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Aspiring law student cuts ribbon at brain injury unit where he recovered

Glen Cove Hospital opened its new inpatient brain injury facility, the first of its kind in Nassau County. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Feb. 22, 2013)

Zachary Young is going to law school.

That fact still amazes his parents, Audrey and Jack Young of Plainview.

Home on winter break from Binghamton University where he was a senior, he had suffered cardiac arrest, which caused him to lose vital oxygen to his brain.

When he emerged from a coma, he had trouble speaking and writing, his memory was affected and he struggled to walk because of muscle problems in his right foot.

On Friday, the 23-year-old was the smiling ribbon-cutter at a new $4-million inpatient brain injury unit at Glen Cove Hospital, where he had spent three weeks last January working on his speech, memory and motor skills.

The 10,000-square-foot inpatient unit with 10 beds is the only state-designated, hospital-based brain injury rehabilitation center in Nassau County, according to the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.

In Suffolk County, Southside Hospital in Bay Shore and St. Johnland Nursing Center in Kings Park also have certified inpatient brain injury units.

Dr. Adam Stein, chairman of physical medicine and rehabilitation at North Shore-LIJ, said that having the Glen Cove unit would help families in Nassau, who need to be close to their brain-injured loved ones as they go through rehab.

Having specialized therapists also is critical, Stein said. "You need to have people who are skilled in dealing with potential complications," he said.

Dr. Elena Belkin, a rehabilitation doctor at Glen Cove Hospital, said Young worked with therapists four to five hours a day simulating real-life situations -- such as going to a shop or coming up with a schedule for classes -- to help regain his cognitive function. They even helped him study for the law school admission test.

Young said the nurses and therapists at Glen Cove "treated me less as a patient and more as a person, which really helped me."

Now, he's graduated from college, back to running, interning at a public defender's office, accepted at two law schools and waiting to hear from a third.

Asked whether he thought he had regained all of his mental function, he said, "Actually I think it's a little better because I have been working on it."

His mother called him "their miracle." His father said he was told only a tiny percent of people who suffered his son's level of brain injury survive and even fewer recover full function.

"We say all the time we don't play the lottery but we already won," he said.

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