Virtual reality therapy helps Omaha Air National Guard veteran recover from plane crash

“I think I know what happened but I really don’t remember. I have amnesia from before the crash till a week later”
Feeling at home thousands of feet above the ground is the norm for the Air National Guard veteran.
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 5:41 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A pilot’s worst nightmare came true for Air National Guard veteran Jeff Kloster in August of last year.

“I think I know what happened but I really don’t remember. I have amnesia from before the crash till a week later,” says Kloster.

Jeff sustained several broken bones, including fractures in his spine. Doctors were unsure if he would ever walk again, let alone take to the skies.

“My son-in-law said it the other day, ‘you know you’re very stubborn,’ I said, I know. Stubborn and ornery makes for a really good PT patient.”

And defying all odds, Jeff is not only mobile, he’s using virtual reality therapy to live his dream.

“There’s the joystick over here and the throttle and everything else and once we got in and we were actually flying, it was amazing, you could have that feeling, you know?”

This virtual reality training is part of Jeff’s customized care plan and his occupational therapist at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals, Tyler Pribnow says, utilizing this type of virtual reality therapy is helping.

“Instead of just doing your normal exercises of standing, walking, things like that, you’re getting them more involved in what they want to do, what they love to do. So, doing the VR with him flying a plane, he’s able to get into this imaginary cockpit, he’s able to do all these controls with his hands, reaching, pulling, and pushing,” says Pribnow.

And throughout the journey, Jeff’s goals remain consistent. He plans to get better and get back into the cockpit.

“I would tell you that I can probably figure out how to fly right now the way I am just because everything’s working,” he says.

But even so, Jeff says he wants to make sure his vision is up to par before he literally starts flying again.

He’s hoping to be airborne again in about a year and his trainer says, given his progress so far, he wouldn’t be surprised if Jeff hit his target goal.