“This ain't my first rodeo.”
Those words belonged to Matthew Grice, an Oklahoma City police officer hurt so badly in a car accident last month it wasn't clear if he'd pull through.
Grice, who is also a professional mixed martial arts fighter, did.
On Sept. 8 in Shawnee, a van traveling down a highway slammed into the back of the Grice's Jeep Wrangler while he was stopped at a red light. He arrived at OU Medical Center in critical condition, with a traumatic brain injury. He had emergency surgery. Doctors were not optimistic.
Grice, the 32-year-old Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight, has proved to be a fighter.
Weeks after his accident, his wife, Caroline, began to post updates on Facebook.
Awakened from medical sedation, he has begun to recover from his brain injury, a slow process. On Sept. 25, Caroline described how doctors placed a speaking valve in a tracheal tube.
His words were garbled and hard to understand at first.
“This ain't my first rodeo,” came across.
It was a reference to an earlier accident, said his friend and manager Danny Rubenstein.
Grice grew up in Harrah, and became a four-time state champion in high school wrestling. The summer before college at the University of Oklahoma, a car accident sent him through the windshield on the passenger side.
After multiple surgeries, he recovered. At OU, he wrestled and earned a degree in sociology. He may not have met his potential as a collegiate wrestler, Rubenstein said, but “he's one of the toughest guys that's ever wrestled.”
After college, Grice became an Oklahoma City police officer. He returned to competitive sport, turned professional in mixed martial arts and opened an Oklahoma City mixed martial arts gym, where he trains and teaches.
While he's passionate about fighting, his wife and two young daughters are No. 1 in his life, Rubenstein said.
Long road back
A traumatic brain injury is an injury to the brain that's more severe than a concussion and can be seen on a CT scan or MRI, said Michael Martin, a neurosurgeon at OU Medical Center and assistant professor of neurosurgery at OU. Signs of traumatic brain injury run the gamut from severe headache with nausea to a deep coma.
Recovery can be long and arduous; it can take months to years to find out where a person with traumatic brain injury will land.
On Sept. 28, Grice's wife posted that her husband was moved from intensive care to a regular patient room, a sign of improvement. He has begun speech therapy and light physical therapy. He has walked with assistance. His personality is shining through — he likes to “make fun and be ornery,” his wife reported.
He also remembers people and places that signify that his long-term memory is intact.
He is in good condition at OU Medical Center.
“We knew no matter what his doctors said Matt would fight his way through this,” his wife wrote. “Matt has a new fight now — working his way back to himself. Keep us in your prayers please.”