Life can change in a heartbeat
One moment, Matt Dupree of Homerville was a healthy, strapping 20-year-old man. The next moment, his life was forever changed when his ATV hit a culvert on a highway in Homerville.
Matt was lifeflighted to Shands in Gainesville, Fla., where physicians are trained to work with severe brain injuries.
“He didn’t have hardly a scratch on him. No broken bones. But the doctors said his brain damage was so severe, he would always be a vegetable,” said his father, Don.
As Matt was receiving therapy on a table from Bikram Mohanty, he listened attentively as his father described his life since May 5, 2007.
“Matt spent 100 days in Shands, and they tried to get us to unplug him twice, but we wouldn’t give up.” When asked what would have happened to Matt if they had, Don says, “He would have been sent to a nursing home to die.”
After fighting to get him accepted into Shepherd Center in Atlanta, which specializes in traumatic brain injuries, Matt spent six months there undergoing therapy. Shepherd follows up with the family, and they still visit the center monthly.
Following his time there, Don says he and his wife, Cindy, carried Matt everywhere they could to get him help.
“When it’s your child, you do what you need to and you keep looking until you find what works.”
Matt was a football player for Clinch County on the state championship team, coached by his uncle, Jim Dickerson. For a gifted athlete to not be able to walk, talk, or control his movements, life for the Duprees was not easy but they weren’t deterred. They kept taking him to different treatments, from acupuncture to horse therapy, and as his condition slowly improved, ultimately found Innovative Rehab.
“Now, he can walk 1,000 steps a day and he swims in the pool. They said he would never talk again and you can see that’s not the case at all,” said Don, as Matt started chatting with the reporter and the staff.
“He’s come a long way working with Bikram, and he has a great attitude. I know he will continue to improve,” said Don.
Even though initially, physicians didn’t give the family much hope, after some time at Shands, Don received a call one day from Cindy on his cell phone while he was standing beside Matt’s bed.
“He reached for the phone. I couldn’t believe it. I told his mom to hang on and to talk to him.”
Don said Matt brought the phone up to his ear and talked to her, saying just a few words, but that was more than enough.
“The nurses didn’t believe me that he could talk, because when they came in the room and spoke to him, he wouldn’t answer them. I told one nurse to go out and call him on the phone, and she did. He answered and told her he was fine. She peeked around the corner because she thought it was me playing a joke on her, and couldn’t believe it was him.”