Adam Sayles: The Past, Present, and Future of Life With a Traumatic Brain Injury. How He is Defying the Odds.

Edited and verified by his mother Vickie Sayles

I talked a lot in the past about losing your mind versus losing your body. In my life I have successfully won the fight in regaining control of my mind on two different occasions. My fight was mostly won through medications. The other portion consisted of the support of friends and family providing different perspectives and reasons for why I should not be thinking the way I was thinking.

My fight was not nearly as difficult as a friend of mine named Adam Sayles. His fight, on the other hand, is still not over. Just like my fight to regain control of my body is not over. But unlike me, who has basically lost hope and moved on, he continues to push himself every day to regain control of his mind. I just sit around and sometimes think about the faint possibility of a cure. There is no cure and will be no cure for his condition, but he is working hard every day to win his fight. I applaud him for that.

Now we have had discussions about the power of the mind versus the power of the body. He understands that the mind is extremely powerful, as do I, but we do have one disagreement. Neither of us would want to change places. He can’t imagine my struggles and I can’t imagine his struggles either.

So the story begins… Adam Sayles was a scholar. At his high school in Rocky River, Ohio, he was in the top 15% of his class. He was a three sport varsity athlete in baseball, basketball, and golf. He was also a member of the schools weight lifting team. He once scored nine 3-pointers on a pretty prominent athlete in just the first half. His team was within a few points at halftime. That was until he found that the team was just toying with them and in the second half he was held scoreless and they got crushed by game’s end.

He took second 2 years in a row in the Cleveland Indians Hit, Pitch, and Run competition. He was able to meet Charlie Nagy and other prominent Indians at a ceremony at Windows on the River.

Adam still holds his high school varsity record for baseball saves in the 4 years varsity career. He was known for pitching extremely fast. He also holds a record for his weight lifting accomplishments in 2002. Although he only weighed 185 lbs, he lifted 485lbs in a state competition, setting the school record for his weight class. .

Although Adam was an awesome athlete and honor roll student, he liked to drink and smoke marijuana. He found it very important to prove to his friends that he could be an A student but also hang out with them and be one of the “popular” kids.

Most things came easy for Adam. At 5 years old he won a trophy almost as tall as him, being the Karate studio’s student of the year. At 10 years old he had the highest average in his bowling league a 178. He placed second the Plain Dealer golf tournament one year and won other golf tournaments in Northeast Ohio. He scored a 31 on his ACT and a 1290 on his SAT. He tested out of all math classes in college on his placement tests. He was motivated and intelligent and he was told by everyone that he would succeed. At graduation the commencement speaker said that he would make the largest impact of anyone in his class

Adam’s parents divorced when he turned 18. This devastated him. He chose not to live with either of his parents at this point and rented his own apartment. He did not realize how much money it took to live on his own. Without a good job, it was tough to get by. He eventually took a job as a line cook and worked his way up to become the assistant to the executive chef at a fine dining restaurant. After a short while he left there and took another job. He found he was usually able to work his way up in ranks and make more money than he should and more than the majority of other workers. He even had jobs requiring a degree even though he did not have a degree.

Adam felt he was on top of the world other than he didn’t like Cleveland. Since he was still young and had no real ties other than family and friends here, he decided to make a big move. He moved to Clearwater, Florida because it sounded like a nice place to live. Although, he loved his life in Florida, this would prove to be a fateful decision for him.

He was able to find a job at a beach restaurant in just a few days. His roommate took multiple months to find a job, as his past experience didn’t translate well. While he liked the atmosphere of the restaurant, he wanted a better paying job. He found that opportunity at a popular hotel on the beach. He started as a front desk employee, but was soon promoted to higher paying positions like accounts payable and purchasing manager due to his customer service and finance background. He felt this was the best experience of his life and he loved working here. But, he still loved to party as well. One day he made the fateful choice of spending the day at the beach drinking and then going to the hotel on his day off. He was suspended from his position at the hotel.

While suspended he found a job at a T-Mobile branch in Largo, Florida. With his salary and commission, he was making quite a bit of money, $70,000 to be exact. At this time, he owned 2 mopeds which he drove back and forth to work. He decided that those were not fast enough for him so he bought a 275cc motorcycle. Thinking he was invincible, he was becoming more and more reckless, never wearing protective gear or a helmet. This was another fateful decision for Adam.

After buying the new 275cc bike, things become foggy for Adam. (This is where stuff gets cloudy but) According to police reports and eyewitness accounts, on March 12, 2011, while on his way to work a 72 year old lady turned into a shopping center in front of him. The speed limit on this road was 45 and after a yearlong investigation it was determined that Adam was driving at 42MPH. When she turned in front of him, Adam tried to swerve to miss her. He ended up hitting the rear quarter panel of the van she was driving. He was ejected from the bike, but not before the handlebars went under his ribs, rupturing his spleen. He then flew approximately 20 feet in the air, hitting the ground with the left side of his head, in the frontal lobe of his brain.

