Inspirational Interview With Brian Boyle Interviewed by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com - June 2008
Critical Bench: Critical Bench is here with Brian Boyle right now. Brian Boyle has faced more severe adversities than anyone else I have ever known. He was dead 8 times, in a coma for over 2 months on life support, and has suffered more trama than anyone else that I have ever known, saw on television or read about before. However, here he is today, successful! He is running faster than most Iron Man Athletes and he bench presses more than the average competitive powerlifter and he is ready to tell us about his story. Brian it is great to have you here with Critical Bench today.
Brian Boyle: Thanks for having me.
Critical Bench: Brian, before we get into your intense story, give us some background information about yourself and about what you do!
Brian Boyle: My name is Brian Boyle, I am 21 years old, and I live in Maryland. My background is in swimming and in high school I had a few state championship titles under my belt; I also was nationally ranked in discus, was a champion powerlifter, and had a big interest in bodybuilding. Before the 2007 Ford Ironman World Championship, I didn't have any prior experience in the sport of triathlon.
I think the most I ever ran in a race on the track team was over 200 yards, and as far as cycling, I would ride a mountain bike when I was in middle school in the summer when I would go to my cousins, Matt and Hayley's house, and we would just ride around the neighborhood for fun - that was the closest I ever got to cycling. Even with swimming, the longest race I would do was 100 yards, so a 2.4 miles swim would still be a huge challenge for me even though my background was in swimming.
Critical Bench: Brian, you were in a fatal car accident! Tell us about that in detail! How did it happen and what do you remember from the event?
Brian Boyle: A month after I graduated high school in 2004, I was coming home from swim practice and was involved in a very serious car accident with a dump truck. The impact of the crash knocked my heart across my chest, breaking most of my ribs/clavicle/pelvis, collapsing my lungs, losing 60% of my blood, severe nerve damage to my left shoulder, and in a coma on life support for over two months where I died 8 times at Prince Georges Hospital Center in Cheverly, MD.
I don't have a memory of the accident, or the few days before the day of the accident. The first thing that I remember after the collision, which is still so vivid in my mind even today, is being in this very large white tube. In this tube was a boy sitting to my left, and many other boys and girls on my right side (I use the term "boys and girls" because they appeared to be my age); I didn't know why I was there or how I even got there in the first place. The more I sat there, the more I was able to visualize my surroundings. The boy to my left had a cell phone, and he asked me if I needed him to call anyone for me. I told him "yes, can you call my parents and tell them that I love them." The next thing that I remember is waking up in a hospital bed, chemically paralyzed and hooked up to all these machines. Through all the buzzes and beeps going off from the medical equipment that was saving my life at that instant, I could hear my mom and dad telling me in between dramatic pauses of crying hysterically that I was going to be okay. Only moments before I believe I was waiting in line to meet my final judgment, but it must have not been my time. Moments later, I had come back to life. This was just the beginning of my suffering.
Critical Bench: WOW! Brian, you died almost 8 times? What was that like?? How would you compare the pain of dying almost 8 times to the pain of being an Ironman Triathlete?
Brian Boyle: As each day went along in my hospitalization period, they said that I was in God's hands; it was unsure whether I would leave my hospital room in a wheelchair or a body bag. In all actuality, I was the worst patient in the unit for many weeks besides those who were on their way to the morgue. I died eight times but each time I was brought back to life only to suffer more. Does suffering end when the body physically dies or when the will to live takes over? I was in room nineteen for over two months, and for those months I was on the brink and slipping fast. In a chemically induced coma, I laid there on my back paralyzed and in a state of total confusion. I woke up not knowing how I got there because of all the medication and amnesia that was given to me.
There I was laid out on a table, screaming, sweating, and barefoot to the floor. I was on drugs that were two-hundred times stronger than morphine, and painkillers that drug addicts would give their lives for. I would go through withdrawals so severe that my body would lose total control and go into convulsions; I would have to hold my legs together in the fetal position for hours so I would stop shaking.
While I was in the intensive care unit and even when I woke up from my coma, I couldn't talk or communicate. As far as the future, it didn't exist. Walking was never going to happen again due to all the extreme injuries and because of the shattered pelvis. The thought of swimming was just that, only a thought. Just like my body, my dreams were shattered, but I never gave up hope because I knew God had some kind of plan waiting for me.
