Sophomore Max Shores felt a bad headache coming on.
It was nothing a little Kroger chocolate milk — the best kind of milk— and Ibuprofen couldn’t fix, he thought. But when he tried to get out of bed to get them, he fell. His roommate fetched the glass of milk, but Shores couldn’t grab it with his left hand because it was too shaky.
The next thing he remembers is waking up in a hospital bed with his family staring at him. He would soon learn he had a brain bleed similar to a stroke.
“I was like, ‘Woah, what?’” he recalled.
This was Dec. 7. Since then, Shores has been rehabilitating, attending support groups and doing anything he can to try and feel normal again. And nothing helps him feel more normal than spending time with his brothers in Sigma Alpha Epsilon, he said.
“I freaking love those dudes,” he said. “They’re what gets me through.”
Without the help of his brothers, Shores might have had worse injuries or died that night in December.
Earlier in the evening, he had been studying with his girlfriend at the library. He noticed the headache once he got home. Then he fell out of bed.
Brett Wainscott, SAE chapter president and one of Shore’s best friends, said he initially thought Shores was drunk.
Wainscott took him to the hospital anyway. He said he had a feeling something bad might happen if they didn’t.
“Frats get a bad rap of waiting and seeing,” he said. “I didn’t want to be one of those people.”
After a CT scan showed an anteriovenous malformation — a tangle of abnormal blood vessels in his brain — had ruptured, and he was airlifted to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.
When the rest of the brothers found out in Bloomington the next day, the house fell silent.
“No one was talking,” SAE member Matt Ficalora said. “The mood is usually the exact opposite.”
Once winter break hit, Shores said brothers visited him just about every day.
Wainscott said he remembers Shores’ parents renting out a hospital room and ordering pizza so they all could watch the NFL Playoffs together.
Shores went hometo Fishers, Indiana, Feb. 5. Now his days include up to eight hours of therapy.
Mornings always start with physical therapy to strengthen his left side. Then he might go into speech therapy, which he calls “brain games.” Then he might move onto occupational therapy, where patients relearn to do practical things like tie their shoes.
Shores also attends a support group with three other patients effected by brain injuries. He said he enjoys spending time with them, but some are in worse shape than he is.
“I wouldn’t say I’m lucky necessarily,” Shores said with a laugh. “But I’m thankful I wasn’t affected as cognitively.”
Although Shores is working to get back to his normal self, he said it takes a long time for the brain to heal. And his family’s insurance company does not understand that, he said.
“They see that I’m walking, so they don’t think I need more physical therapy,” he said. “They think I’m good enough to go to school, but I’m not.”
His family now has to cover expenses out-of-pocket. To help offset his medical bills, his brothers helped get the word out about a GoFundMe, which raised more than $33,000.
Additionally, instead of a traditional philanthropy this spring to raise money for an organization, the chapter decided to raise money for Shores. The event, called “Munchin’ with Max,” will be April 6.
Shores plans to return to IU next semester, where he will continue to study computer science. In the meantime, he is working to get his driver’s license back so he can drive himself down from his home in Fishers, Indiana, to visit campus.
Wainscott said he can’t wait to have his best friend back so he can continue taking videos of him dancing at parties, something that Shores said he misses badly.
“He’s a horrible dancer,” Wainscott said, smirking.
Shores said he is using the goal of going back to school — and being with his brothers every day again — as motivation to continue his therapy.
“They meant a ton to me before this,” he said. “But now every single one of them means the world to me.”
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