Dorian Hargrove suffers life-changing skateboard accident

Broken skull, broken heart

Inside the Live Wire, it was dark and dingy, and the music was cranked to 11, just the way I remembered the place. Only half of the six red vinyl booths were occupied. Five friends and I took the one at the far end of the narrow bar. It wasn’t much of a celebration, but it was the closest thing to a party I’d been to since I’d fallen from a skateboard and landed in a coma, awaking 19 days later with a piece of my skull missing, scars on my arms, and a plastic pipe in my throat. Two days before entering the small bar in North Park, my doctor had said it was all right to consume an alcoholic beverage, and that is what I was there to do.

“Your tolerance will be way down. A half of a beer will feel like three,” he said. Heading into the bar, I was nervous. Nurses had told me I would never be able to drink again, others said I should wait a year, and most all of them warned me that drinking might induce posttraumatic epilepsy.

The nerves remained as I ordered a Bud Light from a dark-haired, tatted-up female bartender. They were there after my first sip. I did my best not to think about the anxiety. Before I knew it, my beer was gone. My wife Aimee asked me how it tasted. She had a smile on her face but worry in her big brown eyes. I had grown accustomed to that look. I reminded her for the millionth time that I could no longer taste or smell. She asked how it felt going down. I said good.

I felt at home sitting in the bar, talking about movies, music, and life. It had been four months since the day I left the house with my dog’s leash in one hand and my skateboard in the other.

That day was September 22, my second wedding anniversary. It was hot and cloudless, nearing five o’clock, an ideal time to take my dog Artie to the park. It was something I did nearly every day, and I had the routine down. I stuffed the essentials into my army green messenger bag: blue ball, water, treats. I put Artie’s leash and harness on him, then placed my bag in the front basket of my old Schwinn and hopped on. Holding his leash in my left hand, we coasted down the driveway and onto the street. Fifteen feet from my house I squeezed the brake and turned back. I wanted to skate instead. That decision changed my life forever.

I grabbed my board and Artie’s leash. The brown dog had some energy. Just moments after leaving the house, he was pulling me at full speed on the rough and rutted pavement. The wheels didn’t seem to be gripping. I had speed wobbles. That day, construction trucks and a Bobcat cluttered the street. They were tearing up asphalt to replace water mains. I directed Artie toward the sidewalk.

Artie was again running at full speed. I crouched to steady myself. Fifty feet from my house, my wheels stopped at a crack. I didn’t. Flying through the air, I looked at my right hand clutching the leash. That was my last memory before the right side of my forehead met the pavement.

A neighbor, Laurie, found me in the street, clawing at my head, screaming in pain. Artie stood next to me. There was no blood. No sign of injury. Laurie told me months later that I begged her not to call paramedics. I just had a headache — I wanted to go home and sleep. Then I vomited on myself, and she dialed 911.

When the fire department arrived, I refused service. I said I was fine, and I couldn’t leave my dog. I threw up a second time. The firefighters forced me inside the truck and took me to Scripps Mercy Hospital.

I had already been admitted by the time Aimee arrived. She sat next to me on a bed in the hallway. She says that I was alert and oriented. I knew I had fallen, but I assured her that I wasn’t injured and insisted on going home. I was taken to get a CT scan. The scan revealed bleeding and bruising on the frontal lobes of my brain, and I was moved to the intensive care unit trauma room. Twenty minutes later, Aimee says I turned into a different person. I was disoriented and combative. As time progressed, my confusion turned violent. I fought the nurses. I ripped out my IV and stabbed a male nurse with the point. Aimee says it took nine people to restrain me and enough sedatives to tranquilize a horse.

Intensive care nurses ushered Aimee and my sister, who had driven down from San Marcos, out of the room. When they returned an hour later, I was in an induced coma; a blue breathing tube was inserted into my mouth, and a “tap” had been put into my head to measure the intracranial pressure, which was high due to swelling in my brain.

The intensive care unit would be my home for the next 19 days. All I have to go by are the passages in Aimee’s journal and the nightmarish visions I had each time they tried to lower the sedatives and wake me from the coma.

Day 1: If the brain swelling goes down he will be here three days, best-case scenario. Worst-case scenario, he might have part of his skull removed to allow room for the swelling. Doctors said this is a long road to recovery and we are at the beginning. They put a tap on his brain to measure the pressure. The reading was 30. Normal is in the low teens.

Day 2: I signed a release for them to put a direct line into his carotid artery for medicine to control the swelling. They said they have begun aggressive medical treatment. I have decided to sit next to his bed full time. I am now going on 36 hours with no sleep. I have weird chest pains. I feel like I am in a dream.

Day 3, 3:30 p.m.: Dorian’s family arrived from Colorado. To prevent further brain damage, doctors removed a four-by-five-inch piece of his skull to allow room for his brain to swell. Doctors said his skull will be taken to a UCSD tissue bank and kept there until he is ready to have it put back on. The brain has expanded, and the pressure has come down. We know that we have made the right decision.

Day 4: I asked the doctor to come and talk to us. He said that Dorian suffered major head trauma and patience from us is key to his recovery. He told us that we have to prepare for a new life, caring for Dorian. He said that Dorian will be different, but to what extent and for how long no one will know until he wakes up. He ended the discussion by telling us that Dorian is “not out of the woods yet.”

Day 5: I am having a hard time holding it together.

Day 6: He has contracted pneumonia. Now his body is fighting two things. They said they have to treat his pneumonia, but when they do, the pressure in his brain goes up.

Day 7: Dorian’s intracranial pressures are high today. I am so scared. Why aren’t they going down? Doctors say if the pressure doesn’t go down they will remove another portion of his skull. They also fear that the medicine might send him into renal failure. They took him off sedatives to check his responsiveness. No response.

Day 8: It’s official: I think Dorian’s family is falling apart.

Day 9: He’s developed another case of pneumonia…more ice baths.

Day 11: Dorian is doing better today. He is on lower sedation. His pressure is in the low 20s. The nurses are smiling at me. He opened his eyes.

Day 12: Dorian looks even better today. Sedation has also been taken down. In a sense, they are trying to waken him a bit. His intracranial pressure is way down, and the nurses have not had to do any medication. They decreased the morphine.

Day 13: Today, Dorian woke up. Yeah! He was responsive and breathing so they took his ventilator tube out. He asked for me. I came running, and he said, “I love you. Where’s Artie?” His voice sounded funny, and he was agitated. An hour later, his throat closed. They had to perform an emergency intubation. He almost died. He is back in the coma. My heart is broken. I think about all the things we won’t be able to do, and it makes me so sad. We were going to start a family. We just bought a Volkswagen camper van. We were going to travel, write, and I was going to take pictures. Why is this happening to us?

Day 14: Dorian was given a tracheotomy. When they wake him next time he won’t be agitated from the ventilator tube and his vocal cords won’t be damaged. He’s going to hate this. He’s always been so sensitive about his throat. They also started him on a psych drug that will ease the wake-up process. There is a student in here now and they are teaching her about neuro patients. That’s what they call Dorian, a neuro patient.

It was on day 15 that I started to have visions. The visions all were about my unquenchable thirst. After the tracheotomy I couldn’t talk for a couple of days. I remember pointing at a large glass of iced tea that was feet from my bed. I did everything to get to it. I tried to wave down the faceless people in the room to get them to pay attention to me. I tried to grab the glass of tea myself. Each time I tried, the wind would be taken from me. I imagined that one of the guys in the room punched me in the chest each time I tried to get up. I later was told that the tea I reached for was a cup full of my own urine.

On day 18, Aimee says that she brought me a dry-erase board and I wrote a whole paragraph. It was mostly illegible, but she could read one sentence: “Get me the f* out of here.”

