Bill Johnson goes home
GRESHAM, Ore. – Former Olympic downhill gold medalist Bill Johnson is home with his mother and stepfather and moving on to the next stage of his rehabilitation following brain surgery caused by a racing crash in March.
Johnson, 41, recently returned from The Center for Neuro Skills in Bakersfield, Calif., where he had been undergoing daily rehab for the past three months. He suffered serious brain injury March 22 in a crash during a downhill before the U.S. championships at Big Mountain Whitefish, Mont. He underwent surgery to repair his badly cut tongue in addition to the brain operation.
Johnson, who had been racing after 11 years away from his sport in hopes of making the 2002 Olympic Team, was switched while still in a light coma to Providence Portland Medical Center in mid-April. A short time later, he emerged from the coma and was transferred in late May to Bakersfield. Now that he is back in the Portland area, he will undergo outpatient treatment at Providence Portland.
“We are grateful and happy to have Bill home with us,” DB Johnson, his mother, said in an e-mail to friends and well-wishers. She and her husband live in this Portland suburb. “He is happy and very upbeat, also positive about continued outpatient rehab.”
She told reporters, as she met her son’s plane at the airport, “We’ve got a major challenge. He needs a lot of work, still.”
At the airport, Johnson said, “I’m going to be in therapy with my mom. I’m ready to work hard.”
Dr. Molly Hoeflich of the hospital staff said Johnson probably will attend therapy two or three days a week with a program designed to not only improve his physical strength but boost his memory. However, she also cautioned, as she had in April and May, that recovery from brain surgery, especially as severe as Johnson’s, is unpredictable.
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Athletes from across the globe will make their way into the National Stadium in Beijing, China, next month for the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.