“On Guard” – A Newsletter About Patient Safety for Johns Hopkins Medicine: The Brian Boyle Story

Brian Boyle
Patient advocate and American Red Cross spokesperson

For the voiceless, a Mouthpiece

Fall 2012 – Patient Voices

One summer day in 2004, Brian Boyle was driving home from swim practice when a dump truck slammed into his car, thrusting the 18-year-old athlete into a two-month battle for his life at Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, Md. During that time, Boyle, who lost 60 percent of his blood and was revived eight times on the operating table, could see, hear and feel pain, but was unable to talk or move. 

Today, Boyle, who spoke at the third annual Johns Hopkins Medicine Patient Safety Summit in June, has made a full recovery and is nationally known as a patient advocate and spokesperson for the American Red Cross. Boyle credits caregivers for his many accomplishments, including the more than two dozen marathons and endurance events he’s participated in since his recovery. To help Hopkins health care providers understand the needs of patients who can’t speak for themselves, Boyle describes his experience during the eight weeks he spent in a chemically induced coma in the ICU and how his care team inspired him to keep fighting. 

Ceiling tiles. That’s the first thing I saw when I woke up alone in a white, brightly lit room. I didn’t know my name, where I was or how I had gotten there. I couldn’t move my arms or legs. I couldn’t even blink “Is this a dream?” I asked myself.

A priest recited the Last Rites by my bedside. The room became hazy before the blackness swallowed me whole. Hours, or maybe days later, I woke up again. My eyes burned as though they’d been open for days. I wanted to close them so badly, but I couldn’t. My left arm felt like it was on fire, and the pain was excruciating. I felt like screaming. But no one came to my rescue because I couldn’t speak, so I suffered in isolation and maddening silence.

Slowly, I remembered my name, the first of many clues I silently strung together in the days and weeks that followed as I tried to piece together the broken puzzle my life had become.

While I couldn’t talk or move, my other senses seemed superhuman. I heard everything, from the steady stream of beeps coming from the army of machines around my bedside to hushed conversations in the hallway. Words like “nursing home” and “vegetative state” amplified in my mind, crowding out any hope of ever escaping from my mental prison. 

Among my heightened senses: an innate ability to detect mood. Whenever a nurse or doctor entered my room, I always could tell if they were happy or hurried, frustrated or calm. I always hoped my clinicians’ spirits were high; I needed every ounce of their attention to survive.

My time in ICU Room 19 passed slowly, marked by the smallest signs of progress: first blinking, wiggling my toes and then speaking my first word (months later, I added taking my first step to the list). None of these huge personal milestones would have been possible without my family and the many nurses, doctors, therapists, techs and countless others who fought tirelessly for me. Completely reliant on others in my vulnerable state, my health care team met my many needs, big and small, around the clock.

Most of all, however, they gave me hope. Even though I couldn’t talk, they spoke to me — something I craved in my isolated state. Whether to explain that day’s tests, to talk about the Olympics in Athens, which they frequently let me watch, or to tell me about their lives, they treated me like a family member instead of a body in a bed. Actions as simple as playing my favorite CDs or asking my family to bring in fans to cool my feverish body meant so much to me. The impact of even a smile cannot be overstated.

The White House Honors American Red Cross National Volunteer Brian Boyle

On Friday, September 14th, the White House welcomed over 100 American Red Cross volunteers, employees and partners, from across the country. The Red Cross has millions of volunteers across 187 countries and reaches more than 100 million people across the globe each year. As part of the day-long program, the White House honored Red Cross National Volunteer Spokesperson, Brian Boyle, as one of nine volunteers and employees who are “Champions of Change.”

In 2004 a horrific car crash almost claimed Brian Boyle’s life on his way home from swim practice in Charles County, MD. His heart moved across his chest and all major organs were damaged. When he emerged from a medically-induced coma, doctors predicted he might never walk again, but after multiple surgeries, 36 blood transfusions, 13 plasma treatments and physical therapy, Brian walked. Just three years after leaving ICU, he crossed the finish line at the Hawaii Ironman. He wears the American Red Cross logo when he competes to thank those who donated blood for him, and to show his sincerest appreciation to the blood donors that saved his life. Only a small percentage of people donate blood and Brian wants to change that.

