When Clifton Scott hugged staff members goodbye at the Deaton Hospital and Medical Center in Baltimore yesterday, it was a gesture that nine months ago no one would have believed possible.
Mr. Scott, 36, of Baltimore was discharged after pulling off what his doctors called a remarkable recovery from a severe head injury. Hospital staffers threw him a farewell party to congratulate him and wish him luck.
"I wasn't surprised. I knew I was going to leave. Time heals all wounds," said Mr. Scott. Mr. Scott spent almost two months in a coma at the University of Maryland Hospital after he received a severe blow to the back of the head during an assault, according to Norma Kern, a spokeswoman for Deaton. He was diagnosed with a brain stem contusion, an injury that can cause brain damage.
When Mr. Scott awoke from the coma, he was transferred to Deaton, a facility for people who need chronic or long-term medical care. When he arrived, he was "disoriented and confused -- totally dependent in all activities of daily living, eating, walking. He was incontinent," said Ms. Kern.
Initially, hospital officials did not expect that Mr. Scott would ever be discharged.
"His initial prognosis was not good. We thought he would vegetate in this institution, perhaps the rest of his life," said Noel Kroncke, president of Deaton. In fact, two other rehabilitation centers had refused to admit Mr. Scott because they didn't think he'd ever recover, Ms. Kern said.
But soon after Mr. Scott was admitted, the head nurse said she "saw something, a spark in the eye," that led her to believe Mr. Scott had the potential to improve his condition, Mr. Kroncke said.
Mr. Scott's status was soon up graded, and the slow process of rehabilitation began.
One month out of his coma, Mr. Scott began to use a walker and progressed to walking with a cane. To be able to walk and talk again, he worked with a physical therapist and a speech pathologist.
Today Mr. Scott is almost fully functional. He still has a little trouble walking and needs a cane to climb stairs. His speech is slightly slurred and his voice is hoarse from a tracheostomy tube that was removed just last Tuesday.
"In view of his injuries [his recovery] is very uncommon," Dr. Marsha Brown, Mr. Scott's physician. "I tease him and call him a miracle. It was hard work and luck."
At the goodbye party, Mr. Scott thanked staff members for their help and support. Tears came to his eyes when they gave him a bouquet of balloons and a farewell card.
Mr. Scott said he is happy to be leaving the facility, but a little scared, too. "People out there aren't the same. I'm also sad. I'll miss everybody here."
The medical team responsible for Mr. Scott's treatment -- and Mr. Scott himself -- all cite his fierce determination as a factor for his swift and near-complete recovery.
"I was very determined. I've always been like that. . . . I had a lot of people behind me," said Mr. Scott. He also credits his religious faith with helping him through rough spots.
Mr. Scott did especially well in physical therapy, said Jean Greenhood, director of physical therapy at Deaton. When she first evaluated Mr. Scott, he couldn't move his arms and legs.
"He couldn't communicate, but his eyes were imploring me to help him," said Ms. Greenhood. "He had a lot of motivation. He wanted to do more. He wanted to get back on his feet."
During the therapy, Mr. Scott "went above and beyond what the normal patient would do. He would practice after sessions, in his room. Most patients just do what you tell them," said Ms. Greenhood.
Iona Johnson, director of speech-language pathology at Deaton, agreed that Mr. Scott's determination played a key role in his recovery.
"He was very persistent in asking for help," she said. "He really drove the system. . . . When I initially met him, I didn't think he'd go this far."
What does the future hold for Mr. Scott? He will move in with family in Baltimore and has applied to work in the dietary department at Deaton, as an interim career move, he said.
Eventually, he hopes to start his own business reconditioning cars and engines, a dream he had before he was injured. He also plans to visit the hospital regularly as a volunteer to help inspire patients.
"I'll say, 'Look how far I've come,' " he said.