Meet Kaylin: Thankful for a Second Chance at Life After a Brain Injury

At Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates (CNSA), we know that brain injuries can have devastating effects, significantly impacting the quality of life and the most basic functions, such as speech, movement, and memory. 

As one of the largest private neurosurgical practices in the nation, we can provide the specialized expertise needed for any brain and spine-related injury. The physician team at CNSA comprises 35 neurosurgeons, including neurosurgeons specializing in brain care. The medical group provides neurosurgical coverage at twelve hospital locations spanning the Carolinas.

With this in mind, we introduce Kaylin. Over 17 years after suffering a traumatic brain injury, Kaylin and her family are reunited to thank CNSA neurosurgeon Anthony L. Asher, MD, FAANS, FACS, for saving her life. Kaylin and her family faced an unimaginable, tragic event, but defied all odds and experienced a remarkable recovery thanks to timely surgical intervention, strength, and perseverance. 

Meet Kaylin, whose life is changed in more ways than one after suffering a traumatic brain injury.

On June 25, 2006, James and Marie Lohrman, the parents of then-18-year-old Kaylin, received a call from Kaylin's work asking why she hadn't reported for her shift that morning. While Marie went to one of Kaylin's friend's houses to see if she was there, James saw a report of a horrific car accident on TV. Kaylin had been involved in a major car accident and transported to the hospital.

To regain memory, Kaylin began looking at magazines and pictures. Even 17 years later, she enjoys keeping up with current events.

At the hospital, the Lohrmans met Dr. Asher. He explained that Kaylin's chances of survival were low and that he would have to perform a craniotomy, commonly known as a bone flap procedure. A craniotomy is a surgical intervention that involves temporary removal of portion of the skull (a bone “flap”), providing access to the brain. Dr. Asher told the family that, at the time, this was the largest bone flap that he had ever seen necessary, but for Kaylin's condition, there was no other option.

Marie pictured helping her daughter get some fresh air during her long road of recovery.

"Dr. Asher was straightforward and compassionate," said James, Kaylin's dad. Kaylin spent around 12 days in the intensive care unit. The Lohrmans said the doctors and other staff members were on top of every problem. "We had faith in the quality of her care and knew we were in good hands," James said. 

The long road of recovery.

Kaylin moved to a rehabilitation facility, where she spent weeks recovering and supported by family, including her younger brother. When she could go home, the Lohrman family found that her re-adjustment was difficult — Kaylin tried hard to acclimate. Still, when she would look in the mirror, she would put her hand on her head and moan, not remembering what had happened. 

"We would explain to her that she had been in an accident," James, who took over Kaylin's recovery full-time at home, said. "This went on for a couple of weeks."

Her clinical team didn't expect Kaylin to be able to speak after the accident. Still, James and Marie persisted by talking to her constantly in hopes that she would listen and be able to speak again. Kaylin would try to communicate, the Lohrmans said, but she didn't have any words to speak. After months of talking to her, Kaylin started to have "a word here and there." 

"This was always a reason to celebrate," James said. "We always had a lot of humor in our house. I told Marie the night of the accident, 'I don't think we will ever laugh again,' but I was wrong. Our laughing with her when she tried to talk kept her going. Because we supported her, she was not embarrassed to try to speak in front of other people." 

Kaylin says her first three-syllable word, SPAGHETTI!

Kaylin started to speak using one-syllable, then two-syllable words, and even became proficient at talking around the words she couldn't think of or say. Despite insurance benefits ending for speech therapy, the Lohrmans continued their form of "family talk" speech therapy. 

"About a year later, she said her first three-syllable word, and it was a hard one: spaghetti," James said. "Marie

James, pictured with Kaylin as he enjoyed laughter again, a form of medicine for the whole family.

and I started crying and had her say it repeatedly. After that, her speech took off. She's achieved so much more than the speech therapists ever thought she would." 

As Kaylin's speech progressed, the family continued to work to help Kaylin relearn everyday tasks like washing and brushing her hair, cutting her nails, and putting on clothes. 

Today, Kaylin is 35 years old with a bright future. 

"If she can't say a word in her head, she'll spell it," James said. "She still struggles with short-term memory loss and sometimes interrupts for fear of losing her thoughts. But she's hilarious, quick-witted, and often quite profound. She enjoys staying on top of current events, trends, and politics, which helps ground her memory and is something she enjoys." 

"Our daughter is one of the toughest, most resilient people we know," James said. "She keeps showing us that day after day, year after year." Today, Kaylin enjoys life. She works in a horse barn, hoping to take horse riding lessons one day. Kaylin enjoys running her own dog-walking business. "We couldn't be more proud of our daughter," said Marie. 

Kaylin's parents offer words of support to those walking a similar path.

As parents of a child who suffered a traumatic brain injury, James and Marie offered some advice. 

"Try to stay positive, no matter how hard it is, by looking for small wins or milestones in their recovery--moments when they can open their eyes or squeeze your fingers. And never stop talking to them! Last but not least, don't forget that you, as the caregiver, must care for yourself, too!"

Community resources and local support groups are essential. They serve as encouragement and strength for caregivers and patients walking a similar road to recovery. 

A long-awaited reunion of gratitude. 

Seventeen years later, after Kaylin and her family had relocated away from the Charlotte area, they contacted Carolina NeuroSurgery & Spine Associates to request a reunion with Dr. Asher to thank him for his care and support. Dr. Asher agreed, and Kaylin and her family were overjoyed.

Kaylin pictured shaking Dr. Asher’s hand in gratitude as James, Kaylin’s dad smiled with pride at all she had accomplished.

"I have thought about this day for years," said Kaylin. "I've rehearsed what I would say in my head many times." Kaylin told Dr. Asher, "Thank you for giving me a second chance at life. I am a different person in more ways than one. I am eager to learn and challenge myself. I have a positive outlook on life. I have a renewed bond with my family; we have overcome so much together. I can even talk now to speak the words thank you."

"Dr. Asher and his team have given our whole family a full and wonderful life that we didn't think was possible," said James. During this reunion, Marie, a nurse herself, shared that Dr. Asher's medical note impacted her. 

"He took the time to write in his clinic note, 'This is a very unfortunate 18-year-old woman who had a severe brain injury.' That impressed me because I have read hundreds of factual discharge notes. This sentence he included showed he took the time to feel the weight of what Kaylin had been through. I will never forget his empathy and kindness."

James said that Kaylin and their entire family would not have had these experiences without Dr. Asher and his compassionate, skilled, and experienced team.

CNSA is proud to service the community with the latest in neurosurgical trauma intervention and care. 

Carolina NeuroSurgery & Spine Associates (CNSA) is honored to help patients and their families, like in Kaylin's situation, with the latest advanced treatment options for traumatic brain injuries. 

Marie, Kaylin, and James are pictured with Dr. Asher as he holds a gift from Kaylin inscribed “Thank you for a second chance in life.”

The providers and researchers at CNSA are developing the latest techniques and treatments and putting them into practice for our patients who need them most. Our team is dedicated to advancing the science of medicine and unwavering in our commitment to quality care.

Our team is constantly aware of the significant physical and emotional toll that a brain injury event takes on our patients and their families. We consider that reality as we care for pediatric and adult neurosurgical patients. Our patient's strength and resiliency inspire us and fuel our determination to provide them with cutting-edge care and access to the latest techniques and treatments they deserve.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. New and current patients can call our offices to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

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April 19, 2023

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