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Man Finds the Blessings in Brain Injury

Shelby Neese of Brandon, Mississippi, credits his family with keeping the faith through his brain injury rehabilitation.

Every day, Shelby Neese, 63, sits at the piano, pulls out his The Virtuoso Pianist workbook and sings along as his fingers relearn how to play his favorite instrument.

“It feels like I’m in grade school,” he says. “I’m not playing Bach again just yet, but it’s coming. I’m getting my hands and my brain connected. I’m learning to be excited about the little things, like being able to improve a little bit on the piano every day.”

That is more than enough for Shelby, his wife Mary, their two children and their five grandchildren. In January 2016, Shelby sustained a traumatic brain injury and lost consciousness after falling from a ladder.

An ordained minister at Pinelake Church, in Brandon, Mississippi, Shelby says those most difficult days after his injury left him with a lesson.

“My faith is now deeper than it was before, and that’s because of my family and friends. During that time when I wasn’t aware enough to have faith, they had faith for me.”

That faith, he says, is what sustained him during the initial days at North Mississippi Medical Center and then again in his months of physical, occupational and speech therapy at Shepherd Center’s Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program. He calls the people at Shepherd Center “a bright spot in his memory” from that time.

“My family and I went from hearing doctors say, ‘We don’t know if he’s going to live’ and ‘We’re not sure what kind of life he’ll have,’” Shelby recalls, “to hearing the staff at Shepherd Center ask me, ‘What would you like to learn to do again?’ I wouldn’t be where I am now without that kind of optimism and support.”

These days, Mary has returned to work, and Shelby is back to his daily Bible study group of 25 years, thanks to the independence he has regained, He still wants to learn to drive and jog again. He works out at the YMCA, swims and walks around the park, alongside Mary.

“I’ve leaned an awful lot on her in the past year,” Shelby says. “Probably more than in all the other 43 years of our marriage. I know I’m a blessed man.”

Written by Phillip Jordan

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.