On impact, his brain sheared, which means the left and right hemisphere went in opposite directions. This caused what is called a diffuse axonal injury and caused hemorrhages, or bleeding, in multiple areas of his brain. He also shattered his left orbital bone, suffered a deviated septum in his nose, and had multiple areas of deep road rash. The paramedics were unable to intubate him on the scene, resulting in Adam not breathing for several minutes. They kept trying but ended up having to breathe for him with an Ambu bag until they arrived at Bayfront hospital, the trauma center for Pinellas County Florida and was rushed into the operating room where experts were able to get him on a ventilator. Before they were able to stabilize him, he had to be resuscitated again.

Through a large incision in his abdomen, Adam’s spleen was removed and his abdominal hemorrhaging was brought under control. He had lost a lot of blood by this time. Additionally, a bolt was placed in his skull, which would remain for 10 days, in order to control the swelling of his brain. He was kept in a drug induced coma for 10 days in order to control this swelling and give his brain time to heal.

Once out of the coma, he was very confused. He did not know where he was, in fact because the nurses had the TV in his room; he thought that he was in Japan due to the television reports of the huge Tsunami that hit while he was in ICU. At times he thought that he was married and had several children or thought he was the owner and CEO of Wal-Mart.

After 14 days in Intensive Care, Adam was moved to a locked brain injury rehab unit within the trauma center. Although he was considered extremely lucky due to the fact that over 90% of persons that are affected by the same type of injury Adam sustained remain in a vegetative state for life, and only 1% of people with this type of injury are ever back to their pre-accident state. Adam was not so sure he was lucky. When he arrived to rehab he was unable to walk without falling for short periods of time, had to be taken to the bathroom, in fact, he had to ring for the nurse if he wanted to do anything at all. His physical therapy consisted of trying to hit a balloon with his hand before it hit him and learning to walk again. He also had to be constantly reminded of his name, the date, his age, the month and year. His memory was completely gone. To this day he does not remember much that he did from the age of 26 to the age of 20. Those years are gone for him forever.

Little did Adam realize that his struggle was just beginning when he left the trauma center. He moved in with his mom and her boyfriend at first. This was very difficult as due to the brain injury he was very argumentative and lacked motivation. He would want to lie in bed all day and refused to do the much needed therapy to get his brain and body back to normal. He thought it would be less stressful to move in with his dad and her girlfriend, only to find out that was not the case. He eventually moved in with his aunt and uncle for a few months and started cognitive therapy but felt that he was beyond what they were teaching him so he stopped going long before he should have. He then decided that he was ready to move back to Florida. This was not the best decision but the sunshine and lack of people pushing him to do things was a relief to him.

Several months after being in Florida, Adam decided that he was going to surprise his mom for her birthday and fly back to Cleveland. During this trip, he missed a connecting flight which threw Adam into the start of a manic phase. Not realizing that this happens to over 70% of persons who suffer a severe traumatic brain injury, none of his family or friends, or Adam himself knew what was happening. This episode would prove to be Adam’s biggest setback since the accident. After arriving in Cleveland, he met his mom and a friend for dinner and drinks. His mom realized that something was very wrong but had no idea what it was. After leaving the restaurant in his father’s new car, he ran a red light and totaled his dad’s car along with the other driver’s car. This threw him into a full blown manic phase. During this month long phase he alienated his family and his friends by acting so bizarre and refusing treatment.

He spent approximately $20,000 of his settlement on random items through online shopping, gambling, and handing the money to people he thought needed it, and destroyed a hotel room. While in the hotel room, he started thinking that the police were watching his every move. He ripped pictures off of the wall, tearing the room apart looking for cameras. He cut the phone lines and destroyed the lights. He pulled the fire alarm in the room, thinking that it was a fake alarm. Firefighters and police soon arrived and tazed him and took him to jail.

Adam was strip searched and forced to shower in front of the whole department when he arrived to jail. This upset him even more. He started acting very inappropriately while in the jail cell, pulling down his pants and screaming that he was not Traveon Martin and that the police were racially profiling him. He nicknamed the cops Super Trooper names and continuously talked and made fun of them.

He was eventually transferred to the hospital where they determined it was a manic episode. Since Adam did not have insurance, he was transferred to a behavioral health care center for patients that were in trouble but did not have insurance. Unfortunately, the health center did not realize that Adam was as sick as he was so they released him. The hotel realized Adam had a warrant out for his arrest and cops arrested him again. They thankfully realized that he needed mental help and sent him back to the behavioral health center where he remained for about a month. During this entire time, Adam believed that he was normal and everybody else was out to get him.

The doctors at the behavioral health center realized what was going on and put Adam on very high doses of medications. He was forced to meet with a psychiatrist there who continued to drug him heavily. Adam was aware enough of his mental state to know that he was being over drugged and could not even function. He was drooling from such high doses but was unable to do anything at all about it. The police were forcing him to stay at this center due to the hotel damage that was done a month before.

