Clarenville — Six years ago, David McGuire of British Columbia sustained a brain injury. It was so severe he was told he would never walk again.
Today he’s as fit as any athlete and he’s running a marathon a day for the next seven months in support of brain injury awareness.
The only visible sign that McGuire had brain surgery is a scar along the left side of his head.
In a way, he says, he’s fortunate. People who suffer damage to the right side of the brain often end up with physical disabilities.
“I may have short-term memory loss, but physically I’m fine,” he says.
McGuire embarked on his trek — Run to Remember — in St. John’s April 1. Six days later he was at Clarenville Middle School to speak to grades 4-6 students. It was his sixth school visit since starting the run.
McGuire’s life changed dramatically after he was injured. He could no longer hold down a job, had short-term memory loss and constant headaches.
He began running as part of his rehabilitation and completed his first marathon in 2006, a year after his injury.
“I want to inspire people to better understand brain injury,” says McGuire.
“I’m not the same person I was before the injury, but I have a lot to offer and am living my life to the fullest. I’m just a guy with a brain injury, but I can run, and I have a story to tell.”
McGuire has little recollection of how he was hurt. At first it was thought he had a stroke, causing him to fall and hit his head, resulting in swelling of the brain.
“It’s one of those cases of what came first the chicken or the egg,” he says.
“But however it happened I have to deal with it. I just want to get the word out that brain injuries are very serious.
“Your brain controls everything — breathing, sense of smell, personality, walking, memory, and your ability to learn and make decisions,” he told the students.
“But your brain doesn’t heal like your arms and legs. Brain injury is permanent. However, you can help stop preventable brain injuries by making the right decisions and taking the smart risks like checking how deep the water is before you dive in. Don’t drink and drive, or get in a car with someone who has been drinking. Wear the gear. Helmets prevent up to nearly 90 per cent of brain injuries.”
Brain Trust Canada, a community rehabilitation association with a focus on brain injury prevention, is co-ordinating McGuire’s cross-Canada run.
The name of the event, Run to Remember, is significant because problems with memory are often a major outcome of brain injury.
Magda Kapp, director of communications for Brain Trust Canada, says McGuire is an inspiration.
“With his help we hope to change the face of brain injury in Canada. Brain injury is much more prevalent than people realize, and also virtually every day there is a story about concussions and brain injury,” says Kapp.
“People are more aware of the fragility of their brains, but we need to bring more awareness to this issue. The brain is not fully formed until the mid-20s, and areas responsible for judgment and reasoning are among the last to develop, which contribute to youth 16-24 being at highest risk.”
McGuire plans to visit other schools with his message as he makes his way across Newfoundland. He expects to be in Port aux Basques on April 26 and will finish his cross Canada run in Victoria, B.C. in October.