– Like every courtesy clerk, Ken Knab warmly greets customers as
he bags their food at Nob Hill and takes their groceries to their
But he isn’t like every other courtesy clerk. After an accident
15 years ago left him brain injured, Knab knows what it means to
struggle to do every-day things most people take for granted.
GILROY – Like every courtesy clerk, Ken Knab warmly greets customers as he bags their food at Nob Hill and takes their groceries to their cars.
But he isn’t like every other courtesy clerk. After an accident 15 years ago left him brain injured, Knab knows what it means to struggle to do every-day things most people take for granted. But his wife Terri says, the management of Nob Hill has helped to make his fight easier and his life worthwhile.
In 1987, Knab, an air conditioning and refrigeration technician, fell 30 feet from a building while on a job on the East Coast. The next two-and a- half years brought an excruciatingly slow recovery as he recuperated from 16 catastrophic injuries to his body – one of the most serious being frontal lobe damage to his brain. For the first month after the accident, Knab was in a coma at South Valley Medical Center, near his family.
“His prognosis remained critical for three months,” Terri Knab said. “We were told that he could very well be in a vegetative state.”
But Knab’s condition started to improve, and he began to respond to his environment, slowly.
He spent the following two years at the South Valley Ranch Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center. During that time, Terri said he made a 75 to 80 percent recovery.
“His biggest deficit has been not being able to find the right words to use,” she said.
He returned home on a trial basis in 1989 in Gilroy, where the Knabs made their home in 1987 following the accident. Knab continued to undergo outpatient rehabilitation, and he was placed at Orchard Supply Hardware, where he worked as a stock clerk intermittently for 10 years.
Nob Hill hired Knab a little more than two years ago. Since then, Terri, an occupational therapist, says Knab’s life has changed dramatically.
“It has provided him with a true sense of self-worth,” Terri, 44, said. “Ken has always been the type of person who was working 10 to 12 hours a day. It has provided him with self-esteem, dignity, integrity. If it wasn’t for Nob Hill, he would be sitting in front of the TV all day.”
Ken, now 44, simply says his job is “something to do.” But his actions speak louder than his words. He often visits the store during his off-hours and goes out of his way to help customers. Terri chuckles recalling the time he walked blocks out of his way to help an elderly woman home with her groceries.
“He is so loving and so friendly,” Terri said. “His desire for goodwill is so intense that he has overlooked some (store) policies.”
While Gilroy Nob Hill director Vito Mercado said he doesn’t have a separate set of standards for Knab, things can’t help but be different.
“We’re more patient with him,” he said. “Employees take him under their wing. They look out for him.”
Mercado said having Knab on board has been a positive experience for the employees and customers.
“It’s just been an exercise in patience. He’s a good guy. It helps put a lot of things in perspective. Customers seem to enjoy having Ken around,” he said. “It’s been good working with Terri – she’s the one who has the brunt of the deal, but things are working out pretty good. He’s able to work and make some money and try to live a normal life with all of his challenges.”
Knowing what Knab has been through, Mercado said, “and for him to still try to get ahead and try to live a normal life is pretty remarkable.”
But Terri said much of the credit goes to the management of Nob Hill, who not only have given her husband a chance, but also a reason to get up in the morning and a sense of structure and order to his day.
“If it weren’t for Nob Hill and the support of the community, I don’t know what we would have done,” she said.