“I joke that I forget that I ran a marathon the day before so then I go ahead and run another one the next day,” said David McGuire, who is running across Canada to raise awareness of brain injury, particularly in youth.
“The truth is that brain injury changed my life. I have few memories and little short-term memory. Tomorrow when I wake up, the likelihood of remembering is just not going to be there. Of course, there are things I remember. I remember my wife but not our wedding — I’m just not the guy I was.”
Six years ago, McGuire, then 32, was living in Vancouver, working in banking, enjoying cycling, hockey and playing video games. Then he had a stroke at home, fell and hit his head and was left with severe brain injury. He was in a coma for nine days, had part of his skull temporarily removed, and his family was told that he might never walk or talk again.
He had not been a runner before but during rehabilitation, he discovered that he was a good long-distance runner. He approached BrainTrust Canada, a society which helps people with brain injuries, about a cross-Canada run to raise awareness and funds for brain injury.
“This is the biggest project we have ever taken on and David is one of a kind for doing this for us. He has been speaking to youth across Canada about the importance of prevention in brain injury,” said Magda Kapp, director of communications for BrainTrust Canada Association.
Since Bill Dyck and Gary Weatherill of Nixon Wenger are board members of BrainTrust Canada, McGuire made a stop at the new building to meet them, Vernon Vipers members and local BrainTrust supporters.
“If I can get one kid to put on a helmet, it’s worth it,” said McGuire after a short presentation of photos of his journey.
“Ninety per cent of brain injuries happen to youth ages 15 to 25 and many are preventable by wearing the right helmets.”
He asked how many of the Vipers players had had a concussion and several put up their hands.
“Concussion is a brain injury. If you do hit your head and something seems not quite right, tell somebody about it. Concussion signs won’t always show up right away. Don’t suck it up and get back out and play. Don’t mess with your head.”
McGuire said his message applies to all sports and activities and people of all ages who should take time to consider risks and the appropriate precautions to take.
Brain injury is the greatest cause of death and disability for people under age 45, surpassing cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other causes. It is the greatest cause of death for people under 20.
More than 480 Canadians a day, or one every three minutes receive a brain injury. The brain controls everything about the body, breathing, sense of smell, personality, walking, memory and the ability to learn and make decisions. The brain does not heal like the rest of the body and while some degree of recovery is possible, brain injury is permanent.
“A lot of people I know who have brain injury never walk or talk again. Without your head, you’re nothing. From me to you, guys, seriously, protect your heads,” said McGuire.
BrainTrust Canada provides direct support to individuals with brain injury and their families, community education and prevention programs and is developing a research centre.
McGuire started his run in St. John’s, Nfld., April 1 and plans to finish in Victoria Nov. 29.
Donations to Run to Remember can be made through any Scotiabank (account #801500051020) with branches also selling lanyards with flashing whistles with donations matched by Scotiabank.
Donations can also be made at www.runtoremember.com or texting the word BRAIN to 45678 to contribute $5 on your phone bill. Companies interested in supporting the cause can contact BrainTrust Canada at 250-762-3233 or email@example.com.