– Triathlete and Motivational Speaker –
“Life is really what you choose to make of it, the more you sacrifice and put in, the more you’ll get in return.”
Imagine a car accident where you are hit so hard that your heart is instantly ripped across your chest, bones shattering and snapping in an instant, lungs collapsing, losing consciousness and pints of blood, life forces diminishing, the unimaginable pain, the paralysis, the chemically-induced coma for two months, waking up in a room and not knowing where you are or how you arrived there, the feeling of being told that your life was over, and the indescribable agony of it all. This is the story of Brian Boyle, best known as “Iron Heart” lives in Welcome, MD in the USA.
One month after Brian graduated from high school in 2004, he was coming home from swim practice when he was involved in a near fatal car accident. It was a horrific car crash, on the 4th of July weekend. Eighteen year old Brian Boyle’s future was changed in an instant when a speeding dump truck plowed into his vehicle. He was airlifted to a shock-trauma hospital. Brian had lost sixty percent of his blood; his heart had moved across his chest, and his organs and pelvis were pulverized. Brian actually died eight times during his treatment and recovery. He recalls a priest reading him his last rites. Because of the severe pain and injuries, Brian was placed in a medically-induced coma. When he finally emerged from the coma two months later, Brian had no memory of the accident. He could see and hear, but not move or talk. Unable to communicate to his doctors, nurses, or frantic parents, Brian heard words like “vegetable” and “nursing home.”
After spending two months in a coma, 14 operations, 36 blood transfusions, 13 plasma treatments, Brian slowly started to regain consciousness. But, this was a scary process, because his eyes were open, but he was completely paralyzed, and unsure if he would ever leave Room 19 of the ICU. A few weeks later, progress was slowly taking place to the point where he was able to be taught how to talk again, and the first thing he said to his dad was that everything was going to be okay; during the whole ordeal he still remembers the tears in his dad’s eyes in that moment, but for the first time, they were tears of joy. He was then transferred to a rehabilitation center in Baltimore where he was placed into the determined hands of a large team of Physical and Occupational therapists that were focused on rebuilding him. Some days he felt more like Frankenstein than an 18-year-old boy, but he kept working hard with them because they believed that he would make a recovery, they carried him through even when he doubted himself. He had to learn how to talk, eat, shower, comb my hair, tie my shoes, and live independently again, which was very difficult because he lost 100 pounds during his time in ICU. After that agonizing experience, he had to go to outpatient therapy in Waldorf, MD. During this time, he began writing his experiences down in a journal and in 2009, those experiences were transformed into a published book called “Iron Heart.”
After spending a few months in a wheelchair, he took baby steps to walk on his own; first with a walker, then a cane, and then with the assistance of his parents as they would support him as he wore a safety belt around his waist. It was a miracle that he could walk again, but he wanted to go even further and learn to run. After he was able to run, he wanted to get back in the pool again. After a few lung tests, he was able to go in the pool a little bit each week. Before the accident he had three goals: to go to college, swim on the team, and compete in an Ironman triathlon someday. After a few months of swimming a few laps here and there, he decided that he was not going to let his injuries stop him from living his dreams, and six months after that, he began his freshman year at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Two years later, his third goal of competing in the Hawaii Ironman Competition took place on October 13th, 2007.
Brian owes his life to modern medicine and he owes his athletic abilities to the hard work of his large medical team. As a former ICU patient and triathlete over the past few years, he has the perspective and the personal experiences to understand how important the factors of health and fitness are, and this carries over into his training methods. From experience, he knows how the blink of an eye or the subtle movement of a finger can move mountains in a patient’s progress by showing signs of life when the only thing that may appear to be there is darkness. “I believe that by having this unique foundation it can help me be the best triathlon coach that I can be, because I understand the power of the mind, the body, and also the human spirit,” he says.
He wanted to become a Red Cross volunteer to show his gratitude, and since 2007, Brian has worked very closely with the American Red Cross by participating in various high profile events and hosting blood drives all across the nation that have brought in thousands of life-saving units of blood. It has been a true honor for him to volunteer, take part in their events and blood drives, and to proudly wear their logo on his race suits during his triathlon and running events. In 2009, Brian was presented the regional spokesperson of the year award from the American Red Cross for his contributions. In 2010, he was again presented with the Regional Spokesperson of the Year award and also made his very first blood donation at the hospital that brought him back to life. In 2011, he launched the Red Cross Iron Heart Campaign to help raise blood donation awareness on a national level. Brian Boyle is now the National Volunteer Spokesperson for the American Red Cross.
Brian is a professional speaker that has given over one hundred keynote presentations throughout the country during his career. He is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach. Brian is currently in grad school for a M.A. in Health Communications at Johns Hopkins University. His story has been featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, NBC’s Today Show, ESPN, and several other programs throughout the globe that have earned Emmy nominations and awards. His journey of courage and determination has touched the hearts of many and his story and the message it carries has been celebrated around the world.
