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Student Nearly Taken Off Life Support Makes Dramatic Recovery


Schmid, 23, made international headlines in 2011 after wiggling two fingers as medical staff discussed the possibility of taking him off life support. His tremendous recovery is being called miraculous by many.

After more than two years of intensive neuro rehabilitation at Barrow Neurological Institute, former University of Arizona student Sam Schmid has officially graduated from his grueling therapies and has returned to his hometown of Tucson, Ariz. to begin school and work. 

“It’s taken a great medical team as well as hard work and dedication to make the type of recovery I’ve made,” says Schmid. “Not only did I learn to walk and talk again but I’ve learned how to reintegrate myself back into the community and to be successful.”

Schmid suffered critical injuries including a brain aneurysm, stroke, and a severe brain injury from a five car accident in Tucson in 2011. Emergency responders originally declared him dead at the scene but Schmid began to respond. He was flown to Barrow in Phoenix to undergo immediate brain surgery. More than a week following surgery with no responsive signs and being close to brain death, discussions began about taking him off life support. His brain surgeon, Dr. Robert Spetzler, however recommended keeping him on life support for one more week. That evening, Schmid began following commands by holding up two fingers.

Schmid’s long recovery began at Barrow’s inpatient Neuro Rehabilitation Center where he spent two months re-learning to speak and walk. He then began outpatient therapy at Barrow’s Center for Transitional Neuro Rehabilitation (CTN) where he spent nearly 40 hours a week for two years undergoing intensive speech, physical and occupational therapy. As part of Barrow’s renowned CTN program, Schmid also began learning to transition back to work by volunteering in the hospital and working at Safeway. Now back in Tucson, Schmid has enrolled in a college course and is applying for jobs.

be inspired“When I first started treating Sam, he was learning the basic functions of life such as swallowing,” says Dr. Kristi Husk, Schmid’s neuropsychologist at Barrow. “Just two years later, he’s back in school and playing basketball. His recovery has been incredible.”

To inspire others and to share his remarkable story, a video has been created highlighting Schmid’s recovery. Click here to watch the video, Be Inspired: Sam’s Miracle.

Barrow, which is part of Dignity Health’s St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, is one of the world’s leaders in treating neurological disorders and performs more brain surgeries than anywhere in the United States.

Contact: Carmelle Malkovich, 602.406.3319

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