Dylan McKinney, 19, recently visited the speech language pathology team at Ozarks Medical Center Rehabilitation Services to share how speech therapy changed his life following a devastating car accident and to personally thank his “speech ladies” who put him on the road to recovery.

His visit was part of the organization’s recognition of National Hearing and Speech Month in May.

“Dylan’s story is truly remarkable,” said Pam Ream, Director of OMC Rehabilitation Services. “He is a testament to all the ways speech language services can help someone following a traumatic brain injury. His story should give a great deal of hope to other patients who are recovering from brain injuries due to car, four-wheeler and other accidents.”

On Dec. 19, 2008, then 16-year-old Dylan was on his way home from Houston High School, ready to begin his Christmas break, when he believes he spotted a deer and crossed the center line. He overcorrected and lost control of the vehicle, which rolled three times. Dylan was tossed from the car.

A friend, who was with him in the car, performed CPR on Dylan before a medical team arrived and he was taken to a Springfield hospital.

Dylan spent two weeks in a medically induced coma here on earth, but says he distinctly recalls spending those two weeks in heaven, where his faith was forever strengthened.


“I was fine, I knew I was only going to be gone for two weeks but I was worried about my mom and I told the Lord I needed to check in with her,” he said. “He showed me the hospital where she was and her being told I would never walk, never talk. I knew I was going to be ok though.”

Dylan had a fractured skull and ribs, fractured pelvis and hip, perforated liver and was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Once he woke, his recovery was a long and painful process. He spent a month in the hospital and 17 days in a rehabilitation facility before being released. The family, who lives in Houston, was worried about where they would receive the rehabilitation services in their area for Dylan. Then, they learned rehabilitation services were available just down the road at OMC’s Mountain Grove Medical Complex.

In March 2009, Dylan began rehabilitation with Speech Language Pathologist Sharon Sowder.

In the beginning, Dylan worked on issues such as recall and memory. He had trouble recognizing people and suffered from speech apraxia, a speech disorder in which a person has trouble saying what he wants to say correctly and consistently.

“For example, he knew all about what a door was and what it did, but he didn’t know what it was called,” his mother Sharon McKinney said. “He was always saying ‘Mom, shut that thing.'”

Sharon said the recovery was a “constant learning process.” The speech language pathologists would give Dylan strategies to work on things at home. And work he did.

“Dylan has such a great attitude towards his treatment,” said Carolyn Valade, a speech pathologist, who has also worked with Dylan. “He works so hard and is so motivated.”

Dylan said his motto towards his recovery has been “adapt and overcome.”

“It’s all been challenging but I’ve got to do it to make me better, so I just suck it up and do it,” he said.

His hard work paid off and in the fall of 2009, Dylan returned to Houston High School for his senior year. He is now a student at the Drury College Cabool campus, where he is working on a degree in biology.

Dylan still receives benefits from speech language services. Earlier this year, Dylan, who suffers from hearing damage, went back to speech language therapy for auditory processing issues. He has since begun work with the Listening Program, which works to improve brain function, reduce stress, and train the brain in the auditory skills needed to effectively listen, learn and communicate.

His mother said she has been amazed at all the different areas where speech language services have helped Dylan including memory, sensory and word recall.

“I had no idea what all speech covered when it comes to helping people with brain injury,” she said.

Dylan continues to share both his story of recovery and his message of faith to encourage and help others.

“The Lord has blessed me in so many ways,” he said.

In addition to speech-language pathology services, OMC Rehabilitation Services also offers physical and occupational therapy in the hospital and at area clinics, schools, and work places, and through Riverways Home Health of OMC. For more information about OMC Rehabilitation Services or speech-language pathology services, call 417-257-5959 or toll-free 888-242-9329 or e-mail rehab@ozarksmedicalcenter.com.


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