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Gunshot Survivor Grateful to Get His Life Back

Matt Mattoon was shot during a home invasion. The bullet caused massive damage—but his medical team didn't give up on him.
Category: Rehabilitation

MattoonxrayMatt Mattoon's life was changed in an instant when he was shot by an intruder during a home invasion. The bullet entered his cheek, traveled down his esophagus, damaged  three vertebrae in his back, cracked the front of four ribs, pierced his lung, ricocheted off his back ribs, then lodged back in his lung where it remains.
(Photo:  X-ray image of Matt's lung)

Mattoon was rushed to Baystate Medical Center's Baystate Medical Center's emergency department where Dr. Reginald Alouidor, trauma surgeon, and the trauma team worked to save his life. It was questionable whether he would walk again.  

Rehab Team Didn't Give Up on Him

When Mattoon’s condition improved, he was transferred to Baystate Noble Hospital's Bronson Rehabilitation Center.

“He was overwhelmed with the extent of his injuries and concerns he may have significantly limited mobility,” remembers Tracy Follansbee, RN, MSN, director of rehabilitation services there.

“I was mad at the world,” recalls Mattoon. “I was basically afraid. The amazing thing is…they didn’t give up on me.”

He credits his  team with helping him channel that anger toward his recovery.  

Turning Point on the Road to Recovery

Mattoon could move his right leg, but had minimal movement in his left leg. A typical scenario for that type of injury would have him facing the challenge of going home in a wheelchair.

"But we also work to get the patient back on their feet doing the things they want and love to do,” says Ian Braithwaite, Physical Therapy Assistant and inpatient clinical coordinator.

Mattoon recalls a pivotal moment in his recovery. Gradually, with therapy, he was able to walk up to 10 feet with the use of a wheeled walker. But one day he decided he wanted to walk from his patient room to the rehab workout room, a distance of 150 feet, by himself with his walker. And he did.

Reuben Rappe, PTA, remembers Mattoon's sense of achievement. “It was the moment when he realized he dictated his own recovery.”  

Visiting the Staff—Walking Unassisted

Less than a year after his injury, Mattoon could walk without the use of a cane, drive, and exercise using a stationary bike.

He went to visit the unit to say thank you to the staff. 

“To see him walk onto our unit eight months later without using a walker or anything was one of the most gratifying things to see as a therapist,” says Jill Cooney, physical therapist.  

“I feel like every day is a new day,” says Mattoon. “Without Bronson, I wouldn’t be walking. They pushed me, knowing what I could do even when I didn’t believe in myself. They never gave up on me.”