Since Doug was perhaps 12 years old, he found joy in riding his bicycle. Whether that led him down dangerous paths, led to stitches and bruises, or was just plain unpopular, he was determined to keep his feet planted firmly on his pedals. Thousands upon thousands of miles later, he would always emerge as a stronger person who wouldn’t let anything stop him.
In his second year of college, studying materials engineering in Philadelphia, Doug was a successful student, bike racer, and enjoyed every part of his life and where he was headed. As the Spring of 2006 was becoming the Summer, however, he was presented with a challenge that neither he nor his college, family, or friends could ever have been prepared for. At just past 7pm on May 31, 2006, Doug was struck by a large pickup truck while riding back into center city (in the bike lane). In a split second, his road racing bicycle was demolished, his left arm broken in numerous places, and most detrimental, his helmet sustained significant damage. As a result, Doug suffered a diffuse traumatic brain injury, leaving doctors with no choice but to induce a secondary coma to reduce brain swelling. After 2 weeks of doctors, family, and friends wondering if he would return to consciousness and a functional life, Doug slowly awakened. Capable of only responding to very simple requests and stimuli, he was allowed to be transferred to a rehabilitation hospital. Next, over 4 weeks at Moss Rehabilitation hospital allowed Doug the ability to slowly and steadily recover to the point of going home. Months of outpatient rehabilitation followed, still with uncertainty if he would ever ride his bicycle on the street or return to college to finish his degree. With difficulty reading, remembering, and even balancing, the chances appeared slim.
A drive to return to riding his bicycle kept Doug working hard in his recovery. Each week, he asked his specialists, “Can we test my balance with the testing machine again?”. The first day he was able to even run on a treadmill was a remarkable day for him. As his body and mind recovered, Doug was determined even more to show everyone around him that his injury – coma and all – was merely a speed-bump.
To read about Doug’s recovery in much greater detail, visit DougTales, his recovery blog.
Traumatic brain injury is nothing slight of a disaster that can uproot a lifetime worth of experience into a puddle of confusion and disarray. But, with hope and encouragement, family and friends can show their loved ones that they are not alone and they should continue to work hard to recover. Even if it takes reminding your loved one several times a day that recovery is in baby-steps, hope is still within reach!
Doug Markgraf traveled by bicycle across the continental United States beginning June 27 2011, in hopes of ensuring that hopes and inspiration are visable for as many survivors and families as possible. Doug visited numerous traumatic brain injury rehabilitation centers located in cities and towns along his route, speaking with doctors, patients, and families about reaching their goals and expectations. Everyone can do amazing things!