2010 Winter Issue
Reviewed by Shannon Hicok
“Brian Boyle is an Ironman.
For most, that would be life’s greatest achievement; but for Brian, life itself is the achievement – becoming an Ironman is simply the icing on the cake. “Iron Heart” chronicles Brian’s journey from a clinically-dead car accident victim to a full-fledged Kona Ironman. It is the ultimate story of perseverance, strength, family unity, and triumph.
The book begins as Brian’s eyes open in the hospital after a horrific car accident. Written in the first person, it allows you to feel the confusion and frustration Brian felt as he slowly realized what had happened to him, and why he could not speak, move, or communicate in any way. Nearly every part of Brian’s athletic body had been severely damaged when a dump truck collided with the driver’s side of his Camaro. As he would find out later, his athleticism is probably the only reason he was able to live through the excruciating physical ordeal of his recovery.
“Iron Heart: The Story of How I Came Back From the Dead” is one of those books that you just can’t put down. I found myself wondering what could possibly happen next as I read about each obstacle Brian faced in his recovery. From his first few blinks and the nightmare of being weaned off the life-saving but highly addictive pain medications to learning to walk and talk again. Brian even articulates the torture of constant boredom as his slow and painful physical and emotional recovery progressed. His determination is incredibly inspirational as he goes from a self-proclaimed “skeleton boy” back to a slightly obsessive, muscular athlete.
The second half of the book, which focuses on Brian’s newfound “hobby” of triathlon, illustrates just how far strength of spirit can take you. After contacting Peter Henning of Ironman on a whim in July of 2007, Brian learned that his story was worthy of Ironman Kona television coverage – if he could prove himself able by completing a 70.3 race first. For someone who had literally “come back from the dead,” how hard could a day of competition be? So, despite never having done a triathlon, Brian the bodybuilder began training for his first – the Steelhead 70.3 in Michigan. The truly amazing and slightly ridiculous part of the story is – the race was in two weeks! Of course there was no doubt about the outcome – Brian completed his 70.3 race and made it to the “big race” in Hawaii. The book features humorous moments during his three months of Ironman training, like the fellow 70.3 swim competitor who told Brian, “With all those muscles, you might sink to the bottom.” Through everything, Brian’s determination was unwavering – and of course, this part of his journey ended on Ali’I drive under the Ironman banner.
Throughout this story, Brian gives credit where it is due. He acknowledges everyone and everything that helped him remain focused on life and health. Music, letters, emails, visits from friends and family, dedicated health care workers, and above all the love and commitment of his parents, Garth and JoAnne, helped to pull Brian back into the world of the living.
Iron Heart reminds us that life is a truly precious gift, and it is what you make of it; that strength of spirit can overcome just about anything; and that, as Brian says, “Any day when you’re not in a coma is a great day!”