After Car Crash, Family Re-Wires Approach to Life

After a horrific car accident on the way to spring break in Florida, the path to healing for the Schwab family of Alexandria, VA, looks somewhat like the x-ray of 10-year-old Teddy’s skull after he was gravely injured in the crash.

Jagged cracks and deep crevices—a broken eggshell comes to mind. But you can somehow see how everything might come back together.

A year since his traumatic brain injury, Teddy is back at school and on the basketball court, and is taking seriously his altar server duties at the Catholic Church that is central to his family’s life.

He is also helping train his Australian labradoodle as a therapy dog, and plans to take her to hospitals when she is certified. Her name is Savannah, after the city far from home where Teddy was a patient for several months.

Grateful for Teddy’s survival, and the steady pace of his cognitive “re-wiring,” his Mom, Claire, said the family’s post-trauma healing is a work-in-progress.

The cracks in Teddy’s skull may have helped save his life, by relieving pressure on his injured brain.

“I’m still digesting everything that happened,” Claire said. “I have to say I feel very changed. I don’t think you can go through almost losing your son, or having your life uprooted for a year, and not be different.”

Claire said she and husband, Ted, made a choice to accept offers of help within days of the accident, from laundry and yard work to looking out for daughters Taylor and Mae while the family was separated.

And they accepted every single offer of prayer. Ted said, “At every point of Teddy’s recovery, we had people praying for very specific things. That he would wake up … that the pressure in his brain would subside … that he would speak again … that he would see again.”

Claire and Ted said that the best thing they could do was pray, and ask others to do so, too.

“What I learned through this experience is there are so many people who want to help,” Claire said. “It’s sad that it takes something so tragic and critical to bring people together, but it does force you to slow down and put your busy life aside and realize what’s important.”

Reflecting on a year she still describes as surreal, Claire said, “Before Teddy’s accident, if you were to ask me what healing means, I would think of it in such simple terms: ‘Let’s put a Band-Aid on it! Let’s put a little ointment on it!’

“But now I know that healing is asking for forgiveness. Healing is humility. Healing is being able to say ‘Yes’ to people who want to help you.

“Healing is learning that through something so tragic and sad, you have actually grown, and you’ve changed in a way that makes you better and stronger than you were before.”

Watch Claire Schwab’s Video

  • J E Sweet

    Clair, You are a wonder! I’m also the mother of a brain injured son. He had a tumor. We found it, and it was successfully removed when he was 8. He’s 25. He works at McDonald’s, loves animals, the outdoors and family. He continues to do things that astound everyone and fill me with pride. Things we never would have had without the surgery. Your son will continue to amaze you. brains are wonderful things . They reroute passages, relearn things, and do things unexpectedly. Your new normal will be ever changing. Just roll with it, you’ll be fine. Best thing we ever did was work with a Neuropsychologist. He was thorough and worked up very detailed strategies for building environments for my son to be successful in. He was indispensable. Just a suggestion. Happy journeys.