Nineteen days after my fall, I awoke for good, 25 pounds lighter, missing the right side of my skull, and fitted with a blue plastic tube in my throat. Still requiring constant supervision and still on morphine, I was transferred to a “safe room” on the tenth floor. My mind and body felt numb. I had no strength. I had no clear thoughts. I felt drunker than I had ever been — everyone and everything seemed in an alternate reality.

Two older men shared the hospital room with me. My bed faced theirs. I stared at them, trying to process the surrounding environment. One man had a bandage wrapped around the top of his head. The other had dark lesions on his face. He shot strange expressions my way if I stared too long, like the ones an adult might give a baby that’s on the verge of tears. I remember him staring at me while pounding his head with a soft, axe-shaped toy. No one else saw this.

The second day on the tenth floor, a male nurse arrived holding what appeared to be a small metal crowbar. I felt the bar inch along the top of my head, and then I felt a pain rip through my skull. Another pain, half an inch from the first. I yelled as he pulled out large metal staples. The staples, 30 in all, had been used instead of sutures to hold my scalp together. After the doctor had removed the piece of skull to allow my swelling brain to expand, he’d laid Gore-tex over my brain and pulled my scalp back in place, reattaching it with the staples. As the staples scraped my skull and tore through my skin, I cried out so loud that the nurse stopped, and a doctor was called in the next day to finish the job. It was the only real feeling I had in 21 days.

The next day, staples removed, two young paramedics placed me on a gurney and pushed me through the hallways of the tenth floor and into an elevator. They said they were taking me to Alvarado Hospital’s rehabilitation institute in the College Area.

Once inside the institute’s lobby, they transferred me from the gurney to a wheelchair. Aimee walked alongside as a heavyset nurse pushed me through the hallways. I wore a maroon helmet for protection. I had no idea what I needed protection from. The hospital reminded me of the asylum in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It looked old and dilapidated. When we arrived at my room, the nurse helped me onto the bed. I felt dizzy each time I moved. I barely had the strength to lift my arm.

Although I’d been taken off the morphine and sedatives, the drugs were still in my system. I believed I was working on assignment, undercover. I told the nurse that the exposé focused on the bureaucracy of healthcare. She laughed. After she left the room, Aimee, my mom, and my older brother stood near my bedside. They looked tired. They stared at me with glossy eyes. I thought they were overreacting.

Later that day, I rose from my bed and shuffled toward the bathroom. I placed my palms on the walls for support. My legs and right arm trembled.

I took off my helmet in front of the mirror. It was the first time I’d seen my reflection since the fall. The right side of my head was missing. Scraggly brown hair covered the left side. I had no hair on the right, just a large crater and a dark red scar running along the crater’s edge, from the top of my forehead, back above my ear, and then toward my face. A large pocket of fluid and tendon, cut during the surgery, bulged through the skin in front of my ear. My beard and mustache hairs were long, wiry, and out of control. I looked at my throat and at the blue plastic pipe stuck inside. It looked as if a kazoo were lodged in my neck. I was oblivious to what had happened. I stood there and stared, detached and devoid of emotion.

On the second day, I met my doctor. He was an arrogant, smug man in his 50s. He had long, slicked-back gray hair. I hated him at first sight. I hated the new shiny black shoes he wore. I hated that he looked at me as some long-haired, tatted-up skate punk, as if I deserved to be in the condition I was in.

He told me I needed to see the throat specialist. Two hours later, Aimee wheeled me up to the specialist’s office on the fifth floor. We waited inside for 15 minutes. I stared at the posters inside the examination room. They featured drawings of tubes inside throats. Then a doctor in his early 40s entered the room. His gray and black hair was long and wavy, tucked behind both ears. He asked about my accident. We talked about skateboarding and surfing. I saw his hand reach toward my throat as he talked. He grasped the blue pipe without giving me notice. I felt it shift inside my neck, and as he pulled the trach tube out, it felt like a slug crawling up my trachea. The tube was white and perhaps eight inches long. Brown and white phlegm coated its sides. I felt cold air enter the open hole. The doctor bandaged the hole and told me to put two fingers over it when I spoke. He told me it would close in two days. The next two nights, I would wake up gasping for breath. When I inhaled, I could hear air escape, a whistling through my neck. I had dreams that the opening never closed and I had to clean it with Q-tips and alcohol for the rest of my life.

I started physical therapy the following day. My therapist, fresh out of college, was a short, amiable Asian-American male. On our way to the hospital gym, he walked by my side.

“Did you always walk like this, crossing one foot in front of the other?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I answered. “I used to be a runway model.”

During that first session, I realized my balance was gone. I couldn’t walk in a straight line. I couldn’t balance on one leg. The therapist did not tell me why. I didn’t find out for two weeks that my vestibular system, the part of the brain that controls balance, had been damaged in the fall.

An hour later, I had occupational therapy. A therapist scattered plastic objects of different shapes in front of me next to a game board that had cutouts of the same shapes. She asked me to fit the pieces into the matching slots. Despite a little tremble in my right arm, I was able to do this. My therapist looked surprised, and then she seemed unsure of the next task. I began to get the impression that the staff didn’t know anything about brain injuries. I slowly realized that they had no way to know how badly my brain was damaged. My doctors and therapists were playing the waiting game to see what symptoms might arise.

Every other day, my doctor dropped by my room for minute-long checkups. He said nothing about my condition, nothing about my strengths and weaknesses. My disdain for him intensified. He never told me what to expect. I started a blog and wrote about him.

“This isn’t just about my middle-aged doctor, who seems to be too busy battling his midlife crisis by gelling his hair and looking for new slick black leather shoes,” I wrote in my blog, six days after waking from the coma. “This is about being a number, a policy number. This is about being nothing more than a bed-filler at night. Since admittance, I have not been properly evaluated, nor have I been given information on my injury, a prognosis, nothing. Money and insurance rule this place. So much so, the patient is only an obstacle, and a nag. I guess that’s what I am.”

The next day, I collected my belongings. Aimee and my mom, sister, and brother begged me to stay. They said I was delusional. I didn’t believe them and started to walk to the elevator, down the cream-colored linoleum floors, past a large meeting room that looked as if it hadn’t changed since the swinging ’70s. My case manager stopped me in the hallway. I said I would leave if I didn’t get a new doctor. She agreed.

When I awoke the following morning I was more lucid. Things seemed in focus. I asked Aimee about my injury. She did her best to tell me about my condition. Maybe the morphine was out of my system. I began to understand the gravity of what I had been through and what my wife and family had been through. I told Aimee I wanted to help people. I told her I wanted to speak to kids about wearing helmets. I apologized to Aimee for what I had put her through. I told her that I was selfish. I vowed to become a better husband. I cried at the thought of her sitting by my bedside for 19 days while I was in a coma, reading to me and singing Wilco songs. I promised to embrace life, and her, more, instead of embracing the dark side, the Charles Bukowski image that I conjured up about what a writer should be. I promised her that I would change, not just for her but for myself and for everyone around me.

But, instead, in the days that followed, I grew irritable and depressed. I couldn’t control the anger, and I was unable to break the sadness. My hands began to tremble uncontrollably. I had no focus. I couldn’t read for more than a minute. I tried to post entries in my blog each day, but I had little to write. As the wound from the tracheotomy healed and I began to eat more solid food, I realized that I had lost my sense of taste and smell.

My new doctor and I met for the first time. He told me that more symptoms would appear as my brain healed, as my neural pathways reconnected. It was the first time that anyone told me it would get worse before it got better. I felt relieved to know what to expect.

Two days later, my sixth day at Alvarado, after solving more puzzles for therapists and trying to walk down more straight lines, with no new information about my injury or my recovery, I was released.

