Atlanta, GA,
12:07 PM

Recipe for Success

After sustaining a TBI in a car crash, Yusef Smith is working toward new goals in life and business.

Thirty-four-year-old Yusef Smith is a father who has an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to build a business he can pass on to his son. He also loves to cook — loves music — and isn’t afraid to show off his dance moves.

In January 2022, on his way home from work managing an Atlanta restaurant, Yusef swerved to avoid an object in the road. He then overcorrected and crashed, sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Yusef spent a few weeks at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta before transferring to Shepherd Center. For months, Yusef worked with his care team to regain strength and relearn how to walk and talk — and eventually, as his father, Will Smith recalls, to dance.

“He had a dance session in therapy and got to dance and move and got his groove back, so to speak, with his therapy team,” says Will.

Yusef doesn’t remember much of his time at Shepherd but says he eventually started to piece things together.

“I woke up one day in June and thought, ‘Why am I here? What is this? This is just a dream. I'll go back to sleep.’ I eventually came to grips with the idea I was actually in the hospital,” he says.

“Once I became aware of what was going on, I do remember my nurses and the people taking care of me. I’m thankful for them — very thankful. And they didn't take any mess from me, which was good. I couldn't get one over on them,” he laughs.

“They were making sure that I was getting better. They were finding ways to keep me up and keep me in motion, and I appreciate that,” Yusef says.

Yusef remembers the dance session with his therapists, as well as playing games, and meeting other patients.

“The experience of going to different areas and seeing other people who have similar situations to me. That was very enlightening.”

Yusef’s mother lives in Pittsburgh, and his parents each stayed in family housing during parts of his rehabilitation.  

His father says that again and again, their experiences as family members confirmed that Yusef was in the right place.

“We were always informed of everything that went on with Yusef. And the resources offered to parents, from how to deal with TBI, the websites, the meetings, the support groups, and the perspective of parents who had similar experiences, were all great,” Will recalls.

“The therapists said, ‘Let us work with Yusef and trust the process. He does the work, and you'll see the results,’ and that's where we are now,” Will says.

After several months of therapy, Yusef walked out of Shepherd Center.

View Yusef Smith taking steps during a therapy session.
Yusef Smith taking steps during a therapy session.
View Yusef Smith walking with his son recently.
Yusef Smith walking with his son recently.

Getting Back to Work and to Life

Last fall, Yusef and Will were featured in a public service announcement (PSA) for the Buckle Up Georgia campaign. Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety produce the PSA in collaboration with Shepherd Center. Yusef says the reason he’s here today is because of his seatbelt.

Now, he’s living with his mom in Clairton, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and working at a pharmacy down the street. He’s also continuing to build a small business based on a product he developed before his injury, Bee Butter, a beeswax-based body butter for skin, hair, and lips.

“I was looking for something different than the products in the store because they have too many chemical components, and they irritated my skin,” he recalls.

He says that while his long-term memory is strong, he still has some difficulty with his short-term memory.

“What’s funny is my short-term memory is bad, but one of the first things I remembered — how I used to make the Bee Butter, the proportions and all that.”

He hopes to sell Bee Butter online and at the pharmacy where he works. But his bigger goal is to return to Atlanta so he can see his son more.

“I’m working and trying to figure it out right now. I can make a better life — not just for me but for my son.”

Written by Ruth Underwood

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.