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Jay's Rehabilitative Holistic Health & Physical Fitness Programs History

Why is this man smiling?

On the night of October 9, 1977, Jay Guttman, 19, a student from Cal State Northridge, was driving his new Econoline flat nose van home from an evening at the beach with his friends. He made the trip safely through the twists and turns of Malibu Canyon and headed north across the valley along Topanga Canyon Blvd. As he approached Saticoy, he made intimate contact with a telephone pole and killed a handful of the left side of his brain. He spent the next two months in a coma.

The best prognosis that doctors could offer his family was that he would remain non-communicative and paralyzed. Today, not only is he able to clearly recount the story of his near fatal accident, but he does so with obvious enthusiasm in his voice.

So why is this man smiling? The positive perspective comes from Guttman's clear understanding of his miraculous recovery. He says he remembers waking up in an ambulance after the accident, but this actually happened two months earlier. He was being transferred from intensive care to a convalescent hospital where it was expected that he would spend the rest of his life. But Guttman's parents refused to take a passive role.

His mother, who worked with the Dept. of Social Services, made contacts with the professional community and got him into a rehabilitation facility that was so new that it was still under construction. Once there, Guttman's own determination met an equally determined nurse’s aid. "I kept persisting until she helped me sit up in bed and put my legs over the rail" recalls Guttman.

Once he sat up, says Guttman, he believed he was ready to walk. "She helped me put my feet on the ground and from there I slid right onto the floor, but I kept working at it." Through perseverance and an excellent physical therapy program he was soon able to use a walker. "I was on the fourth floor of the new Rehabilitation facility that was still under construction. I looked out the window and saw that they were tearing down the hospital next door. That was the hospital I was born in" states Guttman.

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"I had to start over from nothing - learn my ABC's and 123s. I had to start at age zero, but I knew I'd make it. I was like the new and better building I was standing in."

As he improved, he was transferred to Northridge Hospital where he began speech therapy with students from Cal State Northridge.

Through further physical therapy he got to the point where he could walk with a cane. He says that even though his short term memory was shot he could read very slowly so he began taking classes with the help of tutors and readers, picking up where he'd left off before the crash. He had to relearn social skills too. "My Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity brothers were very supportive," recalls Guttman.

Guttman attended Center of Achievement for the Physically Disabled.

"God gave me a direction and it was Dr. Sam Britten. He played a dynamic role in my rehabilitation. He helped me become aware of myself physically, the negatives as well as the positives" stated Guttman.

Guttman says the physical work and the assistance of the professional trainer in Denver center strengthened his confidence. Before coming to the Center he had to grope for words (affected by aphasia and dyslexia), but as he worked on his physical condition he made great mental and psychological improvement. "The work in the pool was critical. It makes it so much easier to balance for stretching and breathing. I became much more cognizant of it" adds Guttman.

Guttman went on to complete his Bachelor’s and Master's degrees and now helps other survivors of serious head injuries enter the mainstream through an organization called Head Injury/Trauma Support Services. He also initiated and facilitated a head trauma support group which meets at Northridge Hospital.


-Jean O'Sullivan Jean.osullivan@csun.edu

My second traumatic experience came about as I was riding my bicycle to register for classes at CSUN that semester. I was going at a fair speed when the light changed to yellow. I put my hand brakes on and then I let them go and the front brake didn't let go!!!!! The rear end of my bicycle came over me, throwing me onto the street. I was in a daze when, thank God, my next door neighbor drove up. As she helped me to my feet we both viewed my disabled bike. I explained to her that I was going to register for classes at CSUN. She offered to help me out with my bike and take me to register. As we loaded my bicycle into her trunk I started feeling pain all over my head and body. She drove me to CSUN, dropped me off and said she'd wait for me. When I registered with the Disabled Students Dept. I was told that last semester I had not returned my towel to the PE Dept. so I must pay for it. As I walked to the PE Dept. to pay for the towel the pain all over my body increased. I barely made it back to my neighbor’s car. We drove home and she unloaded my bicycle and asked if she could be of any further assistance. I said ‘no, I’ll just take a warm bath and rest in bed’. I undressed and tried to step into the bathtub but was unable to due to an excruciating pain. I did my best to wrap a towel around me. I finally managed to get to the end of the bed and plopped down. Several hours later my father came in and helped me make an appointment with my doctor. I was diagnosed with both a broken arm and wrist. The doctor asserted that I could not go to school that semester. I told the doctor that he was crazy and I went back to school that semester. I had to ask both of my professors for reading and writing assistance. I made it through the semester! I might also add that this accident occurred on Friday the 13 th!!!!!!

The third catastrophic accident occurred several years later when I began to drive again. I was going to visit my fraternity brother. As I was going north on the 405 freeway I looked over my right shoulder and saw this trash truck as it plowed into my vehicle causing it to flip over and slide more than several hundreds of yards down the freeway on its roof. I wound up in the hospital for several weeks.

My last, and hopefully final, accident occurred on June 18, 2003. I was crossing the street from my chiropractor's office to the gym to workout. I looked both ways at the unmarked intersection and there were no cars. I stepped off the curb and was a quarter of the way into the intersection and for some reason I looked over my left shoulder and viewed a stainless steel car grill. Next I felt the bumper of that automobile crashing into my leg, breaking it in two places. The driver slammed on his brakes, thrusting my upper torso into the hood of the car and breaking my shoulder in two places.

Thank God for the off duty paramedic that happened to be there. He did his best to comfort me and called the ambulance. I was in the emergency care ward and then spent two and one half months in the convalescent hospital right down the street.

Thank God I overcame this last accident, especially with my dynamic rehabilitative workout!!!!! And thanks to all specialists, who provide competent elderly care and professional assistance for those people, who have suffered from accidents and severe injuries! Rehabilitation process becomes much more enjoyable and more efficient when you get the help from true professionals!

For further details, please email RehabbyJay@yahoo.com


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