Suddenly, I was back home. I spent most of the next week and a half sitting in my big brown leather chair, feet propped up on the matching ottoman, staring at movies and bad TV. My head felt as though my brain were swollen, as though someone had pumped air into my skull. The feeling of pressure increased with fatigue. I was lightheaded, and I had no balance. When I stood up, no matter how slowly, I’d get dizzy. The red scar along my head itched nonstop. I’d scratch it and feel the rough, thick edge of my skull. It dropped off about an inch to the inside of my head, which was protected only by my scalp and Gore-tex. The skin over the area where my skull was missing felt like a plastic balloon. If I pushed down on it, it would give, like the palm of your hand but without as much muscle. I didn’t push down too hard, scared that I would touch my brain.

Aimee and I battled over wearing the helmet, which I was supposed to put on when I got up from the chair. I considered wearing the helmet to the bathroom weak, and I didn’t want to be weak. Early on, stepping down three stairs, my legs buckled and I nearly fell. Aimee started crying immediately. After that, I didn’t have the strength to argue, and I didn’t want to upset her any more than she already was.

Every day, I woke up dizzy, irritable, and in a darker depression than the day before. I often wished that I had died. I was scared that I wouldn’t be as smart. I was frightened that my brain would be damaged for the rest of my life, that I would never again do the things I liked to do, such as surfing, skating, playing guitar, and writing. Shooting pains fired in my right arm. Nerve damage had finally showed up from fighting through the restraints. By seven o’clock every evening, I felt as if my brain were giving birth to an alien. The bulge of muscle and fluid near my ear was the alien’s womb. It pounded and swelled. A few minutes later my mind and body would crash. I couldn’t move, think, or talk. I just sat there like a big pile of nothing, as though I were in a vegetative state.

Aimee was constantly by my side, asking if I needed anything, trying to look strong. She would call through the bathroom door while I was in the tub, making sure that I was all right. Sometimes, sitting silently in my chair, I’d look over to see tears streaming down her face.

My third day back from the hospital, Aimee and I walked to the Uptown District Shopping Center to fill a prescription. We stopped at the Blockbuster to get more movies. The music inside the store made my head spin — I felt confused, overwhelmed, and dizzy — and I told Aimee I’d wait outside. As I sat in front, wearing my maroon helmet, I heard someone yelling, “Hey, helmet head. Helmet man. Nice helmet.”

I looked over and saw a guy in his mid-20s wearing baggy jeans and a large yellow T-shirt. He was cupping his hand over his mouth, laughing. “Go into a coma and see what you come out looking like, asshole,” I snapped back. He turned around and walked away. Rage filled my mind. My right arm began to shake. The brief tantrum sapped all of my energy, and I barely had the strength to walk home.

On October 28, I was admitted into Sharp Hospital’s Community Reentry Program for outpatient rehab. I was given neuropsych tests. The technician, a young guy in his 20s with long blond hair and a shaggy blond beard, asked me to draw a cube. I couldn’t. He asked me to repeat 12 words. He said them out loud and waited a few seconds before asking me to repeat them. It took me four tries to get all 12. I couldn’t do long division. I thought I was stupid and inept. I realized that my brain was more damaged than I had thought.

The next day at rehab, a young man in his late 20s sat next to me in a wheelchair. His eyes wandered around in his eye sockets. A puffy red scar ran from his left earlobe to his left nostril. His dad flashed brightly colored objects in front of his face. Occasionally, he’d guess the right color. When he did, everyone around him cheered. He introduced himself to me later that day. His name was Chris. He asked me what had happened to me. I told him my story. He went into his. He was asleep one night when someone he didn’t know broke into his apartment and butchered him and his girlfriend with a hatchet. His girlfriend survived. He died twice that night, but each time doctors resuscitated him.

“I’m so sorry to hear that happened to you,” I said.

“It’s okay. You have to try and stay positive, and each day you see some progress. It just takes time,” he said. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was upset that I couldn’t do long division, and this man, whose injuries seemed so much worse than mine, was telling me to stay positive. I began to think how fortunate I was to be able to walk, talk, swallow, and see.

Later that day, at a trauma checkup at Scripps, a nurse recognized me from my time in the intensive care unit. She was shocked at my present condition. She said that she and the other nurses didn’t think I would survive, let alone come out in the state I was in. That, and the conversation with Chris in rehab, made me realize how close I had come to dying. It gave me a perspective and insight that I had lacked since waking from the coma. I began to appreciate my second chance and vowed to focus on the positive and not get hung up on the negative.

At Sharp rehab, a month after waking from the coma, I finally learned about the damage that was inflicted on my frontal lobe. The area of the brain that I injured acts as the brain’s emotional filter, or as my neurologist explained it, the frontal lobe acts as the conductor of the orchestra.

My neuropsychological tests revealed that out of a peer group of 100 healthy people — same age, same education, no brain trauma — I scored above average in most categories. I came in fourth from the bottom in spatial orientation. My visual memory was weak, as was my ability to adapt to new tasks. My neurologist said that depression, irritability, and a lack of focus would worsen as my recovery progressed, a recovery that could take years.

Now, six months after the fall, I see how right my neurologist was. I’ve started to write again. The missing piece of my skull has been reattached. I go to see bands play, and I go out for dinner — a waste of money considering I can’t taste it. I am back surfing. But I am not the same person. I notice new things every day. I see blanks where thoughts once were. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the injury. That positive mind-set and renewed insight are difficult to hold on to when the depression and irritability take over. Post–brain injury, everything — not just minor accomplishments but also small setbacks — gets blown out of proportion. Insignificant physical feats are treated as record-breaking achievements. A mistake on a math question is evidence of permanent brain damage. A minor headache could be the onset of a posttraumatic epileptic fit. The people around me react the same. If I take a nap during the day, Aimee congratulates me and praises me for changing gears and resting.

One day, I hope to speak to kids about wearing helmets. I think that if I can persuade one kid to put on a helmet before skating then something good will have come from my misfortune. Despite the desire, I can’t concentrate long enough to write out my presentation and I don’t have the energy to take on a new venture.

Occasionally, I think of the promise I made to Aimee that day in the hospital. I try to show her how much I appreciate her and how sorry I am for what I’ve put her through, but my irritability, caused by the brain injury, prevents me. I hate to think that I am returning to my former self: a self-centered, self-absorbed person who went skateboarding one day without a helmet because he considered helmets uncool and unnecessary, a person who fails to appreciate the second chance. I hate to think that I am just another ingrate caught up in the trivialities of life. I hate to think that even a major blow to the head and a near-death experience aren’t enough to bring about change.

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You are the bravest person I know and I am so proud to be your wife. I love you! I love you! I love you!

I agree, what a heroic venture. Aimee is right, don't ever give up and congratulate yourself for making it this far and now even becoming an advocate for helmets. Sometimes it takes a big change to realize how important the little things in life are!I'm sure you have been told this countless times, but everything happens for a reason, and I wish you the best of luck with yours. Keep writing!

Wow, what a powerful story. Thank you so much for sharing. And your progress seems amazing. Not that this is the same, but brain injuries, are brain injuries. My dad was diagnosed with brain cancer 4 years ago. He had two brain surgeries to remove the tumors over a 7 month period. As his family, we didn't know what to expect from him after. I mean, it was his brain and they took parts out. He was a different person after. He could still walk and talk and was pretty much the same, but he would get angry and act juvenile. It's only in retrospect that I can recognize these things. He lost his battle 10 months after his diagnosis. From the beginning, the doctors only gave him a 1% chance of survival. I don't think anyone really understood what he was going though, the pain he felt. He stayed position, but the way you describe the pain...it's really hard to hear. It's hard to stay positive. But it sounds like you are on the right path. Stay strong. Thank you again for sharing.

Dorian, As a skater and a dad, I found it difficult to maintain a calm, straight face while reading your article today at lunch. You've written a compelling and heart-wrenching story. Congratulations for that and for having a loving family to support you.

