Rehab Patient Shares Remarkable Recovery: 'Every Day We Make Progress'
Raphael Campos is writing his own comeback story.
South Shore Health is helping him do it.
“Things that I didn’t know I’d ever be able to do again, I’m doing now,” said Raphael, who is proud of his progress and determined to push forward as far as he can with his recovery.
With his wife Jessica by his side, Raphael has spent the last year working with a team of physical, occupational and speech therapists at South Shore Hospital’s outpatient rehabilitation center to recover from the devastating accident that nearly took his life in November 2022.
Jessica recounted that terrible day.
“It was late afternoon, the day before Thanksgiving and Raphael was out walking our dogs,” she said.
Raphael was just minutes from home when he was struck by a car while crossing Washington Street in Norwood.
Raphael was critically injured in the accident, and Popo James, one of their beloved chow chows, was killed.
Jessica credits the first responders who arrived in minutes, with saving Raphael’s life.
“He’s alive because the response was so fast,” she said.
Returning from another call in the area, Norwood Fire Capt. Jeff Campilio was first on the scene and after seeing the severity of Raphael’s injuries, immediately called for a medical helicopter.
“The accident was bad luck, but it was good luck that they got to him so quickly,” Jessica said.
Raphael was rushed to Tufts Medical Center where he would spend 43 days in the hospital, 30 in the intensive care unit.
Raphael’s injuries were extensive. He had multiple broken bones (ribs, tibia, elbow), fractures on his spine and neck, a perforated lung and a traumatic brain injury, which they would later learn caused aphasia and partial vision loss.
“It was two weeks before he even started opening his eyes,” said Jessica, who has stayed by Raphael’s side all day, every day since the accident.
“I kept thinking when he woke up, he would be himself again,” she said, looking back to the first weeks in the hospital. Now she knows that Raphael waking up at all was miraculous.
Unable to move his right side or sit up on his own, Raphael remained in a state of minimal consciousness, she said, able to follow some commands but not able to communicate or understand what was happening. Jessica said being there with Raphael helped him to follow commands.
“Even though he didn’t know who I was, somewhere in his brain, he knew my voice.”
The healing power of love
After weeks of physical and occupational therapy, Raphael was ready for discharge to an inpatient rehabilitation facility for the next step in his care.
Jessica researched rehabilitation hospitals and found the only facility that their health insurance would cover had a 2-star review and would limit her access to Raphael.
Jessica said she wanted to bring Raphael home instead.
“I thought what he needs now is love and patience and I can give that better than anyone,” she said.
Her plan was to care for him at home and get him ready to begin outpatient rehabilitation at South Shore Hospital.
Caring for Raphael involved cleaning his feeding tube each day, helping him get dressed, and reintroducing herself to her husband, who did not know who she was and could not remember the accident or anything that had happened before.
“He had to learn to love me again,” said Jessica, recalling something Raphael revealed about his first days at home from the hospital.
Raphael told her that he didn’t know who the woman taking care of him was, but he hoped she wasn’t going to walk out the door and leave him alone.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Jessica chose South Shore Hospital because its outpatient rehabilitation program had good reviews, and Raphael would have access to all three therapy disciplines – physical, occupational and speech-language pathology – in one location.
Raphael’s rehab team – physical therapist Rachel Wadkins, occupational therapist Alicia Quach, and speech-language pathologist Jaime Cascarano, have worked collaboratively on his rehabilitation, sharing ideas, information and updates on his progress.
“It’s great having everyone in the same office,” Alicia said. “During our downtime we can talk about strategies that are helpful in treatment. For a complex case like Raphael’s, communication is so important for providing quality care,” she said.
All the teamwork has been beneficial to Raphael’s “incredible” recovery, Rachel said. “With the severity of his injuries, Raphael’s recovery is the most dramatic I’ve ever seen.”
The journey back
Raphael began physical therapy with a brace on his ankle, his arm in a sling and a cervical collar supporting his neck, Rachel said. He had no function in his right arm, significant weakness in his lower right leg and was reliant on a walker.
By the time he graduated PT last November, Raphael was not only walking without an assistive device, he had accomplished his goal of being able to hop, jog and run again and play with his two dogs – Puppy, who survived the accident, and their new chow chow, Popo James Jr.
Rachel attributes much of Raphael’s success to his willingness to work hard and his drive to improve.
“He’s the most hardworking patient I’ve worked with.”
Jaime said she’s seen the same kind of commitment from Raphael.
“He truly wants to get better,” she said. “He has the inner drive to learn, which is super helpful in the recovery process.”
With global aphasia caused by his brain injury, Raphael had difficulty understanding what people were saying and following directions when he began rehab. He had trouble communicating verbally and what he said didn’t make sense.
Jaime worked to help Raphael understand directions and re-learn his communication skills. In addition to learning how to speak both Portuguese and English again, Raphael has had to re-learn everyday tasks like how to read and write again, Jaime said.
In recent months, Raphael’s been writing a lot about his experiences and has a goal to write a book about his recovery, she said. He loves learning and would like to go back to school and take a college course.
“Knowing him and his progress so far, his goals are achievable,” Jaime said. “His drive will get him there.”
“He’s come such a long way,” Alicia said.
Focused initially on helping Raphael complete daily life functions, like getting dressed and taking a shower, Alicia is now helping Raphael fine tune his piano playing skills and using his right hand for things that bring him joy – like playing video games on the computer.
“When we started, I didn’t know how far he’d go; with brain injuries we never know,” she said.
“My wish is that no matter how far Raphael goes, he’s happy and satisfied with how he is,” Alicia said.
"Recovery is always about progress, not trying to find perfection,” she said, but acknowledges Raphael is a perfectionist.”
Perfectionism can be a double-edged sword because it leads to frustration, but it can also be a driving force, which is a huge factor in recovery, Alicia said.
'We take a step every day'
A year into rehabilitation, Jessica and Raphael are happy with his progress and glad they chose South Shore Health to help him recover.
“They (Rachel, Alicia and Jaime) are like a family to us,” said Jessica, noting that Raphael is not an easy patient. “They have a lot of patience and don’t judge him – even when he has no filter. They are very good with us.”
“Everything is so much better because of them,” said Raphael, who has made such great strides, Jessica has been able to return to work as a dog groomer a few hours a week.
“I’m trying to make him more independent,” she said, noting Raphael is able to take Puppy and Popo James Jr. for walks on his own now, although she does worry and texts him often when she’s not by his side.
Ever the perfectionist, Raphael remains driven to improve every day, with every rehab session. And he’s committed to writing the book about his recovery to help inspire others.
“I think it’s important that people know you can be in a hard position like I was, and it’s not the end,” he said.
While he has finished physical therapy, Raphael will continue occupational and speech therapy for at least another year.
Jessica said she’s thankful for everything their therapy team has done for them.
“They have given us our life back,” said Jessica. “We’re not where we were before the accident, but we are on the way.”