EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - During a 2020 work trip, Steven Gauthier was in a severe car accident that left him in a coma for two months.
He lost his pulse for 32 minutes while fighting for his life. The crash caused multiple injuries, including head trauma and broken bones. Gauthier passed through multiple hospitals, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During that time, Gauthier’s wife, Lynn, moved into his hospital room for months to help take care of the retired helicopter and KC-10 pilot.
After waking from his coma, Gauthier was met with many challenges. His traumatic brain injury would demand months of physical and mental recovery. From speech therapy to relearning how to walk, Gauthier had a long road to rehabilitation.
For over a year, he worked hard to regain his abilities. He was determined to drive a car again one day. Gauthier said the strength to progress and fight on came from those close to him.
“I learned what matters most in life is the relationships you have with your family and even your coworkers,” he said. “My family was instrumental in my recovery.”
After his recovery, he met Tanja Johnson, a nurse consultant at Eglin’s Intrepid Spirit Center.
“Many people do not know our facility is here, and the services available to our active-duty members with traumatic brain injuries,” Johnson said.
The Intrepid Spirit Center is a treatment center dedicated to post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, associated pain conditions, and psychological injuries in active-duty service members.
Along with the ISC, Gauthier talked about how critical a strong support system is while taking on the road to recovery.
“The support of my family was critical for my resiliency and rehabilitation,” said Gauthier, who retired from civil service at the Air Force Armament Directorate after the accident. “I am convinced that family support is vital for optimum TBI patient outcome.”
After learning about the Intrepid Spirit Center, Gauthier became a Red Cross volunteer there in 2022.
He helps out in all areas of the center, from tuning instruments in music therapy to aiding with community outreach.
“It feels like I’m able to give back to the service members,” he said. “Every brain injury is different, but I know some of the things they’re going through. I find any way I can help.”
After long hours of brain exercises and physical therapy, Gauthier reacquired his mobility and his driver’s license.
To learn more about the ISC’s services, there is an Open House Carnival March 31 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the center. For more information, call 883-9484.
To become a Red Cross volunteer at the ISC, call 850-432-7601.