ShareThis Page

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

Megan Guza
| 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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.