This past weekend, I taught the "safety presentation" side of Cub Scouting's "skateboard belt loop" materials to about 140 kids at Qualcomm stadium. I really wish I'd had the Reader to wave around during my helmet talk. I also work for a skateboarding website that supports and pushes helmet use. We donate helmets to local school/Y programs in San Diego and we know people that have paid a heavy price, as have you. I'll link to your article here on the Reader site, because we believe in getting the reality behind the "wear your lid" message out. I'll send the link on to the Ian Tillman foundation and Concrete Wave magazine, too.

Aimee, I know many people's hearts go out to you, as does mine.


Thanks for the support.

Jamie, sorry to hear about your dad. I can only speak from my experience, it's a tough injury because no one can really understand it unless they go through it. The rage and the childish behavior are still there for me and I know it's hard for those around me to see. One thing that does make a difference is having people and family there for support, even if they don't understand it. I'm sure your dad felt the same.

And Erik. thanks for the comment and for spreading the word. Apparently when I was in the coma there was a guy next to me with a head injury from skateboarding. He didn't have the same fortune that I had. It's amazing how often it happens. Keep up the good work, send those links if you get a chance and let me know if you ever need a volunteer.


Inspiring story. Thank you for sharing. I want to be like you when I grow up.

Great story, Dorian. As you know, I have been a fan of yours for a while. I am glad you are getting better, and best wishes for your rapid and complete recovery. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your wife and family.

This has to be the most powerful story the Reader has ever published!

I hope you make a full recovery, and doubt you will ever be "just another ingrate." You have the awareness and the determination to do what you want to do. And I believe you will do it!

Thanks for sharing your story, Dorian. Obviously, your writing skills are still intact. There's probably a reason for that. Use your experience to convince one kid to wear the helmet that saves his/her life, and you change the whole world forever.

Great job, and best wishes for your continued recovery.

Hi Dorian, As always, your writing never fails to impress. I cannot even imagine what you and Aimee have been through. I wish you strength and determination in your continued recovery because it's a marathon, not a sprint.

I wish that I could say with 100% assurance that there is some larger and grander purpose for the misfortune that befalls us. And maybe there is...I hope so. But maybe it's more accurate to say that we ourselves determine what comes out of our experience. I hope that when you are strong enough that you do talk to kids about wearing helmets. This article was a good place to start in touching others. I know for me, that I will think of you and put on my helmet when I get on my bike. And I will think of you when my son is old enough to ride a bike and he will be wearing a helmet.

Thank you for sharing this difficult story. Much love to you and Aimee. Your former neighbor, Stacy T.

Dude! What a story! So glad you are doing well. I am going to be long distance skateboarding across North Carolina in June of this year, 500 miles, to promote helmet safety, brain injury awareness, and to support a brain injury program in North Carolina called Hinds Feet Farm!

Thanks for the inspiring story!

Doriane, what a story and what a heartbreaking accident. You are a talented writer and loving husband. If your story helps even one person then you are a success. I have a feeling you will touch many lives though, and I wish you a speedy and full recovery.

Doe I don't even know how to respond to the story... it truly leaves me in awe and it makes me proud to know a person with such great qualities. Your story is something I am going to pass along to everyone I know because your experience (I know there is better description but I am lost)is reality and a reality that we could all understand. I am so sorry you and Aimee and your family had to go through such an emotional battle and yet I knew all along you would come out being the Doe we all know and love. You and your family have been and will be in my prayers...keep on keepin on my brother!

Thanks for quite a tear jerking story. I'm a long time skateboarder for over 40 years and still skate daily. The worst happens to some of the best. I teach falling techniques to my students who take skateboard lessons from me. When you've been trained that the ground is the enemy and your body should always be braced for the worst while riding a skateboard, you learn to be more careful and take less chance. The lesson for me from reading your story at my old age is to continue my vigilance to protect not only my head but my face too by practicing techniques to maintain safety. Some skateboarders wearing helmets won't even brace themselves with their hands and arms thinking they are safe.. they got a helmet on and it becomes a false sense of security. It's a good start but the mental preparation is also key. Skateboarding requires one to constantly be ready for the worst while enjoying the rolling sensation.

Be sure to spread this news too that skateboarding common sense might save your life. You are a shining example for all of us skateboarders that danger always lurks no matter how comfy one feels. Being prepared for any kind of adversity is what every skateboarder needs to carry as their main trick. Being pulled by a dog may be cute but not the best decision at high speeds especially down narrow sidewalks and streets covered with debris.


Thanks for writing the article, the first comment was the biggest tear jerker though, I gotta admit!

Just wanted to share a couple simple ideas to help people wear their helmets:

-Stickers for helmets that say things like.. "Respect the dead", "Respect the dead and brain damaged", or "Dorian Hargrove". Could be in really tiny writing even.. just a reminder for the rider.. Or just writing the reasons you wear a helmet somewhere on there.

-A little ring or loop somewhere on your board that's easy to clip your helmet to, so they're always together.

luke kraffft, kraffftwork.com


Your story truly hit home for me and the tears are flowing. Not just because we both love 'The Wire" but because I am a victim of head trauma as well (I can hear my friends on this blog saying "So thaaaat's why"). Mine was nowhere near as bad as yours.

So what are you gonna do, give up? No way, you are obviously too strong a person for that. Thank whatever or whoever you thank for these sort of things that you have an equally brave partner in Aimee. I wish you both continued progress in your recovery, and nothing but the best for the rest of your second chance at life.

I am going to have to agree with everyone else here-very uplifting story......... and we are glad you have pulled everything together in the face of such odds..............

A scary story that reminded me why I always skate with pads and a helmet, regardless of whether I'm going at it full-on or just rolling down to the shops on my longboard.

I hope your condition improves and that you are able to convince more people to skate with protection because at present their is a disturbingly stupid attitude to helmets and pads among most skaters.

Good luck and I hope that you will one day be able to skate again.

Thank you for sharing your story. As a mom and skater that worked at a helmet company for many years, my kids ask me all the time why Skaters don't wear helmets. It isn't cool makes no sense even to kids. Big Hug.

I am amazed by your story. So happy for you and your family you survived such trauma. I have a friend who cannot taste but he learned to appreciate the texture and feel of the food he eats. Yours is a very inspiring story and I hope you can help kids and adults understand they need to wear helmets. I pray for your continued recovery. Yours is a very moving story and I found myself in tears not just for you but your loving wife.

I usually pick up the Reader for light reading during lunch or breaks but when I read the first paragraph of your article I couldn't put it down. I came into work and sat at my desk this morning and read it before I did anything else. It's an amazing story and very well written. I cringe thinking about it and can't even begin to imagine what the recovery process is like. You're a strong person and your wife is even stronger.

It appears that the sun is starting to rise and shine upon your life again. I hope all the best for you, your wife and family.

Keep writing and take it easy.

Thank you everyone, for all of the amazing comments. I have learned a lot from this experience. One thing I have learned is how caring and supportive people are. It means a lot to read your comments. So thank you.

Response to #20: Ermie, you're right, texture is big. Not having any taste also allows me to eat healthier. Now, if only Aimee can remember to stop asking me how things taste when I am eating, everything will be fine!

Doe my friend, that was an amazing article and I could not put it down. You truly have a gift in writing, keep it up. I am so happy that you have persevered over the past few months. I cannot imagine the daily pain and struggles you have been dealing with. Just continue to have a positive attitude and it is so inspiring to have you on your way back. This article also reminds me how loving,patient and understanding Aimee has been. You are truly lucky to have her in your life Doe. Hang in there!

My hairdresser had a friend who lost his sense of taste and instead began to eat food for its texture. I think his favorites were octopus and sushi.

