SIOUX FALLS, SD -
We're getting our first in-depth look into the condition of Trooper Andrew Steen after suffering a traumatic brain injury seven weeks ago.
Steen has a long road ahead of him, but Dr. Charles Miller says he is doing better than expected. Wednesday was a big day for Steen as he had part of his skull replaced. Miller and his team say this could be the first step in Steen's road home.
After Steen was run over by a suspected drunk driver, he was rushed to the hospital. His neurosurgeon says Steen was in a life or death situation. To allow the brain to swell, Miller removed part of Steen's skull. It was about the size of an adult hand.
"That's what the brain does when it's injured is it expands," Miller said.
Miller says almost every day since then, Steen has improved.
"His progress has been just remarkable. I'm so happy for him and his family," Miller said.
Steen's progress on Wednesday was again more than his doctors had expected. Family members say just hours after surgery, Steen was talking and texting with friends.
"Most people have a two-year healing period. That's a physical healing period. That doesn't mean it takes two years. It just means you can have physical healing for that two-year period," Miller said.
As for the future, Miller is optimistic. He says with traumatic brain injuries like Steen's, there are always subtle changes and difficulties, but he believes anything is possible.
"There are many people who are never able to have the bone replaced because they pass away. They never survive to this point, so to get to the point is a huge milestone," Miller said.
In fact, Miller says close to half of the people who come in with conditions like Steen's don't make it this far. That's why the progress is emotional not only for Steen and his family, but also for his surgeon.
"I hurt when my patients hurt. Sorry. I hurt when my patients don't do well. I just have such joy when my patients do well," Miller said.
Miller says the next step is getting Steen out of the hospital and in his own home. Family members hope that will happen by Christmas.
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