I can honestly say that the one thing that kept me alive from the beginning is what keeps me going today, and that is help and support from my parents, family and friends, they never gave up on me and I can't give up on them. Everything that I do and try and accomplish is for them and because of them. The story is not about Brian Boyle, it is about "Team Boyle" because it takes a team to make a champion.
Critical Bench: When you were going through the experience did you want to die? What was going through your mind?
Brian Boyle: It's hard to explain what the experience was like, but I guess the best way is to imagine being hit so hard that you heart is instantly knocked across your chest; bones shattering and snapping in the blink of an eye; lungs collapsing; my life slipping away as each second ticks by; losing consciousness and pints of blood; life forces diminishing; the unimaginable pain; the chemically induced coma for two months; the paralysis; the pneumonia; the infections; the seizures; the routine CAT scans and MRI tests; not breathing for several minutes because the life support tubes clogged; waking up in a room and not knowing where you are and how you arrived there; the feeling of being told that your life was over; looking at your parents standing over your hospital bed and wondering why they are crying their eyes out; not being able to talk or communicate because you have four tubes going down your throat and to weak to raise a finger; having Vaseline spread across your dry eyes because you are not able to blink; being fed through a tube that goes down your nose and watching the liquids go in and out of it; the rubbing alcohol baths; viewing other patients in the intensive care unit rolling by your room with sheets covering their faces; and the indescribable agony of it all. This is what was going through my mind everyday when I was in and out of consciousness.
Critical Bench: You have experienced everyone's fear and what a strong person you have become! What was the recovery process like from the fatal accident?
Brian Boyle: It's very easy to go through and list these facts and make it look like everything just seemed to easily fall in it's own perfect little place, but the truth of the matter is that it didn't. It wasn't easy, not then, and not now. The pain and the agony was real and it existed all the way through, in the good times and the very bad. It was not an easy situation to be in where you're laying in a bed, staring at the ceiling, knowing that your life is over. I thought to myself over and over, why this situation had to happen to me. I was always a good kid, received good grades in school, and went to church. Why would something as horrific as this happen to me? Why would God allow this? I went on and on for days asking why? And, then it hit me. All that thinking and pondering on the what-if scenario's and the questionable doubt only stirred up another question - why was I saved? I didn't have anymore questions after that. I know what my purpose in life finally is.
Critical Bench: How did the accident make you a stronger and better man?
Brian Boyle: With the 50 year life expectancy I was given from the doctors, I am just trying to live each day to the fullest and motivate and hopefully inspire other people to never give up on their dreams, and to never stop believing no matter how bad a situation is. I remember when I was still in my hospital bed in ICU, I would have my mom and dad push me around in my wheelchair to the other rooms in the unit to see the other patients and talk to them and their families; it didn't matter if the other patients were unconscious or comatose because I just wanted to talk to them, especially since there was always that possibility that they could hear me. I wanted to let them know that everything was going to be okay, somehow things would work out for the best. I prayed with them, I said prayers for them, I tried to give them hope.
Critical Bench: What lessons did your fatal accident teach you about life?
Brian Boyle: I find that if I can have a positive impact on at least a few people along my journey back to life, then my mission here in this world will be complete. It's all about a positive attitude, and if you have that, you have everything.
PART 2..... BRIAN SURVIES..
Critical Bench: Brian since recovering from the accident, you're even stronger than you were before the accident! Tell us your best lifts? AND how did you get stronger physically after being dead 8 times?
Brian Boyle: I think the fact that the accident made me mentally stronger gave me the boost to lift bigger weight after I got out of the hospital. As a powerlifter, I always preferred the bench press of the three disciplines and when I was in high school I was able to lift 325 lbs. and after the accident, it went up to 375 lbs. I really believe it comes down to having the right mindset.
Critical Bench: OMG!!! In what ways does your mind work differently now since then accident? How do you see life differently?
Brian Boyle: What I have learned about myself throughout this whole ordeal is the old saying that a person has not lived until they have almost died, and for those out there who have fought, life has a flavor that the protected will never know.
