Mitchell Aldrich was being, as he describes it, a “typical teenage boy.” He was hanging out with some friends when he jumped on one of their mopeds and took off. He didn’t even get out of his neighborhood before he crashed.
Mitchell was taken to UF Health Jacksonville where it was determined he had a severe brain injury. “I was unconscious for four days. After that, I remember flashes of people that visited me but it’s mostly a blur,” said Mitchell.
When he was transferred to Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital, he was confused and disoriented. He did not have any memory for a month after his accident. He continued his recovery in the Neuro Rehabilitation Day Treatment (NRDT) Program. As he began to recover, he had to face a new reality. Russell Addeo, Ph.D., Program Director for the NRDT, said something to Mitch that had a profound impact on him. “He would tell me that I need to change the way I think about things. He kept repeating this to me and it finally stuck. It changed my whole perspective on my life,” said Mitchell.
After three months in the NRDT, Mitchell met Conner, a new program participant. They were about the same age and had similar injuries. Mitchell tried to be a mentor for Conner. In that, he discovered a new calling. He changed the way he had been thinking and decided his accident helped him get his life back on track.
Mitchell worked with staff at the Brooks Clubhouse to help him prepare for a new role. He now volunteers three days a week in the wheelchair department at Brooks and volunteers one day a week at the Brooks Clubhouse. Mitchell also helps coach the boy's lacrosse team at Sandalwood High School, his alma mater.
“I really want to give back to others. My family and doctors and therapists really helped me through my recovery and now I want to help others who may be struggling,” said Mitchell.