Glad you've come so far. Getting well is hard work, ain't it?

Dude! I just got the Link to your story from Silverfish Longboarding. This is some heart wrenching stuff. You got me holding back tears. I can't even imagine what you, your family and Aimee have been through, my hearts with all of you as you continue to get better.

I'm an 18 year old skater, I've had a few near misses without a helmet, and reading this just makes me realize how close I've come to seriously hurting myself. Like when you go over a stone and your wheel locks up? I've just tripped, had a knock or whatever. Or like, my board has skidded to a stop at higher speeds. Nothing real serious. I always used to think the same thing you probably thought. "It's only down the road, I do it every day." But man, I'm thinking twice now before going out without the helmet. Scary stuff. Although, they do still look pretty lame :)..

Wishing you the best, bro. One skater/surfer to another. Oh, and how'd it feel hitting the surf again? Bet it was awesome :)..

*Also, everyone. Remember, a helmet is only really good for ONE use. Once it suffers heavy impact, it's integrity is compromised and could easily fracture or even shatter. Don't risk wearing a faulty helmet.

MattyBizzle, man you just made my day. Thanks for the comment. I know they look lame but imagine wearing one everywhere you go for months, or, well, you know the rest. It's one thing knowing how to fall, but when you don't have your hands free, in my case the leash was wrapped around it, there's not much else that can stop you besides your head.

As for surfing, it felt great. Got a few compliments while I was out there, though, I think the scar had a huge part to play in that!

Thanks, Matty. Keep spreading the word!

Dorian, Thank you so much for taking the time and energy to write your story. My first boyfriend died from a head injury while skateboarding 18 years ago and reading your story brought back a lot of memories... don't worry, they weren't all bad :) The time he was in the hospital were the hardest 40 days of my life. I am so glad that you were able to survive and regain so much of your life. I know the odds that were against you and appreciate the courage you and your family have shown. Congratulations on your recovery so far and please carry on with your plans to educate children about wearing helmets.

Thanks again, jen

Dorian, I don't even know what to say... I wrote this whole thing, got all emotional, then erased everything... we are really happy you got out of this one, those feelings we all shared back then during the whole process were pretty intense, not even fair to say this compared to what you and Aimee went through... Anyways, the story is really well written... but I'd like to call you out on the last paragraph. Don't be so hard on yourself, self-centered people usually don't know they are self-centered let alone are they able to write about it. We are proud of your story, your recovery, the message you are spreading and who you've become, you should be too. Kids wear helmets... really i mean it.

Hey, Dorian!

Picked up a copy of this week's Reader and checked out your story. Man alive, bro...you've walked through a living Hell, yet you still live to tell the tale!

Your picture on the cover is, to me, a reminder of what happens when you value vanity over safety. If any grommie rider still thinks that helmets look Stupidsville, they need to read your story and get a very good look at your picture!

Remember, kiddoes...you only are issued one body and one lifetime. Better to don the gear while riding any wheeled contraption (bike, skateboard, push scooter, motorbike) and get called "unmacho" by the know-nothings, than it is to be laid out in a casket at your funeral (and be complemented on how "natural" your carcass looks) after eating the big one while not wearing the gear.

Fight on, Dorian--you're a true warrior!


Dorian, that story was incredible. You are the most amazing man and Im so proud to call you a friend. Thanks for sharing that heart wrenching story with us all. You are an inspiration to all of us. I miss you and I think about you all the time. I cant wait to see you again Busey.

Hearts and kisses, Keanu


Your descriptions of your time at the hospital in some part mirror my own--it seems that the sicker and weaker you are, the less they consider you as a human being--and so, the less they communicate--you feel like such a piece of offending meat. When I read of you suddenly back home, and afraid to touch your head lest you touch your brain--I want to cry. That is just the kind of thing that "Dr. Shiny Shoes" and nursing staff should have talked to you about--multiple times. Hospital staff need to learn that there is a need to teach the patient about his/her condition--it is part of this being human--the need to understand one's condition (read last word in italics :)

Frustration with such issues, in part, actually started me writing a blog here on the Reader, as "Mercy Inpatient/Mercy Outpatient," though I have not written extensively of my time in hospital over the years, battling chronic illness. I found my blog to go in a different direction than I initially intended, and that is perhaps for the better, as I would not want to bore or alienate the friends I've found in fellow bloggers on this site. ;)

But seriously, when I say that we need some renovation of bedside manner and patient education in our conceptions and practice of healthcare, I don't at all want to downplay the wonderful things hospital staff have done for me. I've written letters of thanks and given gifts to nurses who have gone beyond what others consider to be their jobs; the nurses who have sung with me, stayed to chat when they could have gone home, who were more attentive to my levels of pain meds or simple physical needs.

There are also some great doctors out there, and some have written books to explain the transformation they experience of their ability to feel empathy for patients, and their struggle to keep some feeling of the individuality of the human in their practice of medicine. More empathy, and more patience, along with a refocus on education of the patient is what they need to work on.

Someday, I might be moved to write something more focused on this topic--and maybe it will be something you will incorporate into your program to reinforce awareness of the necessity of the helmet?


As for us, the patients? More patience with ourselves and our bodies as we struggle to recover from what challenges us medically, is what we need to work on. Dorian, others have already remarked that you possess the self-awareness necessary to working on any behaviors you want to change, and that your writing is still excellent, gripping, and enviable in structure and style.

You do also seem aware of the challenges your caretaker/nurse (wife) go through as well, and as long as you work together as a team, you'll be alright. Aimee sounds as wonderful and constant as my man has been. We are lucky folk to have such partners, for in the end, they are the only ones who are privy to our sad acts of self-doubt and frustration attendant to our struggles toward wellness. I wish you much love and recovery on your way there.

Dorian, You're a gifted writer...a fighter and evidently have the love and support of friends and family! Keep the faith and keep on keeping on! --Mariposamimi

wow Dorian...i saddens me to think that hospital staff wouldn't be more empathetic...especially ur Doctor..but he may have been hurrying somewhere to SAVE someone elses life...just like he SAVED urs

u r a gifted writer...and this was a great blog

Dorian We are touched deeply by your story. Our family experienced a similar journey from an accident that happened to our son Ian Tilmann in 2005.

Ian was 28 yo, served in the US Marines and took to action sports after he returned home. Ian was a dedicated longboarder who loved bombing hills, parking decks, any slope or grade. Ian had a Street Skater's attitude about helmets. He did not think he needed to wear one...he was ONLY skating. Ironically, he always wore a helmet riding his motorcycle.

On May 16, 2005 Ian was bombing "Cemetary Hill" a local longboard sweet spot in Clearwater, FL. He was running on his new Gravity board. That night, his last run ever, Ian hit speed wobble and wheel bite, fell and fractured the back of his skull from ear to ear...no helmet!

The call came in at 11:30pm from his crew, Ian was on his way the hospital, he fell and it was bad. In emergency, Ian was very combative and he was immediately placed into coma. The next ten days were spent at the hospital's NICU.

Your story relives this time for us in a very personal way. We walked the same road as Aimee and your family for those agonizing ten days. Ian lay in coma, underwent two brain surgeries as everything possible was done to save his life.

Our outcome was quite different. Ian died on May 26, 2005 from traumatic brain injury, he had no other serious injuries. All because he chose not wear a helmet.

In Ian's memory, Marcy Tilmann(Ian,s Mom) founded the Foundation and establish the "Helmet for a Promise" program. The approach is simple and direct. If a you will promise to wear a helmet when they skate, we will give you one, FREE, custom ordered from S-ONE or Bern, pick your color and style, shipped to your home for $7, anywhere USA. Since 2006 we have placed 2300+ helmets. We also, have co-sponsored 25+ skate events in Florida and Malibu in 2008 to promote the promise and sign up Skaters. We stress personal choice to skate smart.

