Not many of us plan on moving to Dover, New Jersey. Not exactly the garden spot of the Garden State. But it is where The Kubert School is located—a three-year program that teaches graphic art and the country’s only accredited school of cartooning. Their graduates work at Marvel, DC and Archie comics, as well as The Simpsons and The New Yorker magazine.
In Dallas, 1,500 miles away, Chris was thrilled to be accepted to the school, and he and his wife were searching housing options in N.J. He had been drawing comics since third grade, and his dream of being a professional cartoonist was falling into place. That is, until a drunk driver changed the plan by plowing into their car on a local highway and turning their vehicle into a 4,000 lb. gyroscope. They spun for what seemed like minutes and came to rest in the middle of the highway. Immediately Chris began a frantic effort to get his wife to safety. The accident dislocated his shoulder, but that didn’t prevent him from trying to push her out of the car. He kept yelling, insisting she get out and off the highway. She was 6 months pregnant at the time. Just as she was free of the car and had climbed over the guardrail to safety, an 18-wheel tractor-trailer crashed into the car with Chris still inside.
At the hospital the doctor told Chris’s wife, “If he lives, he will be in a persistent vegetative state”. He had blood seeping into his brain along with other internal injuries. He was in a coma and the prognosis wasn’t good. After weeks in the hospital, the blood clot causing the most concern had somehow disappeared. When Chris did finally awake from his coma, he actually thought he was Batman and his wife was Catwoman—an apparent homage to his cartooning dreams.
And like Batman, Chris miraculously survived his life and death ordeal. But there was much rehab work to do. It took him long months of re-learning how to walk and deal with the psychological issues related to his lingering medical concerns.
It’s been almost 4 years now and Chris has what is called TBI. Traumatic Brain Injury. He suffers from memory loss due to his accident. “I guess you can say the bleeding caused kind of a short-circuit in my brain,” he half-joked. He’s taught himself Photoshop and his writing has improved a bit. But his drawings are unrecognizable. His dreams of being a professional cartoon illustrator have all but been erased.
Chris found LaunchAbility and was a graduate of their Academy program at UT Southwestern. “Going through the Academy Program helped give Chris the confidence to cope with his unexpected disability,” his job coach Morisa Myrick said. LaunchAbility not only trained Chris and helped him get full-time work after the accident, they gave him the tools to handle different situations. He had always been self-sufficient. But now that he has TBI, it took some coaching for him to realize he was letting his pride get in the way at work. “Morisa, convinced me that it was all right to tell people about my memory loss. Now I’m okay asking the person I’m talking with to write stuff down. LaunchAbility didn’t care about my shortcomings, they cared about helping me find a job. And, more importantly, keep it.”
The great news: Chris is no longer a LaunchAbility client. He decided to go to school for medical coding and found a part-time job on his own. “He made the most of our help and moved on, creating a better life for himself. We’re all so exited…and I’m so proud of him,” Morisa gushed. When Chris heard that, he beamed. Even after all he’s been through, he certainly hasn’t forgotten how to smile. Or hug his wife and 3½ year-old daughter Poli. Yes, the baby his wife was carrying when he pushed her out of the car to safety was a beautiful, healthy little girl delivered three months after the accident. He may not be able to draw a comic book hero any longer, but to his wife and daughter, Chris will always be their Superman!