Though still in a coma, after several more operations Reinhardt had improved enough by Oct. 16 to be flown to Colorado in a medical emergency transport plane. He was treated in two Denver hospitals, first at University Hospital and then at Craig Hospital. While still unconscious he was named to the Big Eight All-Academic team, based on his freshman GPA of 3.24.
Finally, on Nov. 16—62 days after his injury—he came out of his coma.
Discharged from Craig Hospital on Feb. 15, 1985, he returned daily as a full-time outpatient for two months. Afterward doctors prescribed three hours of speech therapy and three of physical therapy per week to be done at home. Pat Reinhardt and her husband, Ed Sr., felt instantly that this would not be nearly enough. Eddie could do almost nothing. The injury had left him barely able to speak; his right side was mostly paralyzed. Whether he would ever get any better, the Reinhardts had been told, was in doubt.
Shortly thereafter Ed Sr., who owns a small business-forms company in Littleton, went to Arlington, Texas, to visit a couple who were giving intensive therapy to their son, who had been shot in the head by a crazed neighbor. The couple and a host of volunteers worked on the boy day and night. Ed Sr. returned to Colorado and told his wife, "I don't think we have any choice." The battle was joined.
Eddie's parents and, when they weren't in school, his five siblings—John, Rose, Tom, Paul and Matt—plunged in and did everything they could think of to make him whole again. They worked with him day and night, often as many as 16 hours a day. But even that, they felt, was not enough, so Pat began lining up volunteers. They came to the Reinhardt house seven days a week, including Christmas, and eventually the total number of volunteers reached 140.
Each crew had five people: one on each of Ed's limbs, one to move his head. The volunteers came at 6:30 a.m., 9:30, 3:30 p.m., 7:00 and 8:00. What they did is called patterning. Brain cells that Ed had not previously used—and humans use only about 10% of their brain cells—had to be taught to take on new functions.
"We had to go back to the basics," says Ed Sr. His son had to relearn everything he had mastered since infancy: creeping, crawling, walking, running, talking, reading, writing. Conventional wisdom is that the brain-injured can improve only for six months to two years after the injury; then they plateau. But even when Eddie's progress seemed glacial, he kept improving.
"It was always 'Faster, faster,' " says Pat. "We had every stupid reward we could think of, from kisses from pretty girls to videotapes. We always had a clipboard and stopwatch to record his progress. All this fit right in with his athletic mode."
From the couple in Arlington, the Reinhardts had learned of the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia, a facility that helps people with brain injuries. Glenn Doman, the institutes' founder, says that when Eddie first visited in October 1985, "he was very, very bad off. He had been reduced to a level below a child. He couldn't do things a seven-month-old can do." In the ensuing nine years Ed and various family members have gone to Philadelphia two times a year for weeklong sessions during which Ed's treatment is evaluated and new therapies are discussed. "The institutes told us when to jump and how high," says Pat, "and we did it."
For the first six months after they returned to Colorado, Ed Sr. shaved two faces every day, brushed two sets of teeth and took two baths. Pat fashioned large-print readers out of college textbooks to help teach Eddie how to read again. She assembled material on hummingbirds, Desmond Tutu, Robert Frost, Winston Churchill—and John Elway.