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Michael Black s life changed in an instant.

One moment, he s driving down Florida roads, and the next, he s sitting in a hospital bed with family by the bed side.

It happens every 16 seconds, said Black, referring to how often someone suffers a traumatic brain injury.

Michael knows the road to cognitive recovery will be a long one. He was in a car accident -- thrown 40 feet and landed on his head. He remembers very little about the accident, but his mom, Bernadette Coleman, remembers the call.

It was 6:30 in the morning when we got our 16th second, Coleman said. At first, we were told he d never wake up. Then we were told if he woke up, he d be a vegetable. Then we were told he d never walk again.

But with aggressive rehab, Michael is slowly walking. Five months ago, he graduated from using a walker.

Rehab is actually kind of fun, he said.

But Michael's recovery comes at a steep price. Coleman said they ve spent thousands upon thousands of dollars already, and some of it is out-of-pocket.

Michael had 32 days of insurance -- 32 days! Coleman said.

And that barely covered his hospital stay. It didn t include the physical therapists, the trainers, and the hyperbaric therapy.

So Coleman started up a social site, called TryMunity, to share her concerns with people facing the same issues. It is here she s connected with many brain injury survivors and their families, who echo her concerns.

Dr. Alfred Johnson saw Michael s story and wanted to help. But he knows his therapy isn t covered by most insurance carriers. It s a fight he keeps fighting.

We ve been trying for three years to get government funding and approval for a study on veterans with percussive brain injury, Dr. Johnson said.

Johnson is with the Hyperbaric Centers Of Texas. He said while his therapy is FDA approved, it s not patentable. His claim is that hyperbaric therapy is not lucrative business, and so he has not received the attention of big medical money-makers.

The Colemans say most insurance carriers do not have extensive rehab coverage. So Bernadette Coleman is now on a mission to create awareness about expanding coverage for patients like her son. In mid-March she took her message to Capitol Hill, to lawmakers.

It s a life-long recovery process, and needs to be covered for the life of the patient, Coleman said.

Michael s goal is to someday get rid of the cane and walk on his own. And maybe one day, even drive again.

E-mail jpanicker@wfaa.com

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