RACING TOWARD LIFE
July 6, 2004. One moment, 18-year-old Brian Boyle was driving home from swim practice. The next, he was in a hospital bed, unable to speak or move. A natural athlete, Brian was now using all his lessons learned from team sports to survive. “Sometimes you do everything right, and life still doesn’t follow the path you thought you’d be on,” he says.
A dump truck had broadsided his car, and he needed immediate surgery. His heart had been pushed from one side of his chest to the other. He was resuscitated eight times. The only physical hope for his survival was the gift of blood. Sixty percent of Brian’s blood was replaced through transfusions given by volunteer donors.
As he inched his way back to life, Brian wanted to reassure his parents. “I was their only child,” he says. “I wanted to give them a sign I hadn’t stopped fighting. What better way than to smile?” Then, gradually, he squeezed hands, wiggled his fingers, and blinked. “Once I was able to talk, I never wanted to be quiet again,” he laughs.
Two months later, when Brian entered rehab, he knew he wanted to make a difference. “I was alive! I wanted to take my experiences and help others. I started at the very foundation of my recovery—the blood donors, who were there from the get-go.”
He began by giving testimonials and speaking about blood donation, then by sponsoring 5K races for blood donation, still later by hosting blood drives. Now as a volunteer spokesperson for national blood campaigns, he wears the American Red Cross emblem proudly at all his athletic events.
“Blood is needed every day for emergencies like mine, as well as for those with chronic conditions. For nearly 5 million people every year, a blood donation can make the difference between life and death. I am living proof of this.”
Brian’s determination and athletic spirit led to a rapid recovery. He’d make a new goal every day. By December, he was walking and, soon after, started swimming. Several months later, he stepped onto his new college campus and swam his first stroke with his college team.
Now there was no holding Brian back. In 2007, Brian finished his first Ironman triathlon. “I had lost 100pounds and had only weeks to train for it,”he says. “My story of survival made me believe I could attempt these races. When I crossed the finish line, I knew I was fully healed.”
In 2009, Brian made his own first blood donation at the hospital that brought him back to life. Brian graduated from college with honors and is now a public speaker about the patient’s perspective when dealing with health issues. “My work with the Red Cross has made all the pain and suffering worthwhile,” he says. “I am blessed.”
Today, Brian blogs about racing and blood donation at redcrossblood.org/ironheart
And to watch the video that accompanies this article, please visit the American Red Cross Annual Report website.