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Recovering Firefighter Taken to Chicago for Further Rehabilitation

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – WBFO News has learned that a Buffalo firefighter who has made a remarkable recovery from a serious brain injury was moved to a rehab facility out-of-state.

Dr. Jamil Ahmed of the Erie County Medical Center confirms that Donald Herbert is now at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Ahmed is one of his doctors. He says Herbert was transported, by air, to Chicago on Wednesday.

Herbert lost oxygen and suffered brain damage when a roof collapsed on him during a Buffalo fire in 1995. He had been living at the Father Baker Manor in Orchard Park and began talking to his family in early May for the first time in almost a decade. But Dr. Ahmed says his family decided to move Herbert away from Western New York to get him out of the spotlight. His story has captured world-wide attention.

"They wanted to go to a place where people don't know them. That is the reason they wanted to leave Buffalo," Ahmed explained. "Buffalo was an option, but they thought Chicago would be good for them at this time."

Ahmed has been treating Herbert with a mix of neuro stimulants used for Attention Deficit Disorder and Parkinson's Disease. That mix is believed to be part of his remarkable recovery. The doctor also wanted Herbert to undergo intense physical and speech therapies.

The family considered ECMC, but Ahmed says they felt they could concentrate on his care if he was out of the Buffalo area.

"They discussed it with many people and looked at different rehab places," Ahmed said. "And finally they came to the conclusion that the rehab hospital in Chicago could be easy for them, maybe for the commute and access."

Ahmed says Herbert continues to speak and remains "responsive." He also recovered from a recent setback after falling, and hitting his head. Ahmed says he changed some of his medication.

The Rehab Institute of Chicago specializes in physical medicine and rehab, as well as treating traumatic brain injuries. It has also be recognized as the "best rehabilitation hospital in America" since 1991 by US News and World Report.