These extraordinary individuals that were recognized have devoted their time and effort to the Red Cross across the country and had the opportunity to share their stories with Administration officials and Red Cross members around the globe. The Champions of Change program was created to honor ordinary Americans doing great work in their communities. Each week, a different sector is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community leaders, are recognized for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities.

“President Obama knows how important the American Red Cross is to not only providing humanitarian relief but also building resilient communities,” said Jon Carson, Deputy Assistant to the President. “The American Red Cross Champions of Change we are honoring are a reflection of the generosity and compassion deeply rooted in our national identity.”

To learn more about Brian and his mission to save lives with the Red Cross, please visit the White House blog:

Brian Boyle is Putting a Face to Blood Donation

And to watch the Champions of Change presentations on Youtube, please visit here:

IRONMANLIFE: BRIAN BOYLE’S AMAZING JOURNEY

ImageWant a good reason to donate blood? Meet Brian Boyle, who is a national spokesperson and volunteer for the American Red Cross.

Kevin Mackinnon profiles an amazing IRONMAN survivor, Ironman.com

Boyle is passionate about what the Red Cross does because, were it not for the 36 blood transfusions he received, he wouldn’t be alive, let alone finishing yet another Ironman, which the 26-year-old did last Saturday in New York.

On July 6, 2004, Boyle was driving home from swim practice when he was involved in near-fatal car accident with a speeding dump truck. How “near-fatal?”

“My heart went across my chest, my ribs were shattered, my pelvis was shattered, I broke my left clavicle, I had a collapsed lung and I lost about 60 percent of my blood,” he told me in an interview last Thursday.

After his accident, he died eight times, only to be revived by the medical staff. Boyle went through 14 different operations, had those 36 blood transfusions and was in a coma for two months. When he finally came around, he started the long road back to recovery.

Boyle would eventually return to his college swim team. Three years after his accident, he finished the IRONMAN World Championship.

“That race was so significant because going through the recovery process I felt so limited,” he says. “I felt like Brian the sick boy, the skeleton in the wheelchair. It took something as extreme as the Ironman to complete the healing. That day was a great day, the best day of my life.”

Boyle hasn’t just settled to with that, though. He’s gone on to use his journey to help so many others. It’s a miracle he had enough energy to get to the start line in New York last week – he’d spent most of the week before raising awareness for the American Red Cross, which is facing 15-year-low in blood donations right now.

“Brian has done a tremendous amount to raise awareness about the need for blood,” says Donna Morrissey from the American Red Cross. “Brian is the type of person who connects one on one or in a group of hundreds. By sharing his story Brian gives people hope and enables people to have strength. In the end he inspires people to give blood or make a difference in their community. He’s just this extraordinary individual that connects with people and puts the needs of others first. He’s someone who never gives up. Can you imagine someone dying eight times, but then coming back and competing in, and completing, the IRONMAN several times? Those two things, in themselves, are something most people couldn’t imagine ever doing. He is bringing together the IRONMAN competition – what it takes to be this extreme athlete, but also the heroism of a generous volunteer blood donor who comes in and gives to help others.”

The Aquadraat IRONMAN U.S. Championship won’t likely be the last time we’ll see Brian Boyle at an IRONMAN. Boyle was inspired by the “stories and the race” growing up, which is one of the reasons he was so determined to complete an IRONMAN after his accident.

Last Saturday Boyle finished in New York in just under 11 hours. It wasn’t quite the sub-10 he was hoping for, but an impressive time considering the tough course. An impressive time considering the fact that if he was a cat he’d be on his last life.

Boyle is the living embodiment of what we call the IRONMAN spirit. He’s just taken it even further – he’s showing us all how important it is to remember our human spirit and help others, too.

Red Cross Volunteer Brian Boyle up for International Humanitarian Award. Vote for him online

National Red Cross volunteer and blood recipient/donor Brian Boyle is a nominee for the “Volunteer of the Year” category of the Classy Awards, an international awards program which highlights charitable work around the world. Brian was nominated for his strong support of the American Red Cross blood program, promoting blood donation and as a speaker, author, and athlete.

