Dan Buhler Jr. of Sayreville has returned to normal life as much as possible after a debilitating 2014 head injury. He received help at the Craniocerebral Injury Center at the J.F.K. Johnson in Edison.


Dan Buhler Jr. of Sayreville has returned to normal life as much as possible after a debilitating 2014 head injury. He received help at the Craniocerebral Injury Center at the J.F.K. Johnson in Edison.

Dan Buhler Jr. remembers a place in Edison where an environmental consultant researched the previous use of the facility as an old landfill.

As part of his field work, test pits were conducted to monitor the soil below, and a contractor on site cleared trees from designated areas.

It was the spring of 2014.

Then everything darkened.

Buhler later learned that dominoes from falling trees aimed at him, hitting him on the back of the head with tremendous force. Buhler, who was only 28 at the time, suffered severe head injuries, including a skull fracture and damage to his right occipital lobe. His helmet may have saved his life, but failed to prevent serious traumatic brain injury.

The helicopter took a Sareville resident to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, a first-level trauma center. A few days later, when he began to come out of a coma, he was transferred to a brain injury center at the John F. K. Johnson Hackensack Meridian Rehabilitation Institute in Edison to begin the long journey back to a life he once knew.

For Buhler, every step forward was a triumph of his own perseverance – and the support of his team of specialized doctors, nurses and therapists at the Center for Traumatic Brain Injury.

“They all provide a support system around you,” Buhler said. “You have a lot of work ahead of you and you have to practice your skills over and over again. My recovery was not instantaneous. It was continuous. “

He had to learn to walk, talk – and even swallow – all over again.

Today, almost eight years after the injury, Buhler has returned to work as a senior project manager at a major geotechnical and environmental consulting firm and is married to his then-girlfriend Andrew. He also became a licensed site remediation specialist in New Jersey by passing a challenging test.

The couple are the parents of four-year-old twins Zachary and Zaila.

Buhler shares his story during Brain Injury Awareness Month in March to thank the people who cared for him and inspire other people with brain injuries.

“I remember seeing Dan after the accident,” recalls Andra Buhler. “He had scratches all over his face, a breathing tube. He could have shaken my hand, but he didn’t react very well. “

He could not see properly.

Andra Buhler did not know that in the future her boyfriend is only four months away.

“We are very grateful for Dan’s recovery,” she said.

The couple married in November 2015.

Buhler is one of more than 5.3 million children and adults in the United States living with severe traumatic brain injury, according to the Brain Injury Association of America.

He continues to liaise with Brian D. Greenwald, medical director of the Center for Traumatic Brain Injury.

“Dan was seriously injured when he came to us. And it was great to see him get better and move through our constant care, “Greenwald said.” Now he’s back at work, married and a father. He’s enjoying the wonderful things in his life. That’s what we want for everyone our patients ”.

As Buhler improved, he moved from the Institute of Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation (Department of Brain Injuries) to the Institute of Acute Rehabilitation (Department of Advanced Recovery) to an outpatient / follow-up program (outpatient cognitive rehabilitation program).

Buhler continues to enjoy the support of Greenwald and the craniocerebral injury team. He still has occasional symptoms and he takes medication regularly, which sometimes requires adjustment. He uses techniques he learned during rehab to keep him in focus, such as compiling lists and using calendars. It works more than before an accident to support the organization.

Sometimes it is difficult for him to convey his message, so he can send an email before a meeting or an important phone call to clarify his questions in advance.

He also suffers from a disorder of the nervous system known as pseudobulbar affect (PBA), which is characterized by episodes of sudden uncontrollable and inadequate laughter or crying.

“Kids can do something wrong and they look at me in search of a reaction. I can give in to laughter instead of discipline, and eventually I will have to leave the room and allow my wife to join, ”he said.

Buhler found support in others living with a traumatic brain injury. He was there last year when a group of brain injury survivors met at JFK Johnson with Tracy Morgan, an actor and comedian who was injured in a car crash on the New Jersey track, also in 2014. Morgan also received his help from JFK Johnson and continues to support the Craniocerebral Injury Center.

“Meeting with Tracy was a great experience,” Buhler said. “So I talked to other people with traumatic brain injuries who came to meet him. … Rehabilitation for traumatic brain injury doesn’t end when you leave the hospital, so it’s nice to know that you always have a support system when you need it. ”

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