How DriveOn helped Officer Anthony DiPonzio
Officer Anthony DiPonzio went from ICU to independence with help from Rochester Rehabilitation’s DriveOn program.
Anthony DiPonzio serves and protects us all as a Rochester Police officer. His life, however, changed on January 31, 2009 when he was shot in the head while on duty. Doctors weren’t sure he’d pull through the delicate brain surgery, but he beat the odds and survived.
About 10 to 12 percent of people with traumatic brain injuries like Anthony’s survive and, if they do, less than half lead functional lives. Despite his injury, Anthony was able to maintain his intellectual capabilities, talk, and eventually walk unassisted. It was a tremendous recovery, but not an easy one for the then 23 year-old young man.
Would Officer Anthony DiPonzio ever be able to drive again?
Three years after the shooting, a white scar snakes through Anthony’s dark, clipped hair from the back of his skull to the right side of his forehead. He walks with a pronounced limp, has little functionality in his left arm, and lives with some vision loss. He’s also come further than most survivors of a gunshot wound to the brain.
“Anthony is a truly wonderful, remarkable individual,” says DriveOn specialist Pam Gabryel, who evaluated Anthony for driving. “He knew from the minute we started talking that he wanted to get back to work as a member of the Rochester Police Department and that he needed his driver’s license to achieve his primary goal.”
“My recovery wasn’t easy, but I kept at it,” says Anthony, who endured lengthy and grueling physical rehabilitation to regain his strength. “My goal was to drive on my own and get back to work. I realized how much I took for granted – something as simple as driving through the parking lot at work. If it wasn’t for Rochester Rehabilitation’s DriveOn program, I wouldn’t have been able to drive on my own and get back to work. Driving is a freedom that I’m thankful for.”
To assist his ability to drive safely, Anthony applies strategies he learned from his DriveOn training that help him process traffic and navigate roadway conditions. He also uses adaptive equipment such as a spinner knob with right hand controls and additional side view mirrors. Anthony’s determination and tenacity helped him get behind a new set of wheels, and in 2011 he was finally able to drive to work again.
Driving is the key to independence, employment, and mobility. As Anthony DiPonzio has shown the Rochester community, anything is possible as long as you set a goal, have faith, listen to the people who are there to help you, and work hard. “You can do it,” he says.