Brian wrote a fantastic book, Iron Heart, which is the first-person account of Brian’s ordeal and his miraculous comeback. For more information, please visit his website at www.ironheartbrianboyle.com.
For the nearly 5 million people who receive blood transfusions every year, a blood donation can make the difference between life and death. Brian Boyle is living proof of this. When he needed it, the American Red Cross was there with 36 blood transfusions and 13 plasma treatments that saved his life. Volunteer blood donors made this possible. By giving just a little bit of their time, blood donors gave Brian the chance at a lifetime. Your donation can impact lives. See how your donation can make a difference by providing critical support for those in need. For more information, please visit the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org.
Brian in his own words
How does it feel to be an inspiration to others? Did you ever expect to become an inspiration?
For nearly 5 million people who receive blood transfusions every year, a donation can make the difference between life and death. I am living proof of this and I’m so thankful for all the people who donated for me. By giving just a little bit of their time, these people gave somebody like me a lifetime. I strive to make a positive impact in the lives of the people around me, throughout my community, and throughout the world. Everyday truly is a gift and I’m so thankful for everyone who has been a part of this journey with me for the past 10 years.
Why are Triathlons so inspiring? What makes this sport so special around the world?
I love the sport of triathlon because it’s such a great experience to train and race with so many incredible athletes throughout the world. It’s really exciting to be able to compete alongside such world class athletes and Olympians in these events because not many sports allow their participants to do this. In whatever distance of triathlon, you really get to the see the strength of the body, mind, and human spirit.
When did you start participating in triathlons? Where was your first competition?
I started competing in the sport of triathlon in the summer of 2007, and my first race was the Steelhead 70.3 in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
What motivates you in life?
With my background and comeback story, I am doing my best to live each day to the fullest while motivating and hopefully inspiring other people who are facing adverse situations to mine. I want to show them that it’s okay to never give up on their dreams, and to never stop believing in themselves no matter how bad a situation is or how tough life may seem. Life is really what you choose to make of it, the more you sacrifice and put in, the more you’ll get in return. And in order to achieve great things, you must be willing to take big risks depending on what the task is. All you have is the present moment, and I find it’s very important to focus on what you do have rather than what you don’t. The path we’re on right now might be different tomorrow or next week, but it’s about how we take that first step that matters most when things begin to change direction. And yes this can relate to overcoming extreme tragedy, but it’s also relevant to every factor of our lifestyles as well. Setting goals, pursuing dreams, accomplishing various tasks. No matter what life throws at you, you have the strength and character to overcome it, and with the right attitude you can achieve anything you set your mind too. When it comes down to it, you have control of the outcome of your future.
What would you say to other people with similar ambitions?
We all have our own experiences in life that have made us who we are. You don’t have to be in a coma or in intensive care for two months to understand life any better than someone else. Everyday we all face our own moments of adversity, both large and small, and we are tested, and we do the best we can with what we have. But just like anything else, there will always be obstacles out there, and it’s how we go about facing these obstacles that will make the difference. And having character traits that include honesty, determination, fairness and responsibility will help make a positive outcome. From personal experience, I truly believe that it is through our observation of those around us that present us with these traits of character. Through our parents, family, role models, coaches, teachers, and friends. They set the example and prepare us for the present and the future. And these character traits are reflected and defined through the experiences that we each face on a daily basis, therefore they define who we are. When a challenge is presented to us, we do or best to overcome whatever the situation is, and as a result, we learn something about ourselves through the process that makes us stronger. We acknowledge that our mistakes can be learning lessons. A tragedy can be transformed into a triumph. And an obstacle can be the gateway for opportunity. If the goal is to pursue a triathlon, the opportunity is definitely worth pursuing.
Who inspires you? Why?
My mom and dad for always being there for me; they believed in me when I didn’t have the strength to believe in myself and their love is what kept me from giving up in the hospital. My grandfather, Joe Lineberger, for always supporting me in my goals and dreams. He proudly served our country for over 6 decades, earning several military awards and was given the Bronze Star in Vietnam, and it was always his goal to help his fellow soldiers to receive recognition for their sacrifices. His leadership has always taught me to transform challenges into opportunities, and to be determined in all aspects of goal setting. My wife, Pamela, inspires me everyday with the work that she does as a nurse. I strive to do all I can to make a positive impact in the lives of the people around me, especially through my Red Cross volunteer work. She has a heart of gold and she motivates me in all aspects of my life.
How did you deal with obstacles in your life?
