AUSTIN, Texas - A half million people are living in Texas, right now, with some type of brain injury. That estimate does not include military veterans who have returned home. One survivor shares the story of his journey from heartache to living a life with purpose.
Along the town lake hike and bike trail, on any given day, you just may be passed up by William Greer. In a way - every step he takes on the crushed granite path is a form of therapy. The fact that Greer is standing let alone running is somewhat of a medical miracle. 28 years ago a simple bike ride changed his life.
"It was after school ... was riding a bicycle and not wearing a helmet ... went into the middle of the road, when I shouldn't have, so I was being a typical 17 years old. And it had very catastrophic results," said Greer.
The back of his head was crushed. The traumatic brain injury took his sight and his mobility which took years of rehab to restore.
"It started off with, I was not even aware I was on a journey, it was literally handling things step by step, maybe week by week. Now I see, it has been a journey."
That journey now includes running at least 9 miles a day. He's done races in Austin including the always weird gorilla run. He has even run the Boston marathon.
Besides being an avid runner, Greer is also a passionate advocate. He works at the Coalition of Texans with disabilities and is currently trying to convince state lawmakers to fund critical care programs.
"One of the budget items we are going after is comprehensive rehab services, which is $14 million to provide immediate therapy and care for people with head injuries," said Greer who believes that funding will actually save money.
According to the CDC the annual cost of TBI in the United States is $6.8 billion.
"With the right care and therapy, you can return, there is a much greater rate of recovery, and I'm a great example of that," said Greer.
It's estimated that every year there are 2 million this and of that number 140,000 people die. Of those who survive, up to 90,000 by some counts, will have some type of life long disability.
Dr. John Bertelson with the Seton Brain and Spine Institute is all too familiar with this kind of injury. Dr. Bertelson said recent advances in imaging technology can now provide doctors with a deeper and clearer view into a damaged brain. But promises of major breakthroughs - the doctor point's out- have also fallen short.
"It's important to temper out excitement by history, realizing a lot of things haven't panned out," said Dr. Bertelson.
There are still expectations new drugs will be developed that will help the brain re-wire itself.
" I think that is the next step, we are waiting for better medication that can help facilitate the healing process, ... We don't have any surgeries yet to reconnect point A to point B," said the doctor.
For Greer, getting from point A to point B is an everyday victory that he wants other TBI survivors to experience.
"Yes there is definitely hope, there is definitely life afterwards. You don't know what the recovery is going to be some people might recover better than I did, some people might not recover as well, but everyone will recover. There might be barriers but don't let them stop you."