Surviving a major brain injury is one thing. Restoring your life and routines is another.

Some people just have that sparkle. You know who they are – the ones full of energy and optimism, the ones who are living life to the fullest. When a health crisis strikes, those attributes may be the best medicine. You might not immediately think of that when you first walk into Providence Acute Rehabilitation Center (PARC). Located at Providence Portland Medical Center, the 21-bed rehabilitation unit requires patients to be strong enough to withstand rigorous daily therapy. Airy and light, the hub of PARC is a large gymnasium-style room that houses everything from exercise equipment to a self-contained therapy garden and a kitchen. Here, patients who have suffered a life-changing stroke, spinal cord injury or brain trauma work with physicians and therapists to gain strength. They learn to walk again, to hold someone’s hand, to rediscover themselves.

But rehabilitation also requires what Molly Hoeflich, M.D., founding medical director of PARC, calls the “sparkle” factor. “A patient must have a sparkle – they must want to get better,” she says. “It manifests itself in many different ways, but it must be there.”

Ron Knutsen is full of sparkle. He has a big smile, a heart full of optimism, and deep determination. That determination has been put to the test.

Knutsen suffered a brain hemorrhage on July 4, 2006. He and his wife, Vicki, had just attended a Fourth of July celebration with their family. Knutsen was recovering from heart surgery, and he felt funny after the party broke up. As he carried his pajamas to his favorite chair, he fell and then realized he couldn’t move his left arm or leg. Vicki quickly dialed 9-1-1.

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