Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence, who assisted in overseeing Looker’s care during surgery and throughout her hospital stay, says a drain (a catheter inserted through a small incision) was used to remove excess blood and fluid to relieve the pressure.

Concerns over brain injuries

Once the bleeding was under control, it became a matter of monitoring Looker, who would be in a coma for three weeks from the point of the accident. With brain injuries, it’s difficult to predict outcomes.

“The brain is one of those things where you’re never quite sure of recovery,” Dr. Wheel says. “Beverly’s head injuries were severe. We wanted to be sure the family was aware of all possibilities. Often, trauma cases are not only about the patient, but about taking care of the whole family.”

Imaging showed the various locations of Looker’s brain bleeds. Caregivers were concerned that she may not be able to talk or walk again, or care for herself. Those concerns grew the longer she remained unconscious.

“To be honest, we weren’t sure she was going to make it at first,” Bruce says. “Then, it became a matter of how well she would bounce back. We wanted to be sure the family knew we were in it with them every step of the way. Fortunately, they didn’t have the need to make some difficult decisions. Not every patient has the great outcome Beverly has had.”

Beverly’s miraculous recovery

Looker awoke after three weeks. She says her first words after she opened her eyes were “Vietnam” and “Dolly.” “I have no idea what those words meant,” she says. “But everyone was very happy I was finally awake. Our pastor, Monsignor Thomas Baddick of Notre Dame of Bethlehem Church, came to visit me three or four days a week. He doesn’t call me Beverly anymore. Now he calls me ‘Miracle’ every time I see him at church.”

She was discharged to traumatic brain injury rehabilitation – speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy. Therapists anticipated well over a year of recovery before Looker could begin to resume activities. But she has exceeded those expectations and then some.

“I finished speech therapy and occupational therapy in just about a year,” Looker says. “I started in a wheelchair, moved to a walker and now I’m using a cane. It’s starting to get warm outside, and I’m anxious to start my walks with David again. But my daughter [Stacey] says no more crossing streets.”

Looker can’t thank Lehigh Valley Health Network enough for all caregivers did for her and her family.

“How do you thank somebody for giving you your life back?” Looker says. “I’m just so glad for every day now. I feel very fortunate.”

Trauma Surgery

At Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence, our seasoned trauma surgeons consistently provide exceptional care at our three accredited trauma centers – often at a moment’s notice and under difficult circumstances.

Explore More Articles