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North Strabane man who suffered brain injury fighting 'uphill battle'

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:09 p.m.

Alan Bushmire can tell you the exact number of days that have passed since Sept. 8, 2012.

He has counted all 411 of them: The days since his son, Brandon, was struck by a car and suffered a traumatic brain injury while away at school at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

It's been 411 days since Brandon — who still cannot walk or talk or care for himself — has been home, although he is expected to leave the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute facility at UPMC Mercy on Thursday. And it's been 411 days of uncertainty for his family.

“It's a waiting game,” said Bushmire of North Strabane. “There is no prognosis because every TBI case is so different.”

Brandon Bushmire, then 20, was walking at 11:20 p.m. near School and South Eighth streets in Indiana when police say he was hit by a car driven by another student. The student was charged in November with driving under the influence, aggravated assault by vehicle, possession of a small amount of marijuana and other traffic violations.

On Saturday Bushmire's family will host a second benefit dinner in his honor in South Fayette, although Brandon isn't expected to attend.

Money raised will go toward the family's out-of-pocket expenses, including converting Bushmire's basement game room into a hospital room in preparation for Brandon's homecoming.

Alan Bushmire also wants to pay it forward.

“We want to develop a charitable trust and use the money not only to help Brandon, but help others, whether it be through a scholarship in Brandon's name or something else,” he said.

Brandon Bushmire, a South Fayette High School graduate, was pursuing a business degree.

“He wanted to become an entrepreneur and help people,” his father said.

Caitlyn Rastetter, 21, of South Fayette, who has known Brandon Bushmire most of her life, said he “was always friendly with everybody. He's the kind that makes them smile when he walks into a room.”

Bushmire is pushing forward.

“He still struggles to walk and talk, and he can't eat at all,” Alan Bushmire said. “He's fed by a gastrotube. He's in rehab for mobility. He's been fighting an uphill battle. Right now, we're getting to a plateau stage.”

Bushmire works daily to relearn to walk, talk and do simple tasks.

Dr. James Valeriano, chairman of the Department of Neurology for the Allegheny Health Network, said each traumatic brain injury is different.

“In traumatic brain injuries, you can see something on a scan, but you might be underestimating the degree of damage – or even overestimating a bit,” said Valeriano, who has not treated Bushmire.

The younger the patient, the more recovery is possible, he said. “With young people, you have to give them a reasonable amount of time,” Valeriano said. “And ‘reasonable amount of time' can be in years, not just weeks or months.”

Alan Bushmire said no one is able to tell how much his son understands about his circumstances, and he has little short-term memory. He is able to answer simple, direct questions with the occasional “yes” or “no.”

Rastetter said, “The one thing we noticed when we visited him was that you could tell he was still himself – he just couldn't communicate.”

Bushmire said it's not clear whether Brandon will continue to progress.

“We don't know if he could get better in two to three months or three to four years — or ever,” he said. “That's the hard part to deal with — the unknowns.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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