After spending two months in a coma, 14 operations, 36 blood transfusions, 13 plasma treatments, I started to slowly regain consciousness. But, this was a scary process, because my eyes were open but I was paralyzed all over, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever leave Room 19 of the ICU. A few weeks later, progress was slowly taking place to the point where I was taught how to talk again and the first thing I said to my dad was that everything was going to be okay; during that whole ordeal I still remember the tears in my dad’ eyes in that moment, but for the first time, it was tears of joy. I was then transferred to a rehabilitation center in Baltimore where I was placed into the determined hands of a large team of Physical and Occupational therapists that were focused on rebuilding me. Some days I felt more like Frankenstein than an 18-year-old boy, but I kept working hard with them because they believed that I would make a recovery, even when I doubted myself, they carried me through. I had to learn how to talk, eat, shower, comb my hair, tie my shoes, and live independently again, which was very difficult because I lost 100 pounds during my time in ICU. After that agonizing experience, I had to go to outpatient therapy in Waldorf, MD. During this time I began writing my experiences down in a journal and in 2009, those experiences were transformed into a published book called “Iron Heart”. Overall, I took large goals that I had and turned them into smaller goals. Over time, as I accomplished the smaller goals, they were slowly building up to larger goals, and before I knew it, I was back into life.
What do you like most about Triathlons?
I love the challenge and the experience of the race, at any distance, but especially at the Ironman level which is my favorite. During the race, I have a lot of time to reflect on the journey back to life that I have been on over the past 10 years and it’s a really good feeling just to be out participating in these endurance events. In the hospital when the heart was racing and the blood was pumping, they were once signs that I was dying, now they are signs that I’m living.
Mention major accomplishments in your life other than triathlons
In 2007 I became a certified personal trainer through the American Council of Exercise to help do my part of inspiring the world to improve their health and fitness. In the same year I staged what many consider to be one of the greatest comebacks in sports history when I crossed the finish line at the Hawaii Ironman just three years after leaving the Intensive Care Unit. In 2008, I competed in the 2008 Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater, Florida and Men’s Health magazine named me one of its twenty heroes. In 2009, I published my first book, Iron Heart, and I was presented the spokesperson of the year award from the American Red Cross for my contributions. In 2010, I graduated Cum Laude from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, ran my first 50 mile ultramarathon, completed my third Ironman in 10:14, and also made my very first blood donation at the hospital that brought me back to life. In 2011, I was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence from the President of the American Red Cross, Gail McGovern. I launched the Red Cross Iron Heart Campaign to help raise blood donation awareness on a national level, and was recognized by the President of the United States of America as a “Champion of Change” at the White House. After graduating from college, I pursued a professional career in public speaking on a national level that range from keynote topics of inspiration, overcoming adversity, and my efforts as a healthcare advocate. I´m currently studying for a Master’s of Health Communications at Johns Hopkins University, and I have a column with The Huffington Post. My story has been featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, NBC’s Today Show, ESPN, and several other programs throughout the country that have earned Emmy nominations and awards.
Do you support or represent any Non-Profit Organizations?
I volunteer for the American Red Cross and represent them as their National Volunteer Spokesman. “Since his accident, he has worked very closely with the American Red Cross, hosting blood drives all across the nation that have brought in several thousand life-saving units of blood. It has been a true honor for him to volunteer, take part in their events and blood drives, and to proudly wear their logo on his race suits during his triathlon and running events. He lost 60% of his blood at the scene of his accident, and Red Cross blood donors were there for him. As his treatment progressed, blood donors were a vital factor in his recovery and journey back into life. For the nearly 5 million people who receive blood transfusions every year, a blood donation can make the difference between life and death. Brian Boyle is living proof of this. When he needed it, the American Red Cross was there with 36 blood transfusions and 13 plasma treatments that saved his life in a situation where time was of the essence. Volunteer blood donors made this possible. By giving just a little bit of their time, blood donors gave Brian the chance at a lifetime. In 2011, he launched the Red Cross Iron Heart Campaign to help raise blood donation awareness on a national level. In the same year, he received the Dr. Charles Drew award and the Presidential Award for Excellence by the President of the American Red Cross, Mrs. Gail McGovern. In 2012, he was honored at the White House in Washington D.C. and presented with the “Champion of Change” award for his volunteer work with the Red Cross on a national level.” When I was sitting in my wheelchair in rehab, I made a promise that if and when I left the hospital I would do all I could to help make a positive impact in the world. After crossing the finish line in the Hawaii Ironman, I was healed and the recovery was complete, and I lived up to the promise I made by joining forces with the American Red Cross because they were the foundation of my recovery after having 60% bloodloss. Since 2007, I have spoken in behalf of the Red Cross, hosted dozens of blood drives all over the nation, raced in behalf of the red cross in all my endurance events, and last summer I created the Red Cross Iron Heart campaign that included tv and radio PSA’s that went across the country.Please support us at: www.redcross.org