Welder returns to work with VR help

Felipe Gallegos, former VR consumer, works as a welder at Spartanburg Steel.

Felipe Gallegos, former VR consumer, works as a welder at Spartanburg Steel.

Felipe Gallegos came to VR’s Bryant Center in Lyman in March 2017, hoping to receive services and assistance that could help him return to work after a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Felipe had a successful career as a welder at Spartanburg Steel. He made a good living, and provided a loving home for his wife, Consuelo, and their children. Felipe is also close to his brother, and they worked together raising and breaking horses.

In late 2016, Felipe and his brother were working with a horse that had not yet been ridden. Felipe later explained that he had “an argument with a horse, and I lost.” The horse kicked the left side of Felipe’s head, resulting in a skull fracture and a brain bleed (stroke), which left Felipe in a coma for more than six weeks.

It was after recovering from the coma, and while under the care of his neurosurgeon, that Felipe became a VR consumer. As a result of the TBI, Felipe had a significant cognitive impairment, in addition to dizziness, nausea, and memory loss. A major obstacle Felipe faced in returning to work was that he was now unable to operate an automobile due to the effects of the TBI.

Felipe began physical and occupational therapy, and within a matter of weeks was demonstrating significant improvement in both his physical and cognitive capabilities. As a result, he started participating in job readiness training which helped him rebuild his stamina and return to a daily work routine. Felipe approached each task with enthusiasm, often commenting on how much better he felt, and how much he appreciated the opportunity to go back to work.

As he continued to improve, the occupational therapy team began working with Felipe to help him regain his driver’s license. The Bryant Center partnered with Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Center, which specializes in traumatic brain injuries, to help Felipe with this endeavor. After much diligent work and practice, Felipe passed the test and earned his driver’s license.

Felipe’s VR team then arranged a job try-out (JTO) with his former employer, Spartanburg Steel. Felipe had worked there for thirteen years, and the company was willing to give him a chance to return to his former job as a welder. The JTO was supposed to last four weeks, but after just four days, the Human Resources Manager asked to forego the JTO and immediately rehired Felipe.

During his time with VR, Felipe worked extremely hard to overcome obstacles that, at first, had seemed like they may prevent him from returning to work and supporting his family. Felipe has expressed his gratitude many times for the staff members who helped him to succeed in his recovery so that he could return to the life he loved. Felipe eagerly shares with everyone he can that there are “a lot of nice people, a lot of real good people at the Bryant Center.”