Michigan lawyer with PTSD, brain injury aces bar first try
By SHEILA PURSGLOVE
Jun. 11, 2018
DETROIT (AP) — Most law students view legal studies as a challenge. Then there's the challenge faced by Matt Super, who got a traumatic brain injury in a car crash during his second semester at WMU-Cooley Law School in Auburn Hills.
Super — who was on academic probation at the time — might have been forgiven for throwing in the towel.
But Lady Justice wasn't about to give up on him. With the help of others, Super soldiered on — and after graduating in January, aced the bar exam the following month on his first attempt.
"This whole thing has been so surreal to me I can't explain it," he says. "I feel like I'm the most fortunate person on this earth, and miracles do exist."
The Detroit Legal News reports that Super had been driving to the law school when a car ran a red light and hit him.
"The last thing I remember just before it happened is that I turned the wheel as far as I could to the left, closed my eyes, and I prayed, 'God please let me open my eyes again.' Somehow my car went around the corner pole, and I still to this day have no earthly idea how that was possible," he says.
Super continued for two more semesters as he struggled to bring his GPA up to 2.0, and then took a semester off. Returning to school, he slid again, to a 1.81 GPA.
"To put it mildly my attitude and overall outlook on life wasn't the greatest," he says. "Dean (Lisa) Halushka sat me down and talked to me, told me I needed to take care of myself, so I took a leave of absence — which was the best thing anyone could have ever done for me."
Turns out, not only did Super have a traumatic brain injury (TBI), he also had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
"After I left school I prayed every day for someone to be able to help me," he says.
Googling for PTSD support groups, he found Kathie Schofield, a nurse, clinical social worker and therapist in Troy. After calling her on New Year's Eve 2015, he met with her at 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 4.
"I brought her my diagnosis forms, but before I really said anything she said, 'You have a head injury, I can see it in your eyes.' At that point I just continued praying, for a miracle," Super says.
After Schofield performed cranio-sacral therapy, for the first time in years Super was relieved of his headaches. The next step was neuro-feedback (NFB) that uses real-time displays of brain activity to teach self-regulation of brain function; as well as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and psychotherapy. Schofield also arranged for sessions with a yoga instructor and a speech therapist.
"Anything Kathie could do for me she did, all while knowing I didn't have the money to pay for it at the time," Super says. "She agreed to help, and just said, 'You can pay me when you get better.'"
What followed was a grueling seven to eight months of therapy, sometimes several hours a day on weekdays and most Saturdays.
"I got a lot of homework assignments," Super says. "Eventually I started to be able to do everything again. It was a slow process, and there isn't one day that I could point to that was my turning point. I had to remind myself baby steps are still steps in the right direction. I still see her, but only once every other week. All I can say is that Kathie Schofield saved my life."
Super also saw Dr. Jamie Cramer at Precise Chiropractic in Troy.
"It turned out my atlas vertebra was out of place, and put a lot of pressure on my brainstem," he says.
"The next thing I knew the pain in my neck, and back was gone. What I didn't expect was that I started getting the feeling back in my hands, and feet. I remember just rubbing the tips of my fingers, and I started crying, because I could actually feel them again and I could hold a pen without dropping it.
Halushka, Schofield and Kramer, and Super's family and friends, all helped him get back something he felt was lost forever.
"I don't know how many people tried to tell me, 'This is who you are now,'" he says.
After a full year off, Super returned to Cooley Law.
"I was terrified," he says. "The staff, and students were so helpful and instrumental at helping me become 'me' again — I couldn't have asked for anything more. They will always hold a special place in my heart."
Super continued to climb back — to a 3.55 GPA his first semester, followed by a 3.70, 3.75, and a 4.00 by graduation.
"The transformation in Matt is extraordinary, but not surprising," says WMU-Cooley Assistant Dean Lisa Halushka. "He never fully gave up hope, and worked harder than anyone I've known to achieve his goals. I was so proud to sponsor Matt into the Bar, as I completely believe in him. The legal profession just got a little bit better because of Matt's inclusion in it."
After Halushka sponsored Super's admission to the bar, he was sworn in by Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Edward Servitto, who has known him since he was a boy. Super also clerked for Servitto during law school.
"Having Judge Servitto swear me in was a dream come true," Super says. "Through this whole thing, I pictured that moment in my head, I don't know how many times. I still can't believe it actually happened."
Currently working at Romano Law Firm in Pleasant Ridge, Super is interested in working with people with head injuries, disabilities or special needs, military veterans and in estate planning.
"I would like to find a way to make that all work together, and I think one day I will," he says. "I just want to find a way to make a difference."
Information from: Detroit Legal News, http://www.legalnews.com/detroit