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Slatington teen fights back from traumatic brain injury

  • Special to the TIMES NEWS This sign greeted Julian Gonzalez of Slatington at the Good Shepherd Health & Technology Center in Allentown as part of a celebration to honor Julian, who recently graduated from Pediatric Therapy at Good Shepherd.
    Special to the TIMES NEWS This sign greeted Julian Gonzalez of Slatington at the Good Shepherd Health & Technology Center in Allentown as part of a celebration to honor Julian, who recently graduated from Pediatric Therapy at Good Shepherd.
Published March 16. 2013 09:02AM

No matter what life throws our way, it's important to keep on keepin on.

With all he's had to endure, Julian Gonzalez of Slatington ought to be the poster child for that train of thought.

It was over a decade ago when Julian, then 8, sustained a traumatic brain injury after he was hit by a car.

Rather than wilt under the pressure of adversity, Julian persevered through hard work, sacrifice, and determination.

The fruits of his labor paid off in a big way for Julian, who defied the odds when he graduated from Pediatric Therapy at Good Shepherd.

A celebration to honor Julian, a senior at Northern Lehigh High School, on his last day of pediatric therapy, was held recently at the Good Shepherd Health & Technology Center in Allentown.

While he was extremely appreciative of the gesture, Julian said he couldn't help but have mixed emotions.

"I was happy that I was moving on, but sad that I was leaving," said Julian, 18. "But, I can always go back and visit."

Elizabeth Gonzalez, Julian's mother, said the occasion made for a very emotional moment.

"It was a nice surprise; I started to cry," Elizabeth said. "They've become kind of like family."

Elizabeth said Julian's progress has been nothing short of amazing.

"He's come a long way since," she said. "He's getting very far in his therapies."

Julian has been an outpatient in Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network's pediatric program since he suffered the traumatic brain injury after he was hit by a car at the age of eight.

Since then, Julian has spent thousands of hours working with physical, speech and occupational therapists to overcome the effects of the accident. Many times, he attended therapy sessions as often as three or four days a week.

While Julian will transition to therapy as an adult, he will leave behind the relationships he and his mother, Elizabeth, have developed with the pediatric staff over the past 10 years.

His therapists, such as Carol Knauss, PTA, who worked with Gonzalez for most of his 10 years, say that he faces all of life's challenges with an amazing attitude.

"Julian has had many obstacles to overcome and challenges ahead of him," Knauss said. "He has always strived to work hard, do his best, so often with a smile on his face, a song and always a compliment for others. He encourages other patients to succeed, whether he knows them or not."

Erin Martinez, DPT, PCS, CBIS, pediatric clinical specialist, added "I have enjoyed working with Julian and watching his progress."

"Each week, Julian has worked hard to beat his previous week's record in therapy," Martinez said. "He doesn't let his disability affect his mood, and always comes to therapy with a positive attitude and a sense of humor. He has become an integral part of the pediatrics department, and he will be greatly missed."

His therapists have worked in recent months to help Gonzalez acquire skills to gain independence, such as being able to make a sandwich, to keeping track of his own schedule through the use of an app on his iPad.

Elizabeth said that her son has made significant progress over the years, and she's appreciate of the staff's dedication.

When she first brought Julian home from the hospital after his accident, Elizabeth said he was unable to communicate, and had little mobility.

Today, Julian speaks with confidence, and though he uses a wheelchair to get around, he is an active young man who loves to listen to music; play baseball for the Miracle League; attend summer camps where he swims, fishes and goes horseback riding; plays video games; and writes stories on his iPad.

Knauss said "Julian's journey does not end here."

"He is now a young man with many more life experiences, challenges and successes ahead of him," she said. "We wish him and his wonderful family all the best as he enters this new chapter in his life."

Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network is a nationally recognized rehabilitation leader, offering a continuum of care for people with physical and cognitive disabilities, and specializing in assistive and rehabilitation technology.

More than 60,000 people come to Good Shepherd each year for specialized programs in stroke, orthopedics, brain injury, spinal cord injury, pediatrics, amputation and more.

Good Shepherd provides rehabilitation services in eight Eastern Pennsylvania counties, and operates 21 outpatient sites, four inpatient sites, a long-term acute care hospital, two long-term care homes for people with severe disabilities, an independent living facility and a lifestyle products online store called Rehability.

For more information, visit

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