Just four weeks after shattering his skull into over 25 pieces, Kyle Johnson was talking and on the road to a miraculous recovery.
In 2010, Johnson was in a longboarding accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury and a 95 percent chance of death.
“They had to remove 80 percent of my skull to allow my brain to swell about 4 ½ times its normal size,” Johnson said. The surgery, called a bilateral decompressive craniectomy, removed both sides of Johnson’s skull.
Since his accident in 2010, Johnson has devoted time to speaking about helmet safety, chasing dreams, making goals and more.
Weber State University’s School of Nursing welcomed Johnson on Tuesday. With two separate presentations, Johnson addressed students at both the Ogden and Davis campus.
During his extended time in McKay Dee Hospital, Johnson developed a deep respect for the nurses who helped care for him.
Johnson emphasized the important role of nurses in a patient’s recovery, giving them credit for his health today.
“Get to know the patients, get to know their passions, get to know their interests,” Johnson said. “That’s something that can help dramatically for the patients.”
Johnson also talked about the importance of choices, saying every choice we make can have an impact on our lives and those around us.
At the time of his accident, Johnson wasn’t wearing a helmet. He references this as just one choice that can change everything.
“The choices you make today make a difference. It’s not just about helmets though, it’s about everything else,” Johnson said. “Hug the ones you love, because tomorrow’s never a promise.”
Although remarkable, Johnson’s recovery has not been easy. He says he struggles with memory loss and jaw pain. He can’t play the guitar like he used to, and he has lost his sense of smell. However, instead of seeing those as failures, he looks to them as successfully overcoming adversity.
“Every time I pick up a flower and instinctively put it my nose, and have nothing to smell, there is a reminder that I’ve overcome hard things,” Johnson said. “I can do hard things.”
School of Nursing Assistant Professor Jeanette Harris said she used Johnson’s story in her class for many years.
“Some of his friends actually ended up being nursing students in my class and told him that I was using his story and he came to me and asked if he could come to my class and share his own story,” Harris said.
Harris said she hopes her students can learn from Johnson’s experience with nurses.
“It was pretty powerful,” said nursing student Stephanie Gillespie. “It’s an honest perspective from a patient who was in the hospital for a long time. Sometimes you don’t think about the little things.”
An avid snowboarder, Johnson said he used his hospital window view of the backside of Snowbasin as an inspiration board. Despite being unable to walk, he made a goal of being on that mountain the first day it opened.
“I hope you can apply this to yourselves. This picture is of me but it also represents you,” Johnson said, pointing to a smiling picture of him on the mountain. “And it also represents those who you’re going to affect.”
To learn more about Johnson, check out www.righttrnsonly.com.