On July 28, Cole Larrieu - a 1999 River Falls High School graduate - was a passenger in a motor vehicle accident that nearly took his life. The convertible he was in went off the road, hit a driveway, launched into the air, hit a tree and landed upside down. Miraculously he survived but was left with the most severe kind of brain injury.
Three months ago, Cole was diagnosed with Diffuse Axonal, which is a brain injury that most likely would leave an individual in a nearly vegetative state. However, Cole has fought back and has been thriving through continued therapy.
"Things are going amazingly, all things considered. It is extremely hard recovering from a brain injury, or being a family member supporting somebody with a brain injury. A lot of people might look at Cole, or talk to him, and think he is really close to being back to normal. But when you do research on brain injuries, they call it an invisible injury because there is so much in the brain that is not where it was before," said Cole's wife, Kristin. "Outwardly, you might not even know just because of all the strides he has made. But there are still a lot of things - like memory, cognitive function, being able to follow instructions or even writing - that are currently things we are working on right now."
Cole was in the Intensive Care Unit at Regions Hospital in St. Paul for six weeks. During his stay the main focus was stopping brain bleeding and controlling pressure in his brain. He was transferred to Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul and after four weeks took a medical flight to Shirley RyanLab in Chicago, the best center for brain injury rehabilitation in the nation.
A benefit for Cole will be held on Saturday, Feb. 9, starting at 1 p.m. at St. Croix Lanes in River Falls. People can sign up ahead of time on the Facebook page or show up the day of the event and participate. Bowling will consist of two games and there will be two lanes saved for children, along with some children's activities and a pizza party. There will also be a 50/50 raffle, a spaghetti dinner (for a donation), a silent auction, Cole-Tabs (pull tabs) and a live comedy performance by the "Scott Hansen Live Comedy Show" from 7-9 p.m.
"The benefit is to show love and support for the two of them as they continue their journey of recovery with hopes of 100 percent recovery. Bowling is something the whole family can take part in and even Cole has been back to the lane and did an amazing job," said family friend Crystal DuBois. "Surrounded by friends and family, Kristin and Cole brought in the New Year, which is also Kristin's birthday, at the St. Croix Lanes. Cole beat all the odds and ended the evening with the highest score out of all of us."
The money from the benefit will go towards paying for medical expenses. Before the accident, Cole worked as a route/sales driver for Country Hearth Bread and Kristin had just quit her corporate job at Target to pursue her online health and wellness coaching business. Kristin said she recently started up her business again and is taking on clients, but Cole won't be able to drive again for quite some time, which will limit his independence and ability to get certain jobs.
"If you look at it from the other perspective, his diagnosis was that he might never walk or talk again. When you look at it from that perspective, he is walking and talking and he is moving around by himself. It is a miracle. It really is," Kristin said. "We are currently working on building back all those things that aren't there so he can eventually go back to work someday, be part of the community and be independent."
The couple will be in Chicago until the end of March. Cole will be taking part in an intensive rehab program three days a week. At that time, the couple will head home to reassess what else is needed for therapy since that is when their insurance will stop covering therapy.
"Our family and friends have been so supportive. We had so many people visiting at the hospital when he was in St. Paul. We've been living with my parents, except when we have been in Chicago. His parents live close as well, so there has been a ton of support from family and friends," Kristin said. "We can't thank our friends and family enough for what they have already been doing, whether it is a call, a visit or a message. That positivity plays a role in the recovery process. We have a really good community and really good people that care a lot."
Those interested in attending the benefit can order MiraCole T-shirts and can cozies at miracole2018.itemorder.com, or get them at the event.
For more information about the benefit or donating to MiraCole, visit the Benefit for Cole Larrieu Facebook page (facebook.com/events/517535285431906) or email MiracolebenefitMiraCole Benefit (Att: Crystal DuBois), 1581 Covey Drive, River Falls, WI 54022. There is also an account set up for the couple at Associated Bank in Hudson under the name MiraCole Benefit.
"One thing I could add is that we have always maintained a positive outlook and believed in Cole's full recovery. We leaned on faith, prayer and our community did the same. I think a lot of people get their minds stuck in the worst possible outcome and that consumes them," Kristin said. "I just made a choice to not let myself go there. That has made all of the difference in my state of mind and truly I believe it helped Cole's recovery. We know there will be barriers and the road to recovery won't be easy, but that doesn't stop us from believing it is going to happen!"
According to Kristin, Cole is the kind of guy that opens the door for people and asks them how they are doing and truly cares. He enjoys golfing, downhill skiing, boating, having a good time with friends and family and spending time with the couple's dog, Isabelle.
"Kristin and Cole are outgoing, energetic and kind people. They have been together for 20 years and married for six. Their love and commitment to one another is like no other," DuBois said. "They are committed to fighting this fight and gaining the most ground possible."