EXCLUSIVE: Ray Widstrand recovering well after skull surgery - KMSP-TV

EXCLUSIVE: Ray Widstrand recovering well after skull surgery

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Last summer, he was simply walking home in St. Paul's east side when two fighting groups turned on him and nearly killed him. Now, he's making progress in rehabilitation and says he is feeling like his old self.

Last week, Ray Widstrand underwent his fifth -- and, hopefully, final -- surgery, and he's looking and sounding much better than the last time Fox 9 News spoke with him months ago.

Playing on an iPad may seem like an easy way to spend the day, but when you're recovering from a traumatic brain injury like the one Widstrand suffered, rehab can feel like an endless maze of puzzles and problems to solve.

"Sometimes it's frustrating, but I'm naturally a guy who likes puzzles. I like a little challenge. So, it's fine with me for the most part," he said.

Widstrand has certainly already faced down his share of challenges. He was placed in a medically-induced coma after he was nearly beaten to death while walking through two groups of teenagers fighting in the street last August. Doctors had to remove almost a third of his skull because his brain was swollen. For the last few months, he's been recovering with what looked like a dent on the side of his head.

"My left side was getting weaker and weaker. My parents noticed it and wondered what was up. They were carrying me to bed every night, saying, 'Why can't you walk like you were walking a few months ago?' because my cranium started just pushing down, deforming my brain."

Last week, doctors put in a piece of plastic to fill the hole in Widstrand's skull, and other than a scar from the surgery, Widstrand says he is starting to look and feel like his old self.

"I feel like another chapter is over," he said. "This was a major milestone for me, getting my head put back together."

Widstrand's father confirmed his son had declined in the month before his latest surgery. Now, he says they are back to being impressed with his improvement.

"It was a relief to see him come back so quickly," Peter Widstrand said.

For now, Widstrand has physical, occupational and speech therapy twice daily, which he'll continue until he is strong enough to step back into his old life. Although no one knows what the future will bring, Widstrand says he is fine taking it one step at a time.

"Just want to keep improving," he said. "That's my goal."

Widstrand is set to be released from the hospital next week, and afterward, he hopes to help others who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. Anyone who wishes to help Widstrand in his recovery can make a donation to "Ray's Fund" at any Wells Fargo Bank.

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