Adam was finally released on the same high doses of medications and went to court for the hotel damages. He was put on probation for a year and was forced to continue his medications and see a psychiatrist. He also had to pay restitution for the hotel damage he caused. He was unable to go back to Florida and his condo due to his probation and forced to stay in Cleveland.

Medications that were supposed to help only made things worse. He became depressed and suicidal. Having a spiritual background is the only thing that kept him from killing himself. He hated the fact that he was in cloudy Cleveland and was not near the beach in sunny Florida. He went back to Longhorn Steakhouse where he worked when he was just out of high school. They created a mindless position for him rolling silverware after he was unable to be a cook. He absolutely hated it and found it difficult to go to work due to tremendous anxiety issues.

He finally got off probation in July 2013. He stopped taking all of the mandatory medications and his mindset started to change. Although life still was a struggle he found

Lumosity is a website where you play games that help to train your brain. He started using this website in May of last year and the website has charted his improvement. When he started it said that he was “smarter” than only 3% of people his age. Now, less than a year later, he has improved to the point where he is “smarter” than 70% of people his age. Although his ultimate goal is to get back to where he was before the accident he realizes that this may be impossible because only 1% of people are able to do this. He is optimistic this will happen and he will be pre-accident intelligence.

Adam is now driving but suffers extreme anxiety after his accident. He is currently on disability which he hopes to someday be able to be off of and work a normal job. He helps his mom by getting groceries and running other errands. He takes care of his mom’s dog during the day which teaches him responsibility and makes him feel better about himself.

He still struggles with memory now. He says that every day is like Groundhog Day to him. Because of this he tries to do the same thing on a daily basis. Sometimes he still forgets some of his daily routines. If he does something out of the ordinary one day he will forget that he did it the next day. He only really remembers what he normally does. So he sticks to routines.

He is easily overwhelmed which is very common with traumatic brain injuries. He can only do one task at a time and can’t handle when bumps in the road occur while trying to complete the task.

The hardest part about everything is that he looks completely normal on the outside, but he has problems with his brain that are invisible. People cannot see a mental disability, unlike a physical disability. He has asphalt around his eye and some scratches but nothing really looks wrong with him physically. That is the most frustrating part to him. You wouldn’t even know he had surgery unless he took off his shirt and you saw the giant scars on his stomach from the emergency surgery on his spleen. He also has scars on his hands, feet, and ankles from road rash.

He is making great progress but he has had some tremendous setbacks. He has overdosed twice since the accident, on accident. He does not remember taking his medications sometimes and takes them again. One time, due to the fact that his mother’s boyfriend had cancer and had large amounts of Morphine and Xanax, he decided to take two 10mg morphine tablets and 2mg of Xanax. 10 mg of morphine is what a cancer patient will normally take. It is an extremely high dose. He then went to lie down and his mom found him not breathing after an unknown amount of time, and had to start CPR. The ambulance rushed him to the hospital, but he also suffered another anoxic injury to his brain, affecting his memory even more.

The second overdose happened only a few months ago in January of 2014. He drove to Florida and was able to obtain a prescription for Percocet along with another strong anti-anxiety medication. He once again took too much medication accidently (30 mg of Percocet and 4mg of Klonopin) and was found unresponsive by the owners of the condo. The police were called but Adam was able to talk his way out of it. He slept it off and came back to Ohio instead of staying in Florida the other 2 weeks he was supposed to.

He stays away from painkillers and other prescription medication drugs now, because he will take one and then an hour later he will forget that he took one so he will take another. This is obviously a dangerous situation so dangerous pills must be hidden from him at all times, but he has learned his lesson and he does not want any more setbacks.

He recently went back to the hospital in Florida to visit his therapists. They cannot believe how well he is doing and he is nothing short of a miracle. He sees others with the same type of injury that are stuck in that vegetative state and he realizes how blessed he is.

His plans now… The only thing he is concerned about is getting better and getting back to where he was. He was going to school for finance and he is close to finishing and hopes to one day finish his degree. He still knows a lot about computers and networking but not as much as pre-accident. He wants to start his own business one day. Working right now is just a distant dream of his because of the mental hurdles. He is still easily frustrated and suffers from overwhelming anxiety about almost anything.


3 thoughts on “Adam Sayles: The Past, Present, and Future of Life With a Traumatic Brain Injury. How He is Defying the Odds.

  1. One thing i forgot is that they called my family, the chaplin of the hospital did, asking them to fly down asap to identify my body that they would attempt to keep me alive til they made it to Florida but they couldn’t promise anything….scary

  2. Hey Adam, we met last night at the Getaway. You’re a walking miracle! I didn’t understand this at first but you’re an inspiration, stay strong. Hopefully we will meet again 🙂

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