Your story claims the message about helmets needs to reach Skaters. You know the risk first hand. As you promote the message to skate smart, please tell them about the "Helmet for a Promise" program. Send them to our website to learn more and take the pledge... www.theiantilmannfoundation.org

The best to you and Aimee. Your determination is admiral, your recovery a miracle. Share the message to SKATE SMART...WEAR A HELMET..LIVE TO SKATE TOMORROW!

Marcy & Barry Tilmann The Ian Tilmann Foundation, Inc

"If you will promise to wear a helmet while you skate, we will give you one FREE, custom ordered from S-ONE or Bern; pick your color and style, shipped to your home for $7"

That is a sweet offer, and bravissimo to the Tilmans for the amazing work they do in their son's memory!

Dorian, your story is amazing and really creates a picture of how traumatic a brain injury is for both the victim and the family. I'm sure it's hard to put into words the emotions and depression that are involved post brain injury, however you were able to capture the reader's mind and heart and make it real. Your positive attitude is so admirable because I'm sure it must be hard to take such a negative incident and put it to good use. I am just so elated that you and Aimee are recovering with a new sense of what you could have lost. Your story makes me thankful for my family's health and inspires me to thank God every day for keeping my family safe. You and Aimee are truly incredible people, and I am lucky for knowing and loving you!


The same thing happened to me (skateboard, dog towing, crack, flying) but I was wearing a helmet. The nine year old neighbor kid was riding with me. I quit letting him ride my skateboard because I caught him too many times without a helmet. I am going to read your story to him.

Hi Dorian- Don't really have anything deep to say, but wanted to let you know that your story really touched me and my son. We picked up the Reader today at the local 7-11 and I read your story first. Perhaps your gratitude toward being alive and your supportive family will be your backbone of strength as you continue recovering. Thanks for sharing your amazing experience.

Judy Egan

One of the best cover stories in The Reader, ever. All about real hope and change. And love. Look forward to reading more from you. Thank you for sharing with the children.

Aimee and I would like to thank all of you for your comments. They mean so much.

I spoke to high school students in La Mesa today about my injury. I wouldn't have been able to muster the courage to do so without your support.


--Dorian and Aimee

A friend of mine named Marion Karr is spearheading a fundraiser Skateboard Ride across his state to fund/support a foundation for those impacted by TBI. Here's a link to some of the information, for skaters and others that would like to see how to support his target charity, or your program of choice. In the grand scheme of things, Dorian got off "lucky" for such an unlucky and horrid injury. Others fare worse.


A couple of years ago I had a pretty bad slam... was doing a slalom sk8 course and overturned and went over sideways. I was knocked out for 30-45 seconds and cracked my helmet. Glad it was my helmet and not my skull... otherwise I would probably still be drooling.

BUT... we skaters need lots of constant reminders about helmets. Even with that experience, sometime last summer I was skating in PB in flipflops, no helmet... was having lots of fun carving and then got too much speed going; couldn't footbrake so I had to bail off my board. Felt like a kook, but the real kooky thing was not wearing a helmet or proper sk8 shoes.

I am very lucky I wasn't hurt, and haven't done anything that royally stupid since. I am normally a pretty cautious person and wear helmet, pads, etc when I am bombing hills. Still, even I needed more than one reminder about this...

Anyway, good work, the more powerful messages like this that get out, the better. Best of luck with your continued recovery.

Dear Dorian,

Wow. I am speechless. Your story was so powerful.

Your writing style is incredible. I love the way you have injected humor into your writings. I think it shows how incredibly brave and strong you are.

I really admire your honesty.

Your recovery is a long road, but I believe that you & your wife will come out bigger, better and stronger than ever.

I am rooting for you & for Aimee.

Stay strong. Please know that there are people in the community that have much faith in you and your recovery.

Thank you Dorian Hargrove for sharing your story.

I wish you all the best and look forward to your next story, when you tell us that you are doing even better.

Bless you! Hugs to you & yours!


Sarah just sent me a link to your story. If I could write as well as you I would know what to say but I can't so I will just say that I am very glad you are alive and hope every day is better than the last. Sarah and I miss both of you.



JohnnyL, congratulations! You just made "it" about you, and your tendency to swoop in and flame randomly in CAPS. Best concentrate on your own social inadequacies before closing your punctuation-starved fangs around others, hmmm?

Thank you Dorian (& Aimee) for sharing your story! It is eloquently written. Thank you for taking action in using your story to be the difference!

I would like to see this published here in Santa Cruz where we have seen to many deaths of kids from not wearing their helmets while skating ~ just last weekend we had a UCSC student die from falling off his skateboard landing head first.

As a mom it is a battle with my own children everytime they walk out the door, because it's not 'cool', and I will be sharring this with them before the evening is over.

If your spirits are ever low...please know that you, Dorian, are changing lives, helping us parents get the point accross to the kids, and saving others who hear this and decide wearing that helmet 'IS' cool.

Wishing Aimee & you a life of continued blessings

Amazing. You say you want to teach kids to wear helmets. What is this statement of facts. I am a downhill longboarder and on the web there is an online community known as silverfish. Your story was posted on there and it is already changing lives. You are saving LIVES. Simply writing down these true instances is enough motivation to make THOUSANDS of kids and adults alike change their minds about wearing helmets in the longboarding community. It really touches all of us how you are not just another do-gooder. You are a fellow skater. You are linked to us by the wheels that roll over the pavement. Part of our family. I am sure that it is not just me that feels this way.

next time you ever have any doubt or you feel down just look at this thread posted on the LARGEST longboard community site in the WORLD.


You are changing lives. No scratch that you are SAVING lives.

On behalf of the silverfish longboard community, thank you

I agree 100% - kids and anyone who steps onto a longboard or skateboard should always wear a helmet. The silverfish link above is not working but these guys put together a great resource for picking the right longboarding helmet: http://www.longboardingguide.com/best-longboarding-helmets-can-save-life/

Dorian, I learned of your story through Jack Smith's Skateboarder's Journal and then saw it linked on Silverfish. I was deeply touched by your story, and by Aimee's thoughts as she recorded them while you were in the coma. Few things can match the power of a person's own story, especially when it's told so well. You don't need to be Bukowski to be a writer. Just be yourself. Thank you for sharing your story...so far.

I have a 6 year old son in Kindergarten. This year, Think First came to his school to do a presentation on brain injuries and how to prevent them. I was lucky enough to be at his school that day eating lunch with him. I had planned to leave immediately after but his tearful eyes and clutching of my hand led me to one of the most important events of our lives so far.

I sat in the Think First presentation and thought to myself that these Kindergarteners cant be getting anything out of this. The presenters talked with adult language and were very informative, something I thought the kids weren't understanding. After the presentation was over, I left my son at school and went home. I never really thought about it again. We had just begun teaching him how to ride a bike and never made him wear his helmet, after all, we were just riding in the parking lot and on non busy streets.

Three weeks later, on our way to go trick or treating, he started asking me questions about brain injuries, or more like, explaining what he knew to me. He told me all about how important it was to wear your helmet and how a brain injury could disable you mentally, physically, or even worse, kill you. I was so impressed that my 6 year old remembered all that.

Since then, he has learned to ride a bike without training wheels and a scooter. We make him wear his helmet, (he's usually okay with it) and when he complains that it's not cool cause no one else has one on, I remind him of the Think First presentation, and he gives in.

There was a guy there who spoke to the children who had a brain injury. He shared his story with the kids and it stayed with my son. I dont know if Think First goes to kindergartens nationwide but I think it would be a great idea! Your story could inspire children like mine to make safe choices. I will read your story to my son.

