Survivor Hero:
Craig Northcutt

Durant, Oklahoma
“It is an honor and a blessing to receive the 2024 Survivor Hero award. First and foremost, I thank God for granting the strength and ability to overcome a traumatic brain injury and an ischemic stroke. I'd like to dedicate this honor and inspire all the people who have or are recovering from a life-changing situation or circumstance from any type of stroke to keep walking and moving forward.” – Craig Northcutt

Twelve years ago, Craig Northcutt fell off an ATV while it was moving at high speed, and his head hit the ground. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. The injury caused a brain bleed that led to an ischemic stroke, and he nearly lost his life.

Immediately after the accident, Craig was able to talk to his best friend James, who was with him. Moments later, Craig started having trouble breathing, then became unresponsive. James called 911 and performed CPR until paramedics arrived. Craig was airlifted to a hospital, where he received an emergency craniotomy.

For the next three months, Craig recovered from his traumatic brain injury and stroke as an inpatient at different hospitals. The injuries severely impacted his speech, vision, cognitive abilities and ability to walk.

After three months of recovery, Craig was ready for inpatient rehabilitation therapy. Wearing a protective helmet, he arrived at the Centre for Neuro Skills in Dallas in a wheelchair. At first, Craig was hostile and refused to participate in therapy, not understanding why he needed it. Slowly he built relationships with the center’s staff, who helped him realize that therapy would help him recover so he could return to the job he loved.

For nine months, Craig devoted himself to intensive neurorehabilitation. His physical therapist helped him strengthen his body, and doctors helped correct his vision. He relearned how to speak fluidly and fully regained his cognitive abilities. He began walking with a cane, which he no longer needs.

Less than a year after his accident, Craig returned to work for his Native American tribe, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, where he helps tribal nation members develop their career skills and find employment. He’s celebrating his 30-year work anniversary.

Craig also visits high schools in Oklahoma and Texas to urge ATV riders to wear helmets, and to talk about traumatic brain injury and stroke. He has distributed more than 200 helmets to high school students to promote safety. He also shares his story with stroke survivors to help them find the motivation to recover.