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Life Can Change in an Instant- Luke Akerstrom's Story

We’ve all heard people say “you’re life can change in an instant” but life did change that quickly for little Luke Akerstrom and his family. In December 2010, Luke, his mom Brandi, dad Magnus and little brother Abram were on the way home from Christmas vacation. Brandi, looked into the backseat and saw Luke…but it wasn’t him.

“Time stopped. Magnus looked in his rearview mirror at Luke. Then Magnus & I locked eyes in that same rearview mirror and we knew. We knew this was a moment…a moment that would change everything. Luke was completely nonresponsive. No movement. No blinking. No talking. Silent. Gone.”

As Brandi frantically called 911, Magnus signaled a police officer at an adjacent stoplight who determined Luke was having a seizure. “During the total breakdown of screams and tears and pleads of “don’t let my child die,” Magnus knelt down to me (I was on the ground) and grabbed my hands and he prayed. He prayed through our tears, our extreme worry, our intense pain.” It is this faith in God that has helped the Akerstroms with the months and months of hospitalizations to follow.

Luke was rushed to the pediatric emergency room at Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital where ER physicians examined him. Taking his medical history, they learned he had experienced symptoms of a viral infection the preceding week. Encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain resulting from various causes, including viruses, was immediately suspected.

Luke spent three months in Wolfson’s where he was treated with steroids, intravenous immune globulin, plasma exchange and chemotherapy—all aggressive anti-inflammation treatments, to reduce the swelling in his brain. However, due to the swelling he did experience, Luke suffered dystonia, a neurological movement disorder in which sustained muscle contractions left him unable to walk or use his left arm and hand. His body’s right side was left with uncontrollable, non-stop movement. He was also unable to speak.

In early March 2011, the Akerstroms traveled to Mayo Clinic in Rochester to meet with a specialist for answers. After spending almost three hours with the family and reviewing all of Luke’s tests, he diagnosed Luke with an extremely rare form of encephalitis.

His prognosis wasn’t encouraging. He didn’t think Luke would improve much beyond his current condition and would likely not be able to walk again. Saddened by the news, the Akerstroms returned to Jacksonville with heavy hearts.

Unwilling to give up hope, Luke was transferred to Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital on March 16th, 2011. Each day, Luke received a full schedule of intense physical, occupational, speech, cognitive and recreational therapy. Physical rehabilitation can be an exhausting process for the strongest of patients, yet at Brooks Luke’s spirit rallied him again, with the support of its kind and understanding staff. Within a week Luke started speaking again and was able to use his right leg consistently. His family was thrilled with the progress he was making in therapy.

The attention to detail and devotion of Brooks' therapists and staff has been essential to Luke’s recovery process. Therapists kept Luke’s motivation and interest by using unique methods:
iPads, therapy dogs, visits from family and some very special friends, and were a few of his favorites.

Among those very special friends were Ryan Robinson and Brad Meester from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ryan brought Brad Meester and his wife Jamie to meet Luke early in his stay at Brooks. They continued to come back for visits week after week.

After months of rehabilitation, Luke was able to return home on May 18th. Today Luke is a miracle. He continues outpatient therapy at both Brooks Rehabilitation and Wolfson’s. His Brooks therapists now keep him engaged with games of “Wipeout” where he tries to score “10 million

points”. Luke is walking on his own and took his first few steps on the Jaguars practice field with Brad Meester and Maurice Jones-Drew.  Luke even attends school part-time. The Akerstrom family rejoices with each new task Luke is able to accomplish.

To read more of Luke’s story, please visit PrayforLuke.com.

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