I thank you from the core of my heart for sharing your story. To me, you are a brave man. You are doing a wonderful thing by sharing your experiences. Because of people like you, I was able to learn how to be a safer parent and my son learned, before it was too late, the importance of wearing his helmet. Stories like this save lifes!

Thank you so much!

Wow, that also left me speechless. I'm only 15 years old and i understand how important it is to wear a helmet. I haven't experienced anything like this but two of my friends have. One wasn't wearing a helmet, after I told him to and he fell, hit his head and was in a coma for 3 months until he passed. Another friend of mine did the same thing and came out fine but is extremely depressed. I try to get my friends to wear helmets but they never listen to me. They make fun of me for wearing one, I just hope that they understand things like this can happen to anyone before they get hurt. This message needs to be spread to everyone. Dorian, great, inspirational story way to stay strong.

Such an inspirational story. This reminds me of my condition, and how lucky I have been not to have done exactly the same. I lost my hearing and balance through meningitis last year, and I have recovered much of that now. I thought I was unlucky then, but now I see that I have been incredably lucky. I'm still deaf, but I have cochlear implants.

You're tragedy was far worse, and I now wear a helmet every time I ride.

Thanks Dorian, I'm fourteen, and you have possibly saved me, as you have many other skaters.


P.S. I agree with the helmet-sticker idea. They did it for Rieley Poor.

dude, i have a lot to say but, ur story made me order a helmet, sums it all up... yeah im one that doesn't wear one cuz it looks lame and i have a small head its hard to fit with out a mickey mouse, bob the builder, or princess on it... but i am ordering one as soon as i log outta here. Thanks, you saved my lil skull! live life have fun and love the over looked beauty around you!

I saw a strange thing today. I was entering Albertson's while a young man was going out. He had a skateboard, and Dorian's cover short had been cut out and decoupaged onto the bottom. He sped off before I could ask him about it. I suppose either Dorian is his hero, or it is there to serve as a reminder to be careful while skateboarding.

my name is jordy, i live in vancouver, canada, i just read your story, i have to say that i am very happy u are recovering, myself i can say i understand some of the stuff you spoke about, i fell from a room and landed on my head on cement, i had 2 blood claughts on the outer side of my brain, my skull was indented into my brain, that creating the claughts! this is not my story, so i will make this short, 2 months after the day of the fall i had a masive staff infection in my head( the skull bone) they had to remove it, i am still wearing a helmet around, i have been 4 4 months, and in two months i get a new piece of surgicle plastic put in! it has been 5 months now since my fall and most my short term is comming back!! but i have to agree with u, i truely beleave i will never be what i was!! but it could be worse, alot worse!! thank you 4 sharing your story, and i just want you to know that someone has read it that is on the same page as u!!


Still such a pertinent topic. Check out Kyle Johnson, who looks worse than Dorian did, but will have lesser (still bad) effects from his experience dodging death with a TBI: http://www.news.com.au/technology/doctor-freezes-mans-skull-saves-his-life/story-e6frfro0-1225906616620

Hey Dorian I gotta say this really brings it home for me as i am supposed to wear a helmet after when some random dude shot me in the eye with and air rifle in a skate park earlier this year. and being 14 i thought it was uncool to wear a helmet but after reading this im gunna start wearing it again cuz i just started longboarding.

And Amiee i think it is great that you are still holding out, stay strong.

Dorian if you ever are gunna be doing any talks in the uk ping me an email at [email protected] and ill b there. email me if u just wanna talk to coz i think u r a really great guy and stay strong.

Time to write your book, Dorian. You have several topics--this one, the city, the people who are on the fringes --so you can write more than one.

Thank you for sharing your gripping, horrifying and inspirational story with a readership that I hope will take a lesson from it.

As a 23-year-old carefree inline skater, it took a concerned boyfriend who worked with traumatic brain injury patients to convince me to wear a helmet EVERY time I skated. Now as a 40-year-old bike commuter, I cringe every time I see a helmetless biker or skateboarder out on the roads and trails of San Diego. There are so many, and there seems to be no understanding that the sidewalks/roads don't get any softer just because you're "just going a few blocks".

I actually managed to use your story to successfully convince my partner, a longtime surfer and former skateboarder, that coolness and convenience were no excuse for biking without a helmet.

Just on a sidenote,I've seen some posts about helmets giving a "false sense of security." I've seen this in bike safety circles as well and have to respond. Of course a helmet will not protect a skater or biker from all traffic and environmental injuries. Of course common sense and other precautionary measures are needed. But the fact that a helmet doesn't fix everything should not obscure the fact that it preserves a very important thing--the structural integrity of the wearer's skull and brain.

For months I've been planning to do a post on my bike commuter blog www.virtualroadkill.com inspired by your story, and upon further review I realize I should just DO IT rather than continue to be silent on this issue.

Thank you for sharing and best wishes for your continued recovery.

Hello Dorian,

I'm a 29 yr old skater. As many others, I belonged to the type of people that found that "coolness and convenience" were an excuse for skating without a helmet.

Your story is very inspirational and emotionally touching. It has touched me. I am now a helmet wearer.

As alisonspencer70 put it so perfectly, I now adhere to the believe that "sidewalks/roads don't get any softer just because you're 'just going a few blocks'".

Thank you for taking the time to put your story in written words and congratulations on not giving up. Much admiration to you!

You are making a difference. My 13 year old son forwarded me your article because he has heard me referring to brain injuries many times as his strong willed 15 year old brother and long-boarder has left the house without a helmet. Now they are both willing to wear helmets. Thank you. It was your powerful, real & articulate story that made a difference. Your wife is an amazing woman and it's very obvious you are grateful for that. Continue to write...you have a wonderful way with words...a gift that maybe you wouldn't have been in touch with had the accident not happened. Thanks again for sharing.

Fairfax, VA

I have a slightly different story than the ones others have told here, about somebody on a board getting a nice fast tow from his rottweiler. It was a big rott, and this guy could get moving a whole lot faster than I could run, even before I had my first heart attack at 39.

My next-door neighbor had a grandson who was maybe 4 years old. He was a somewhat defiant little guy, and on our dead end street near Lemon Grove, he would like to lay out on the asphalt. He was quick and feisty, and his grandmother would chew him out regularly, but with no fence outside the house, it was a quick run for him to be back on the curb anytime nobody at home was actually hovering over him like a hawk, and that appeared to be often. We had just bought a padlock to keep him from opening our gate and running around the front yard. Like I said, he was adoringly defiant, and we didn't really like yelling at him for just being misbehavingly curious.

One day, the little guy apparently crossed the street and was watching the Orange Line trolleys go by, as he would do when he could get away with it. Relatives at home said that the guy who was on his daily rottweiler tow was seen on the street, moving fast as usual on the down slope west toward 69th and Akins, with no moving cars anywhere in sight.

A short time later, my relatives said they heard the grandmother screaming and howling in the street.

People running out of their houses saw the little guy laying close to the curb, a pool of blood coming from the back of his head. Other than that, police found no signs of trauma that would have indicated that he had been run over by a car, or even bumped by something that hard and unyielding. Whatever hit him left no skid marks.

The guy on the board with the rottweiler tow has never been seen since he was spotted the following day by us and took off like a bat out of hell as we closed in. The neighbor's family, one of the longest-living here on this end of Encanto, left town, maybe for Arkansas, maybe Tennessee.

We never did use that padlock. It still hangs useless on the fence with no key. I don't have the heart to cut it down.

The police still have this down as an unsolved accidental death for well over a decade now. The concrete storm channel with the rounded walls at the bottom was known worldwide as Trench Town back in the day, and even now a crew will show up to shoot some scenes of people launching themselves off the lip for some runs, without knowing little Cody died here on the street from what we all believe was a boarding hit-and-run.

I may be one of the living few who still remember his name. Sleep well, Dakota.

Be well. Keep writing.

