David Inspires Us, Working With A Traumatic Brain Injury

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Community: Spearly Center

Submitted by: Susan Pappas

Department: Dining

Nominee: David Rivera

We hired David, a gentle soul just 20 years old who is a dining associate. When David was 12, he and his family were driving to California when their van was hit by a semi-truck. Killing his grandfather, David was severely injured as he was thrown from the vehicle 75 yards and initially pronounced dead at the scene. David was resuscitated during the Flight For Life ride to Children’s Hospital, though his family was informed by surgeons that he would likely never walk, talk, or function on any meaningful level again.

David was in a coma for three months following the accident, and struggled to relearn everything during the next 3 1/2 years of extensive therapy. David openly reveals the limitations the accident has left him with: blind in one eye, issues with his leg, a steel plate in his head, frequent headaches, and difficulty with his cognition. He was determined to “always move forward and never go back,” which he says drove him to recover well beyond the medical community’s expectations. David had to repeat a grade in school, and spent the remaining years of his education in special education programs; this David stated was extremely challenging and emotionally difficult. Working at The Spearly Center is David’s first “official” job of his life, and he says he likes it here because anytime he feels like giving up, his supervisor and the other workers support him, making him feel “good positive things in his life.” David admits he would rather listen during a conversation than talk, and he enjoys helping others to resolve their problems.

David’s journey emits many emotions for me. His gentle and kind demeanor is nice to be around. He truly inspires me with his persistence to overcome his challenges and to be positive every day. I am exceedingly proud of the dietary associates who strive to provide comfort, support, and mentoring to David to promote his personal and professional successes. I am honored to lead by example in the opportunities we provide to our associates, not just our residents.

David clearly touches everyone’s life in a positive manner which is evidenced by the nurturing exchanges he evokes from those around him. David provides a subtle and profound reminder to lead by example.

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