In 2001, Mac Fedge was a sophomore at Virginia Tech, home on fall break; on Saturday morning, he told his parents he’d been invited to attend classes at the London School of Economics and The Hague. On Saturday afternoon, an SUV tried to illegally pass another vehicle, and, instead, ran head-on into Mac’s small compact car. It drove straight over the driver’s side of the car and crushed Mac’s skull.
He was left in a coma, his frontal lobes completely destroyed; swelling during the recovery process compounded the initial assault. Mac’s doctors told his family he had one of the worst brain injuries they had ever seen and he would likely never recover. Months passed by as he struggled to relearn how to breathe, move, talk, feed himself, and regain his independence.
By 2006, Mac had been in and out of hospitals, endured dozens of surgeries and months of rehabilitation, and was still mostly confined to his home, his hospital bed and his wheelchair. All in all, he was feeling pretty tired, very lonely and completely uninspired. One night after eating Chinese food (his favorite), he opened his fortune cookie. “You are going to have a pleasant experience,” it read. His mom Kathy had just learned about a camp for brain injury survivors, organized by the Brain Injury Association of Virginia. She suggested that Camp might be the pleasant experience the cookie foretold.
Kathy called the BIAV to get more information and explain the severity of Mac’s situation. The voice on the other end of the line cheerily replied, “He sounds perfect for Camp!” Wait, clearly this person did not understand the gravity of Mac’s disabilities – “No, we completely understand, and he’ll do great here!” And he did.
And every year since, Mac returns to Camp Bruce McCoy – he meets old friends, makes new ones, dances, swims, creates, and enjoys life. Every year Mac’s brain, despite having no frontal lobes, grows, learns, and flourishes. He credits much of his recovery to the challenges and stimulation Camp provides. After his first Camp, he gave up the adult diapers and learned to transfer independently from his wheel chair to a toilet. After his second year, he was able to walk and stand for short periods of time. By year three, his speech and cognitive abilities had blossomed, and he was able to read and comprehend scholarly books.
If he and his parents hadn’t discovered Camp Bruce McCoy, Mac may never have made the progress he has today. He still thinks about the fortune cookie; he says he thinks it should have read, “BIAV’s Camp Bruce McCoy is going to lead you to many pleasant experiences, much relearning of those tasks lost from brain injury, and miracles will happen, too, each and every day of your life.”