National Trauma Survivors Day: BLOOD RECIPIENT BRIAN BOYLE HELPS OTHER PATIENTS THROUGH HIS SERVICE TO THE AMERICAN RED CROSS

FROM TRAUMA TO TRIUMPH

brianboyle_recovery_100Every two seconds somebody in the U.S. needs blood. As a former trauma patient, I experienced this firsthand back in 2004.

My story begins one month after graduating from high school. I was coming home from swim practice, and I was involved in a near fatal car accident. The impact of the crash shifted my heart across my chest and collapsed my lungs. Just like my dreams for the future, my ribs, pelvis, and left clavicle were shattered. I sustained damage to practically every major organ in my body, including laceration of the liver and kidneys, and I experienced 60 percent blood loss.

Using the jaws of life, the rescue squads and firefighters had to free me from the wreckage at the accident scene. They later received awards for their abilities in rescuing me. I was immediately medevaced to the local trauma center. I was practically dead on arrival when I arrived at the hospital. I was soon given the last rites and my parents had to make the difficult decision to invite my family and friends to come say their final goodbyes, because it would be a miracle if I could survive the first 24 hours.

I survived the first day, followed by the second, and I would ultimately spend the next two months on life support in a coma. During this time frame, I underwent 14 major operations, received 36 blood transfusions and 13 plasma treatments. I ended up losing a total of 100 pounds. I remember overhearing that there was a strong possibility that I would spend the rest of my life in a nursing home in a vegetative state.

I’ll never forget the pain and suffering in the eyes of my parents, and I soon realized that what they were experiencing was far worse than my own pain. After a little over a month and a half, I began making my slow comeback from my paralyzed state. Starting with the blinking of an eye, the most subtle shake of a hand and eventually a faint smile, my parents knew that I was still there and fighting for them.

I began several months of intense physical therapy where I had to relearn how to talk, eat, tie my shoes, take a shower, and eventually walk with a cane. One year after the accident, I was beginning my freshman year in college and I had the fortunate opportunity to swim in the first swim meet. In October 2007, the healing was finally complete when I crossed the finish line of the Hawaii Ironman triathlon.

To show my sincere gratitude, I went back to the rescue squads and various hospitals to thank these amazing people firsthand. I soon began speaking with other patients and families to offer support, motivation, and help them navigate as they began their journeys of healing. To further help improve the patient experience, I became a dedicated patient and healthcare advocate and began traveling the world speaking with medical organizations, hospital associations, and many patients and families about
their experiences in the health care setting.

After many conversations with my care providers, I became aware that there was also another group of people that played a very important role in my survival — my 36 blood donors.

For more than a decade, I have proudly supported the Red Cross mission by hosting dozens of blood drives across the country, donating blood on several occasions, speaking at hundreds of events to raise awareness on the importance of blood donation, participating in more than five dozen endurance events wearing 36 tiny red crosses on my race suit in honor of my blood donors. I wanted to do all that I could to offer support for patients in need.

I received 36 blood transfusions over the course of my emergency treatment and recovery. I think about these selfless people every single day. Their blood was not only lifesaving, but also lifegiving.

Since my trauma, I’ve been able to make a full recovery, finish college, go on to earn my master’s degreeat Johns Hopkins University and get married in 2013. My most cherished moment over the years came about last July when my wife and I welcomed our first child into this world, a daughter that we named Clara in honor of Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross.

As a former trauma patient and blood recipient, I have dedicated my life to supporting the Red Cross mission. By giving just one hour of their time, my blood donors not only helped give me the chance at a lifetime, but to also bring new life into this world.

To help meet the needs of trauma patients, please consider giving blood or platelets or hosting a blood drive with the Red Cross. Find opportunities at: RedCrossBlood.org.

Iron Heart 5K: A Race Dedicated to Healthcare Providers

ih_1Brian Boyle became “Iron Heart” after making a full recovery from a tragic car accident. At 18 every major organ in his body was damaged and doctors thought he would not survive, let alone walk again.

“Every day was not guaranteed, every day was a blessing, it was a gift. To go from that experience, where I saw first-hand the power that medicine has, that healthcare providers have for their patients, the compassion, the support the drive; just having that team effort all the way through kept me going,” says Brian Boyle, a.k.a “Iron Heart,” athlete and American Red Cross National Volunteer.

Now Brian has become an Ironman athlete, the American Red Cross National Volunteer, an author, artist and role model. Best of all he says, he runs alongside his father, fiance and his lucky dog.

“To see my dad out there doing it, it was just amazing. That was just the coolest part about it, to see my dad out there pushing the pace, and running alongside Pam the whole way. We just finished strong,” says Boyle.

The Maryland Healthcare Education Institute (MHEI) teamed up with Brian to create this first annual Iron Heart walk and 5K. Brian says he ran every step in gratitude.

“My racing is my way of saying thank you to my healthcare team, not just in PG Hospital, but to anyone in healthcare. It’s my way of saying thank you for choosing this career, thank you for choosing this path in life, and for all you do for patients and their families,” adds Boyle.

The Iron Heart event raised money for MHEI scholarships for healthcare providers.

“We had about 54 people that turned out for the race today, and we’re hoping for more next year. Really our goal was to get out here and have fun, and have everyone with us,” says Jena Large, Iron Heart event organizer.

A race for Brian Boyle the Iron Heart, who doesn’t have a finish line in sight.

Please click here to view the WHAG TV News segment about the Iron Heart 5K.

“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.