Brian Boyle does not take one day for granted. A horrific car crash in 2004 almost claimed his life and Brian literally died eight times during his recovery. His heart moved across his chest, and all major organs were damaged. When he emerged from a medically-induced coma, doctors predicted he might never walk again. But after multiple surgeries, 36 blood transfusions, 13 plasma treatments and physical therapy, Brian walked.

Just three years after leaving ICU, he staged one of the greatest comebacks crossing the finish line at the Hawaii Ironman. In part, Brian credits his recovery to blood donors who helped him beat the odds after he lost 60% of his blood in the accident. He wears the American Red Cross logo when he competes to thank those who donated blood for him. Only a small percentage of people donate blood and Brian wants to change that.

Since 2007, he has worked closely with the Red Cross as a volunteer spokesperson. In an effort to raise awareness about the need for blood, Brian shares his lifesaving story through media interviews, public service announcements and high profile speaking engagements.

In 2009 & 2010, Brian was presented the “Regional Spokesperson of the Year” award from the Red Cross. During that time, he published a memoir entitled, Iron Heart, graduated from college with honors and made his first blood donation. Brian received the 2011 American Red Cross Presidential Award for Excellence for all he has done to increase blood donations on a national level.

Brian has also hosted dozens of blood drives across the country since 2009, generating thousands of lifesaving units. Blood drives hosted by Brian have helped recruit first-time blood donors at a rate of more than 25%. In 2012, Brian completed the Boston Marathon as a member of Team Red Cross. He has been featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, NBC’s The Today Show and ESPN. His story has been shared in USA Today, the Washington Post, Runner’s World and Muscle and Fitness Magazine. His journey of courage and determination has touched the hearts of many and his community service has helped save thousands of lives.

“There is no gift as absolutely precious as the gift of life, and no one acknowledges this more than Brian Boyle. Brian treats each day as a gift and an opportunity to help others. I’m in awe of Brian’s tenacity, relentless energy, graciousness, dedicated spirit, and compassionate commitment to helping others,” said Gail McGovern, President, American Red Cross.

Vote for Brian for Volunteer of the Year by July 26:

–  Visit http://www.stayclassy.org/classy-awards
–  click “vote”
–  then go to “East” region
–  select “Brian Boyle” for the Volunteer of the Year” category.

To read more about Brian and his work with the Red Cross, visit http://www.redcrossblood.org/ironheart

The Washington Post – Blood Donations: A Matter of Life and Death

 

After a blood transfusion saved his life, Ironman triathlete Brian Boyle advocates for the vital need for volunteer blood donors

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 heneeded 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.

Making a difference. 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 getgo.”

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. In 2007, Brian finished his first Ironman triathlon. “I had lost 100 pounds 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.” Brian’s story emphasizes just how important each and every blood donation can be. Accident victims, as well as patients with cancer, sickle cell disease, blood disorders and other illnesses receive lifesaving transfusions every day. There is no substitute for blood, and volunteer donors are the only source.

Giving back. 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.”

Link

"A blood donation can make the difference between life and death. I am living proof of this." - Brian Boyle, volunteer, blood recipient/donor

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.

2012 Boston Marathon

Near the start line of the Boston Marathon

As an endurance athlete, running in the Boston marathon is an experience I will always cherish, and as a blood recipient/donor/volunteer it meant so much to be able to run the race for the Red Cross.  Due to the heat, close to 90 degrees, it was repeatedly said that it was one of the most difficult races in the 116 years of the Boston marathon. From my training regime, I was hoping to run a personal best of around 3:20, but I couldn’t believe how much I started to sweat within the first mile so I knew from the beginning it was going to be a rough day.

Near the Newton Hills is where the energy was just completely zapped due to the heat, and it was the downhill section that affected me more than going up because the cramps set it in my legs. After Heartbreak Hill, I focused on just enjoying the race and getting to the finish line safely so I stopped and chatted with the Red Cross volunteers for about 15 minutes near mile 24 and just soaked in the experience of running Boston – it truly was an amazing day.

