From near death to diploma: UNL student fights back from brain injury

Listen to this story: 
December 12, 2011 - 6:00pm

In the fall of 2004 Brady Beran was a junior at Lincoln East (Neb.) High School. He was a good student and a good athlete.


Photos from NET News & Brady Beran

Brady Beran, then and now

"(I was) honestly looking to go up to Creighton (University) and play soccer there after I got done with high school," Beran said.

On Sept. 24, 2004, Beran was playing football. During a third quarter kickoff, he went to block a Lincoln Southeast player and their helmets collided.

"(I) got knocked down really hard," Beran said. "Coach came and helped me get up and walk off the field. When I got to the sidelines, I collapsed and other stuff started happened like my eyes rolling in the back of my head."

In hindsight, doctors believe Beran suffered a concussion earlier in the game. The second hit caused an artery in his brain to burst. Beran was rushed to the trauma center at Lincoln's Bryan-LGH Medical Center West.

"Before surgery, my parents asked the doctor if I was going to make it, and the doctor said, I don't know," Beran said. "And they get up there to do surgery and they see that I have less than a 10 percent chance of making it through surgery."

CLICK HERE to track four years of Beran's recovery in a blog that was started by friends and family just three days after his injury.

He would survive that surgery, and four more. He'd survive being in a coma, having a large portion of his skull removed to allow for brain swelling, feeding tube problems and pneumonia. He'd battle death for several weeks, and survive. Five weeks after the injury, Beran was moved to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln. He was unable to do the sort of things most of us take for granted, like walking, talking, reading and eating.

"The first time I got up walking, it took five people," Beran said. "One on each side of me holding me up. One helped me move my right leg. Another person behind me pushing the wheelchair so when I needed to rest, I could rest. And then the fifth person in front of me saying, 'Take a step with your left foot, take a step with your right foot.' And the first time I got up walking, I made it five steps. It was a huge accomplishment for me."

After two months of therapy Beran walked out of the rehabilitation hospital and back to Lincoln East. Before the accident he was getting A and B grades in upper level classes. Afterwards he was reading at a kindergarten level. But he would graduate from high school on schedule, earn a degree from Southeast Community College and then enroll at UNL, majoring in child, youth and family science. On Saturday, Dec. 17, Beran will receive his bachelor's degree. It wasn't easy, though.

"I got really frustrated in some of my classes I was taking just because my short-term memory was definitely not where it used to be," Beran said, "(and) I get tired a lot faster than I did before my accident. There is definitely a couple of points through this where I'm just like, 'Oh this stinks, this is frustrating, this is difficult.' But I don't want to say there was ever a point where I would say, 'This is too much.'"

Now pieces of titanium hold his skull together, although Beran jokes that it's not enough to set-off airport metal detectors. Glasses help his double vision, and he is working with a therapist to get rid of what he describes as a "gimp and drop foot." But the accident changed Beran in other ways. He said he is more outgoing since the accident, using motivational speaking engagements to help get through college debt free.

"I love kidding around with people and just having fun with them you know, joking around with them," Beran said."Like I tell people, 'I've had a traumatic brain injury. What's your problem? Or what's your excuse?'"

Beran also said he's more passionate about his Christian faith, something he credits for what he's accomplished in the last seven years. After graduation, Beran hopes to work for a Christian organization, with youth or any population that needs help. But first, he's going to enjoy graduation.

"May I say exciting? Yeah I'm going to say exciting," Beran said. "It's going to be exciting and, I don't want to say it's going to be a weight lifted off my shoulders, but it's just going to be like, 'oh thank you Lord, for helping me do this.' It's just pretty awesome that you know, God has done this. I feel honored to still be here today."

"As I say in my speeches, friends, family, faith, fight, and football helped me out with my recovery," Beran added. "And those five 'Fs' has really helped me get through my accident and helped me have a positive recovery."

CLICK HERE for Brady Beran's web site.




blog comments powered by Disqus