Inland Northwest man's story of survival continues

“If people could have just half the drive he had, this would be such a better place." 

An Inland Northwest man's fight for life (Part 2)

Coming home 
In the previous story, we left off with Brenden beating the odds and many doctors’ fears by surviving a crash and slowly regaining consciousness after being in a coma for four months.

After spending many months in the hospital, Brenden was stable enough to finally go home.

Jodie said home life for her son was going to look a lot different than it had before. Brenden needed full assistance as he relearned everything.

“I mean it was basically raising a baby again in an 18-year-old body. I had a 200-pound baby,” Jodie said.

The Nichols family said keeping a sense of humor and a positive outlook was important to them. They said the fact that Brenden was with them was a miracle in and of itself.

Brenden’s drive led him to continue making progress, even if it was slow at times and he felt like giving up.

“My progress was so slow at the time I thought, ‘well I guess this is my life now’. And then I snapped out of it after a few weeks at home and thought, ‘No I’m going to do this.’ And I kept on striving to improve my life,” Brenden said.

Brenden ran a marathon when he was 15 and was not ready to give up on learning to walk again. 
That was when Brenden met physical trainer and therapist Shawn Burke.

Burke said when he first met Brenden he couldn’t even sit up.

Burke said that after working in his field he knew the odds were stacked against Brenden. But he also saw the drive Brenden had, and said it was like nothing he had ever seen before.

“If people could have just half the drive he had, this would be such a better place,” Burke said.

Burke and Brenden worked together on his balance and sit. Afterward, they gradually started to work on standing.

Then, Brenden hit a mile stone.

“I was there when he took his first steps. I was there when he sat up for the first time,” Burke said.

 


A Milestone 
Brenden said he kept striving to improve his life. He said he went from a wheelchair to a walker, to walking sticks to finally walking on his own. He remembers it as a slow process until he could finally walk independently.

Brenden didn’t stop at walking. He started swimming and running on assisted treadmills.

He said he does feel some lasting effects from the crash. He struggles to speak due to paralysis in his vocal chords. His hands also get tremors, and that forced him to rule out his career goal of becoming a neurosurgeon.

Brenden said that his experience introduced him to a new dream. His relationship with his physical therapist Burke gave him a good connection to achieve this dream.


Moving forward
“He said, “Shawn, my goal is I want to be a physical therapist and I want to be a trainer.’ And I said, ‘Let’s do it,”’ said Burke.

Burke opened Foundation Fitness in Coeur d’Alene and said he would pay for Brenden to become a trainer if he was willing to do the work.

“I said ‘You have a job,’ and he was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” said Burke.

Burke was not kidding. Brenden became a trainer at Foundation Fitness where he works with clients who also have physical impairments.

Brenden’s words of encouragement to everyone would be to never give up, never surrender and to keep the faith. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: The first version of this story incorrectly identified Burke as a physical therapist. He's certification is as a physical therapist assistant.

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