A few yards away from crossing the finish line

When I sat down after crossing the finish line (4:04) amongst the large crowds of people, a runner standing next to me fainted and I hurried to catch him and shield is head before hitting the ground. After 20 seconds or so, he started to regain consciousness when the medics rushed to him, so it took me by surprise that not only did I run the race for the Red Cross but I had to step in and put my volunteer cap on as well.

It was an honor to run on the Red Cross Team in the Boston Marathon and I’m so proud of all 21 members of the team. We were able to go above our fundraising goal and bring in over $80,000 for the Red Cross.

2012 Boston Marathon finisher's medal

The Boston marathon was a very challenging race, but I enjoyed every second of it. A marathon may be run alone, but in no way is it an individual effort. This race is for my blood donors, the Red Cross and for all the people who have been a part of my journey back to life. This finisher’s medal is a token of my appreciation for the gift you have given me, and I thank you all so much for believing in me and for all the encouragement and support over the years.

Event and Blood Drive at The Ohio State University

President of The Ohio State University, Dr. Gordon Gee, stopped by to show his support at the Iron Heart/Ohio State blood drive

IRONMAN ATHLETE TELLS TALES OF DEATH TO LIFE 

The Ohio State University Newspaper “The Lantern” 

By Caitlyn Wasmundt

“I don’t want to die.” 

That was Brian Boyle’s only thought when he woke from a coma and a priest read him his last rites. 

Boyle shared his experience of going from deathbed to Hawaiian Ironman in three years when he spoke at the Ohio Union Feb. 23 as collaboration between the Ohio Union Activities Board and the American Red Cross. 

In 2004, a car crash almost ended Boyle’s life at age 18, when a dump truck smashed into Boyle’s car. Not only did Boyle suffer broken bones and internal bleeding, but his heart shifted to the other side of his chest from the impact. Boyle said paramedics and doctors revived him eight times in two months to keep him alive. 

Boyle gave the audience a first-person account of what he experienced after waking up in the hospital and having no idea where he was or why he was there. 

“I awake to regular beeping sounds,” Boyle said. “I’m alone in a white room and looking straight up at the ceiling … I try to raise my arms, then legs, but I can’t move them. My head won’t budge either.” 

Moments after waking up, a dark shadowy figure walked into Boyle’s room. He said he feared it was death, but then realized it was a priest who began reading his last rites. 

As he read his story to the audience, Boyle had to stop for a moment. 

“I’m sorry, flashbacks,” he said. 

Katie Sattler, a fourth-year in nursing, said Boyle’s story touched her on a personal and professional level. 

“It was very inspirational, it gives me a different standpoint in nursing,” Sattler said. 

Two months after regaining consciousness, doctors moved Boyle to a therapy facility, Boyle told his audience. 

During his time in the Intensive Care Unit and rehab, Boyle said he lost hope and didn’t see a reason to live. But through faith and his parents’ love, he said he realized he needed to fight. 

Boyle wrote a book about his journey called “Iron Heart: The True Story of How I Came Back From the Dead.” 

Three years after the accident, Boyle said he decided to compete in the Hawaii Ironman, an endurance triathlon consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run. 

Boyle said his decision to compete was his way of telling those around him that he was finally OK. 

“Ironman sealed the deal on my recovery,” Boyle said. 

He finished the competition in 14 hours and 42 minutes, just three years after being told he might never walk again. 

“It was the breath of life all over again,” Boyle said about crossing the finish line. 

Doire Perot, a third-year in operations management and president of American Red Cross Club at OSU, said hearing Boyle’s story was an incredible opportunity for OSU students. 

“You can take a lot away from Brian’s story, even if you aren’t an athlete,” Perot said. 

After telling his audience his firsthand experience, he opened it up to a Q-and-A session. 

With the students from the Ohio Union Activities Board

Audience members asked him a wide range of questions, from his training regimen for his first Ironman to how he feels about driving after the accident. 

Since his first Ironman competition, Boyle has competed in about 30 other endurance competitions, he said. 

Boyle said he doesn’t remember the accident, but is still cautious when he’s on the road. 