Mate you are an inspiration. Your story certainly changed my opinion on when wearing helmet is 'necessary'. I've never thought twice about putting on a lid around campus or skating down the road to the store, that has now changed. Thank you for sharing this, I will be sharing it with my local longboarding club.

All the best on your continued recovery.

Angus, Australia.

Folks, if Dorian's story moves you and you're supportive of what the Ian Tillman Foundation (scroll up) is doing, then please consider asking your employer or other charitable givers to sponsor the Ian Tillman Foundation project: the foundation has exhausted its funding for helmets to give to skateboarders and is seeking support. Again, scroll up to find Barry Tillman's posting and a link to his foundation's site.

I read your article from beginning to the end. Very heart-felt. I'm a teen, I skateboard, I don't wear a helmet or any protective gear. I always say that I'll buy a helmet but I seem to put it off. This story has and will change my life. After reading this and seeing how such a small thing can change someone's life I'll finally buy that helmet, and I will not skateboard without it. And I will share this with the other teen skateboarders that I do know. I too have fallen and had a head injury although it wasn't serious, it could have been and I just needed someone other than my mom to help me realize it. Thank you for your inspiring words. I hope that other skateboarders will read your story or listen to what I have to say. Even though I am young and a girl your words, courage, and bravery have inspired me. Thank you.

Thank you for sharing your story. I am a school psychologist with quite a bit of training in TBI. I was in a motorcycle accident a year and a half ago and thank God I had on my safety equipment. I hit my head and first thing that crossed my mind was "please not a TBI! Thank God I did not sustain a brain injury. I hurt my leg requiring 5 surgeries and rehab for almost a year. I am still recovering. Your strength is an inspiration. Thank you!

Nice words Dorian,

I've been through exactly the same experience, skateboard slam, traumatic brain injury, coma one month, two months rehab... losing weight (which wasn't such a bad thing for me) lost my sense of smell. I support you with getting helmets on anyone skating/ riding... I also surf and skate, but didn't have the wife to inflict all of the external pain on at the time. My family still took it. I feel for Aimee Anyway, Take it easy mate! Keep Surfing Da Hui will look after you!

You don't know me and I don't know you; we will probably never meet, but you are one hell of a man. I can tell that much.

We've just featured a link to this story in the Winter (Feb 2011) edition of Concrete Wave magazine ("Why do I need to wear a helmet", p.77) and it remains an impactful item, as shown in the online forums. Here's the most current page of comments: http://www.silverfishlongboarding.com/forum/skateboard-safety-ride-hard-ride-safe-live-ride-another-day/136100-broken-head-broken-heart-5.html#post1298568150

--EB, Silverfish

Amazing, how reading about the narrow death escapes of other people puts life in perspective, huh?

On my fateful day, I chose the helmet that made me look like I stepped out of the Mel Brooks movie, "SpaceBalls." I hated that helmet, because it just wasn't cool. But, it was cloudy and it might rain and it had a full face sheild.

My broken back versus your missing skull parts. All I can say is, "try not to be so hard on yourself, things have changed, and change is hard."

just to let ya know if your story is making a difference- i just came in from having my pittbull pull me through the neighborhood on my pushead zorlac skateboard, i do this everyday and sometimes twice a day when im not at the ramp killing it !!!!! Back in 2006 after a surf comp in surf city N.C. we went to hampstead sk8 park where i smacked my skull on a steal halfpipe for the first time in my life i went and bought my first helmet after 30 plus years of skating. im a firm believer of helmets at the ramp but never really thought of it when im just cruizing the streets. ok at 30 miles an hour theres not much i can do if i ever do eat it, especialy wearing flip-flops.... but just for you!!! and this story- to make a difference, i will wear a helmet tomorrow morning and film me and my pittbull bombing the hills and post it on facebook in special honor of this website, and an injured brother, and all sk8boarders who need a helmet !!!!! to watch my vid just lookup gary mccarty on facebook...yeah im the fat kid with the surfboard ...

Powerful story Dorian, I hope this story gets submitted under the appropriate category for a Pulitzer. I wish you and your sweet wife all the best and a speedy recovery to you Dude. Steve

Just think of how much astounding and exceptional good (the hidden "extra-normal") has been awakened, has come out of your story--what a GIFT you have given so many people! Your story, as well as the above comments, deserve even wider dissemination.

Bicyclists, equestrians, cowboys, all need to heed your message. I grew up around cowboys who wouldn't be caught dead in a helmet--ain't that ironic? So many of them in those days, long before the heroic dedication of medical researchers and practitioners made survival as anything other than a vegetable (happened to a man I knew) possible, died with their cowboy hats on and off . . .

Your wife is what we used to call (I still do) a "sticker." One of the highest compliments one could receive in those times (and for me still is). But then love is not having one's expectations fulfilled, it is exceeding the expectations of others--sharing your experiences but not proselytizing . . . You’re a real mensch, man! A real man keeps growing. (I won’t say “dude” because I come from a time and place where that meant something other than it does now.) And once again, your wife—WHAT A WOMAN!

PS: I've been in and out (the important part) of the hospital four times for very different issues this year. I just got out for the fourth time yesterday afternoon. I thanked everybody I could find--especially those who screwed up. I will quote Kenneth Boulding again here: "We have only two choices, really. We can have an 'I beat you down, you beat me down, I beat you down' society, or we can have an 'I lift you up, you lift me up, I lift you up' society." You and your wife (and the countless other heroes large and small) have taken this defective culture a long way in the “lift up” direction. I have other words, but will mercifully put them on hold.

Hey, I know it's been awhile since everything happened and the story was written, but I just read it for the first time. Yesterday I fell for the first time on my new longboard. It wasn't bad. Bruised hip and a bloody leg are about all I'm feeling today. But I wasn't wearing a helmet. Your story inspired me. I know a lot of the kids in the neighborhood look up to me. And about all of them drop their bikes and grab their boards when I come outside. So at this point I can show them what not to do is keep on skating with no helmet, or I can go buy one today. I think I'll go get one, you have done a lot of good. Hope your recovery has been smooth. You seem to have one amazing wife. My fiancé is always wanting me to be safer. We'd be smart to listen sometime huh?

This is a powerful well written article that shows your exemplary skill's as a writer. I wanted to say that as a skater this story moved me. I've been skating for over 30 years and I have had so many near misses that I feel lucky beyond belief that nothing has happened to me. For the first time in a long time today, as I decided to take my board up to the corner store, I put my helmet on. I no longer can see it as just a ride to the corner, as your story showed too many variables can come into play to change everything.

I wish you, your wife and family the best and that you have a speedy recovery.

An old skater quote from the '80's seems appropriate, "Live, Thrive, Survive."


Man, thanks for commenting. It really means a lot!

Hi Dorian, Your story has stuck with me- but never so much as today. I saw a young man skateboarding down the street- while holding a small baby!! All I could think of was you and how a crack in the sidewalk can change everything. I got so mad at this fool!! I was driving in the opposite direction and there was nowhere to pull over.... he was headed towards a busy intersection so I hope somebody intervened and knocked some sense into him!! I just had to write because this incident with the baby upset me so much!! I'm glad you are still writing, and I hope your personal life is on-track. :) Best wishes!

Hey Dorian -- just wanted you to know that your story seems to be circulating around the longboarding community's Facebook groups, raising awareness. Thanks so much. Please, never stop writing.

Dorian, wanted to let you know that after 3+ years, your story is still circulating around the longboarding community. 47,000+ reads on silverfishlongboarding.com. Thanks for putting this out there, you are making a difference. I, for one, will never skate without a helmet again. Cheers to your full recovery.

Dorian, I only first read your story a while ago but have since seen it on every major forum. I think youve hit 100,000 times your goal of getting one person to put a helmet on

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