By Makenzie O'Keefe

(CBS4) – A group of patients at Craig Hospital have survived life-changing injuries, and now they’re learning to regain some independence. The patients went to Denver International Airport on Thursday to learn how to navigate the busy and often stressful environment.

Craig Hospital Patients

Craig Hospital patients at Denver International Airport (credit: CBS)

“This will help a lot,” explained Brok Hansmeyer, as he waited in the security line at DIA.

Hansmeyer was in a mountain biking accident this summer and has spent a few months in rehabilitation at Craig Hospital.

“I landed on my head and broke my C1 and C7,” he explained. “C7 was the one that bruised my spinal cord.”

For patients like Hansmeyer, this is the first time they’ve used a wheelchair in a busy airport.

Each month, Craig Hospital teams up with United Airlines to give patients a chance to experience the process of flying, without the stress of actually going somewhere.

“Many of them will be flying home, and just leaving the hospital in general can be kind of stressful,” explained Donna Goldberg, a certified therapeutic recreation therapist at Craig Hospital.

The group learned about going through security to ensure they’re comfortable and ready for the next time they fly.

“I was excited to just do it because travel is something we want to continue doing as a family,” Hansmeyer said.

Craig Hospital Patients

(credit: CBS)

United employees also helped the patients to practice transferring from their wheelchair into a narrow airplane seat. Mark Federico told CBS4 it’s a way to get used to everyday life.

“Life is normal and then everything changes and you have to learn how to cope and move forward,” he explained.

The patients’ families were also invited to join in so they will know how best to help their loved one the next time they fly.

Makenzie O'Keefe

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