“I don’t remember the accident, but the scars are there,” Boyle said of his lost memory. 

To read more, please visit the newspaper’s website.

My visit with the students at St. Mary’s Ryken High School

INSPIRATIONAL ATHLETE, AUTHOR DISCUSSES BOOK WITH RYKEN STUDENTS 

The County Times Newspaper

By Carrie Munn

St. Mary’s College of Maryland alum and Southern Maryland local legend Brian Boyle visited English students at St. Mary’s Ryken last Friday to talk about his inspirational, nonfiction book, “Iron Heart.” 

The work was assigned reading for several Ryken juniors and Boyle addressed their inquiries about his true-life account of overcoming injuries sustained in a 2004 severe automobile accident and going on to complete the grueling Ironman competition. 

Athlete and author Brian Boyle answers a variety of student questions during his visit to St. Mary’s Ryken.

At 18, Boyle, of Welcome, in Charles County, was an honor student and all-star athlete at McDonough High School when his life was placed in peril after his Camaro was struck by a dump truck. In 2007, Boyle, who technically died multiple times during surgeries and was told he may never walk again, made headlines when he crossed the finish line after the intense 2.4-swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile full marathon in Kona, Hawaii. 

From coma to Kona, “Iron Heart” is his personal and inspirational tale and one that Ryken English teacher Misty Frantz said her students connect with. 

“Every day I inspire my students to accomplish their goals and make the world a better place,” Frantz said, adding the choices she makes in literature have to support the ‘quitting is not a option’ philosophy she lives and teaches by. “Brian’s story fits right in with that philosophy,” she told The County Times. 

She explained “Iron Heart” is an inspirational yet relatable tale for her students and that the experience of meeting Boyle makes the book come to life for them. 

Students asked Boyle questions ranging from the serious; “Did you ever want to just give up?” and “Did you ever question your faith?” to the superficial; “Do you have a girlfriend?” and “How much can you bench?” 

Boyle answered them all candidly and with a sense of humor. As one session wrapped up, he told the high schoolers, “I’m nothing different, I just have a crazy story to share.” 

Boyle said the book was borne from his personal journaling during the lengthy recovery process, explaining it took time to determine which memories were a reality and which were not. Boyle said he was determined to get out of the hospital bed he’d spent weeks in, not just for his sake, but for his parents’. “I just had to pull through for them,” he said. 

He said as crazy as it sounds, it took something as intense as finishing the Ironman for him to feel his recovery was complete. “Every week, every day was and is a gift,” Boyle said, adding that in the years since his miraculous recovery he has sought out the medical workers who saved his life and thanked them, has become an American Red Cross advocate and public speaker, as well as pushing the athletic envelope for himself. He continues to train extensively and competes in many endurance events with sponsorships. 

Boyle said he is working on getting back to Kona, to disprove the naysayers who claimed he only got the chance to compete because of the media attention and his amazing story. He said in the future two goals are to qualify straight-up for the Ironman and The Boston Marathon. 

The athlete shared that his outlook on life is forever changed, saying he wakes up happy to be able to move his toes each morning and has an enhanced level of determination and appreciation in life. 

When a student asked the author, “Would you go back and change it if you could?”, Boyle responded that as tough as it was, he wouldn’t take it back for the platform his experience has given him to help others. 

He said his thoughts went from ‘Why did He let this happen to me?’ to ‘Why has He saved me?’ From there, his spirit of determination carried him through a remarkable recovery and he now serves as inspiration for other athletes and trauma patients facing a seemingly insurmountable return to normalcy. 

As for his book, “Iron Heart” is written in a simplistic, first-hand narrative and Boyle said his hope in publishing the work is that it ends up in the hands of someone in a similar situation and gives them the hope to push through it. 

“My students continually tell me that this is the one book they enjoyed reading,” Frantz said, adding that Brian is real and by him taking the time to come meet with the students, “…my students see you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.” 

Many excited students requested photos with the athlete and author following their open dialogue about the reading. 

Boyle’s book is available through Amazon.com and all major retailers. More information can be found by visiting http://www.iron-heart.org/.