Resident Rehabbing after Brain Injury Attends First Concert

Kelley Cotton prepared for months with the support of her doctors and therapists to fulfill a lifelong dream of seeing her favorite band live in concert.

Just six months after coming out of an induced coma to control seizures following a procedure to control a brain bleed, Nexus Neurorecovery Center rehabilitation patient Kelley Cotton attended her first concert ever.

“I was able to be part of the able-bodied community during the concert and enjoy life,” said Cotton. “I have gone through a lot, so I think anyone can get through a brain injury. This concert was a way for me to rejoin the community.”

The brain injury Kelley sustained left her with minimal speaking abilities, limited functional use of only one arm and dependence on caregivers and staff for her most basic needs. Instead of letting these challenges stand in her way, Kelley fulfilled her lifelong dream of seeing her favorite band, Weezer.

Communicating through head nods, lifting her working arm to indicate “yes” and using an alphabet board to spell-out complete sentences letter-by-letter, Kelley had to put in many hours of hard work to prepare for the concert. It was critical that Kelley was able to alert Nexus staff and family members if she was hot, thirsty or was experiencing pain while at the concert. To do so, Kelley trained to use a custom communication board. She also worked with speech-language pathologists to learn how to swallow again, enabling her to enjoy her favorite soda.

Nexus Neurorecovery Center music therapist Alissa Carver worked extensively with Kelley to help improve her breath support and retrain her body to progress her speaking abilities. Kelley explained this rehabilitation helped her sing along with her favorite Weezer tunes.

“In Kelley’s case, music therapy was used to address muscle strength, endurance and range of motion in her lips, tongue and throat,” said Carver. “These targeted singing exercises also allowed Kelley to work effectively with other therapies to improve communication and safety when swallowing, enhancing her overall quality of life.”

Amber Weaver, a recreational therapist at Nexus Neurorecovery Center, explained recreational therapy helped Kelley and her family determine appropriate compensatory strategies and techniques that allowed her to take part in quality-of-life activities she enjoyed before her injury.

“The focus and purpose of outings such as the Weezer concert not only provide enjoyment after a life-altering experience, they also assist in community re-integration where developed compensatory techniques are applied outside of the rehabilitation center,” said Weaver.

Kelley’s sister, Lindsay Sansom, said the experience enabled her to see that her sister could still enjoy life while she works hard to recover.

“Ever since her brain surgery in December left her severely disabled, it has been a challenge to adjust to her new constraints,” Sansom said. “This concert showed her that she can still live life and enjoy the things she loves. As Kelley’s sister and caretaker, it was a gift for me and my husband to be able to share this special experience with Kelley. Everything has been so stressful and scary since the surgery, and it was truly wonderful to have the chance to escape that for a little while and just enjoy life.”

The staff at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands made sure Kelley and her family were accommodated with access to a special VIP area to keep cool before the concert. In addition, Weezer’s management team donated all tickets for the event.