It might be hard to believe, but that man who Burns Lake residents might see going for a walk with his girlfriend, reading a book or riding his mountain bike was almost on his death bed last year.
On Aug. 26, 2018, Brad Baylis, 39, collided with a moose while driving along Highway 16, leaving him with life-threatening injuries.
“I don’t remember anything about it but from what I’ve been told it leapt over the cement barriers right in front of me. I didn’t even see it,” he told Lakes District News.
“I had over 150 breaks on my face. The doctors figured my head hit the head of the moose which came through the windshield.”
He was airlifted to Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) and was in a coma for three weeks.
“During that time they had full control of my body. They did 10-hour reconstructive surgery to my face. They had full control of my body. They could make my heart rate go up or down,” he said.
Intensive care physician Mypinder Sekhon or “Myp”, as Baylis calls him, gave Baylis less than a 10 per cent chance of survival and didn’t think he would be able to walk or talk again.
Baylis, who is originally from Prince George credits his dramatic turnaround to several factors, the first of which was support from people.
“I had a lot of visitors come down. Once I was awake I saw visitors and it would spark a new memory. It was good to see people.”
“Another [factor] would be Carla Lewis. She was down there and she was amazing. I don’t think I’d be here without her. She did a lot of research on brain injuries. She had convinced my neurosurgeon to implement different vitamins for my recovery.”
Lewis, who is Baylis’ girlfriend and a member of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, also had an Indigenous healer visit him in VGH and perform healing ceremonies on him.
In terms of his technical recovery, the doctors used a new medical device called a brain bolt, which was inserted into Baylis skull and a catheter went out of the bolt and into his brain. The catheter sent fluid back to a test tube inside machines that calculated his blood pressure and oxygen, chemical and vitamin levels, a process known as microdialysis.
“The machines would tell the doctor what levels of chemicals my brain needed. VGH is the only hospital in North America to have this microdialysis machine. Myp is the only doctor who had learned to use this machine,” Baylis said.
After he was released from VGH he went to the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre on Oct. 4 for physiotherapy so he could learn how to walk again and to regain his short-term memory functions.
On Nov. 20 he returned to Prince George and then afterwards moved to Burns Lake.
Today, Baylis has recovered to the point where he can do many of the things he did before his accident.
“I help out around the house with Carla. I go for walks. I go grocery shopping. I read a lot more than I did before the accident. I like to read books about the area we live in. My favourite is the Golden Spruce, by John Vaillant.”
He also likes to ride his mountain bike and on Sept. 21 he and Lewis hopped on their bikes for the Strong Children of the Mountain Enduro cycling event held at Kager Lake.
Cycling helps hold off the fatigue, a persistent problem that shows not everything has returned to normal for Baylis.
“I sometimes feel like I’m 60 years old because I have to have a nap during the day. I go to bed fairly early. If I’m not moving around I get tired. When I was in the hospital I was extremely worried I wouldn’t be able to get back on my bike. ”
He has not yet gone back to work.
“I used to work as a welder in the oil and gas sector. But I don’t want to go back to that because it’s a lot of time away from home. I’ve thought about going into teaching in the welding program at CNC,” he said.
His peripheral vision hasn’t fully recovered yet, though it’s better than it was after he left GF Strong, when he couldn’t see out of his left peripheral at all. Baylis’ eye doctor in Prince George said it’s now at 70 per cent of its potential.
Baylis said his memory isn’t normal yet but is improving. His short-term memory is getting better and he can remember an incident from his early childhood.
“I can remember my grandmother who passed away when i was almost 2, on Nov. 11 1982. I can still picture her making lunch in the kitchen.”