Critical Bench: What you just said Brian wall genius! What is your advice for others who are going through adversity?
Brian Boyle: "In life, there are going to be times when you fall down, and when that happens, you have to do everything it takes to get back up on your two feet. If the situation is so bad that you can not even lift your body, then at least keep your head up and you will overcome."
Critical Bench: Brian, what motivates you to keep going strong after you have seen how bad life can really get?
Brain Boyle: My story is about the recovery and the comeback, but I want to make it much more than that, I want to make a positive impact on the world for both athletes and non-athletes. I am just trying to live each day to the fullest and motivate and hopefully inspire other people through my endeavors to never give up on their dreams, and to never stop believing no matter how bad a situation is.
Critical Bench: Brian, what are your future goals?
Brian Boyle: Besides the ironman and triathlons, I'm doing a lot of work now with motivational speaking, the American Red Cross as being a spokes model because I feel that this is how I can use my story as a means of helping others. I have a foundation at my hospital where I am also a spokes model at. I have a biography in the process of being edited/published (Summer '08) right now and following that I have a series of fitness and workout manuals that I'm waiting to get published after the bio is complete. I have a newly established website that just went live last month, but is still under construction, but within the website will be an area for my sponsors, for member and non-members, a blog, photoslideshows, recent t.v. interviews and radio station interviews as well as printed articles, team boyle gift shop, and an area where a viewer can purchase a workout/nutrition plan from me. This is just a few of the things going on but there is a whirlwind of media that has totally turned my life around, but I just want to use all this as a way to help and inspire.
Critical Bench: Brian, before your huge accident what was your childhood like?
Brian Boyle; I had a great childhood, my parents were the best. We enjoyed going to the beach and traveling when we could. They have always been there to support me in everything that I do and I wouldn't be the person that I am today if it weren't for them, and honestly, I don't even think I would exist because they brought me back to life when I was giving up in the hospital.
Critical Bench: Brian, how did you get involved with Iron Man triathalons?
Brian Boyle: In high school I had three goals after graduating; go to college, swim on the college swim team, and compete in an ironman triathlon one day. I grew up watching the ironman show on t.v. because I was always so amazed at the inspirational stories on there - Team Hoyt, Sister Madonna, Jon Blais, and now Brian Boyle? It just boggles the mind that I have such a fortunate opportunity to be able to tell my story to the world.
It wasn't until this past may where I believed I could even attempt the Ironman triathlon. I really don't know where the idea came from, but it just popped into my mind one afternoon during final exams week. I was checking my email on the computer, and I went to the Ironman triathlon website and just for laughs, I sent an email to their corporation and told them my story. After I sent it, I forgot all about it because I never thought in a million years that they would even listen to me. It came to my surprise that less than a month later, I received an email from the executive producer of the ironman show with a proposition that I couldn't refuse.
Critical Bench: How did you manage to bench 325lbs with strict form and compete in triathalons all at the same time? As most people usually pick power sports or endurance sports and excel, but to be great at both is astounding!
Brian Boyle; Since I left the hospital, I have gained back all the weight (currently 190 lbs.) with the help of weight gainer powders and protein supplements from my sponsors, 4EverFit. The hardest part was learning how to lift weights again with the severe nerve damage in my left shoulder but I overcame the pain and numb sensation, and was able to bench 375 lbs. last year, before I even had the nerve to even think about attempting an Ironman triathlon, and I didn't have 100% full activity yet in my left shoulder.
As for strength training and athletics, I was able to get back in the pool and swim at the collegiate level two years ago. Last year I decided that I would take a break from the team because I wanted to gain some more strength and muscle back so I started powerlifting back up as a hobby. With help and motivational support from 4EverFit, a few champion powerlifters, and my bodybuilding hero and friend, Jay Cutler, I was able to do this. I told Jay my story and how I always looked up to him as a bodybuilder and was a huge fan. He sent me out a care package and put me on this strength training program where I ended up beefing up to 240 lbs. of muscle, which was so much different and better than being the skeleton that I was after getting out of the hospital.
CRITICAL BENCH: Brian, it has been truly an honor talking to you today. Your story is one of the most inspirational stories in the history of sports of all time. In closing is there a motto you would like to leave us with!..