NewsCovering Kern County


The struggles of recovering from a traumatic brain injury

Posted at 7:55 AM, Nov 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-08 10:55:43-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — “So often in a brain injury that is the case where parts of that person are gone, and the parts that made Matt Matt are still there," said Chris Freels, a father who's been fighting to get his son the support and care he needs following a car crash.

Matt Freels is recovering from a traumatic brain injury that left him nearly comatose. After months in the hospital and rehabilitation though, he’s able to move, eat on his own, and hold conversations, something his friends have been eagerly awaiting.

“Anytime we had a problem he would fix it," said Heather Lucero, one of Matt's friends who saw him for the first time this month following his accident.

Since his injury he’s had to relearn everything.

“He’s like a child again and he still thinks all those little things are funny. You can’t talk about certain jokes," said Matt's brother Nick.

Matt was at Encompass Health — an inpatient facility — receiving rehabilitation following his crash. His father said after he was released to outpatient care though, his rehabilitation was reduced due to insurance and Matt’s progress stalled.

“Dealing with the insurance companies and being the advocate for him," Chris said. "It scared me to know how quickly he could become insolvent.”

Chris said he had to gain conservatorship over his son in order to advocate for his treatment and do things like make his house payment, or pay his bills, and even that took months.

He says this experience should be a warning to others that in life anything can happen, so be prepared.

“When you’re looking for insurance, make sure you have a PPO, not an HMO. Make sure you look for a disability or a longterm disability plan to add to that. Protect your investments," he said. "Parents of adult children who are not married make sure you have a power of attorney signed by that child and in a safe somewhere in the event that they become incapacitated.”

Recently, Matt received a 40-day scholarship for rehabilitation from the Center for Nuero Skills in Bakersfield. Chris said the consistent rehabilitation has helped Matt's condition improve, and he'll continue to push to get his son the best care.