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Our brain is a beautiful thing. We forget we have it. It does amazing things. I woke up to this fact when I tumbled down the 14,00 foot Mt. Wilson (featured on the Coors’s Light can). We forget we should heal our beautiful brain. Did I ever think this would happen to me?

Of course not. No one does. The fact is this can happen to anyone. Was I making some irrational decisions? Perhaps, but nothing radical. I had hiked many other 14ers. I had always been safe. This was a strange situation and I still don’t remember the accident. I broke some bones, but the worst of the injuries happened to my brain.

I sustained a moderate traumatic brain injury or TBI. This caused me to endure a 6-hour rescue flight to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado. This was the worst of my injuries. Broken bones and bruises will heal but there is no guarantee that your brain will. I’ve included a video of my rescue here:

I was lucky to be able to be rescued and for them to land a helicopter in such precarious terrain. From here as a result of my brain injury I spent a month without any memories. In fact, I am still remembering things right now. For instance, I just recently remembered the people I used to live with in Telluride. In fact, it brought back amazing memories of how great people they are.

This injury makes you feel like a different person. I’m still learning what works and what doesn’t. The biggest things are what I remember and what I don’t. Most importantly what I can do to get better. The fact is that I really don’t know. We still don’t know a lot about the brain and as a result, you’re almost on your own.

I think I’m finally beginning to trust my intuition and understanding that I will likely not make stupid decisions. The best comparison I have to this injury is like going back to when you were a kid. Everything feels new, yet it shouldn’t be. That is the tough part and I believe this is why the doctors don’t even know what to do.

I’ve recovered quicker than anyone thought possible and I’ve blown all their expectations out of the water. I think this is the biggest problem for me. I was in great shape when I got injured and I was smart (at least I tell myself so). The fact that I lived at 8,500 ft. and I was so active had to help in my recovery.

This should be an indication to you to stay in the best shape you can. I think that is the only reason I SURVIVED. Yes, to put it bluntly, I SURVIVED because I was in such amazing shape. I don’t have a lot of the after-effects many people have with these types of injuries. We should heal our beautiful brain!

Not to get on my high horse, but I think my recovery is a reason for you to do better because you never know what will happen. I was just hiking. Something I had done many times before. I was experienced, outdoorsy, and one slip resulted in a deadly situation. The fact is this can happen to you as well.

We never know what will happen to us. In fact, a large suitcase can fall and hit us in the head (this has happened). Truthfully, a TBI can happen to anyone and in fact, a concussion is even a TBI. None of us are immune and our brain is our most valuable asset. It is almost all water but it controls everything in our body. It is surrounded by a hard skull which can damage it when it is shaken at all.

Recovering in the Hospital.

The most important organ in our body is the most susceptible to damage and this is why TBIs have been going up and up. This is due to more knowledge, however, I think we should still understand what we have in our head and why it’s so important. The fact is the US alone has 166 deaths per day from complications to do with TBI.

I don’t have to tell you why we’ve become the dominant species on this planet. But that doesn’t mean we can’t protect ourselves. What does this mean?

I think the first and foremost advice for this is to be SENSIBLE. Anything can happen but often most injuries occur after we missed something or we did something we shouldn’t have. For example, my injury could have been helped if I had worn a helmet. Many people do this on 14ers to protect themselves from my exact injury. My life would be different and perhaps I would not be writing this today…

What I’ve learned and I’m still learning that you can only do so much. Sometimes circumstances take over and there is NOTHING you can do. I’m example A of this. You can do your best to be safe, but sometimes stuff happens. We should heal our beautiful brain!

The interesting thing is I learn more every day and I’m almost viewing this as a reset. I think this is the best way to approach this situation as a way to start something new. I’ve been forced to move back to Virginia now and live with my parents again (which I haven’t done since H.S.)

I think this is the biggest takeaway for me. S**t happens and there’s only so much we can do to avoid it. The best thing we can do is continue to move forward. Live our mistakes, realize what has happened, and move on. The purpose of this post is a much for me as you. It helps me learn and progress as well as attempting to help you. We should heal our beautiful brain!

Walking on the AT!

I don’t know all and no one does. Anyone who tells you they do is mistaken. The biggest and best thing we can do with our lives is constantly improve. Although I’ve been forced into this situation in the end it has helped me.

I don’t have answers for you, but I’m happy to be able to write this post so that I can inspire you to overcome your difficulties. We all have them, but I think the biggest thing to realize it could always be worse. We should heal our beautiful brain!

I’m happy to be alive today and I’m taking this as an opportunity to do something new and great. I really thank you for all your support as you stuck with me through this trying time. You’re the reason I’m here.

With my newfound purpose, I’m going to keep these updates up and I would love to hear from you. I will continue to post and let me know in a comment below what you would like to hear.

I’ve found that certain things are completely rejuvenating and others hurt.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed is overwhelm. Do you know when you have a million things to do and you begin to forget things because you have so much to do? With my injury that is all the time. It is especially obvious when many things happen and my routine is interrupted.

A recent example is when I signed up to be a reading buddy for little kids. This took up my whole morning and completely changed my regular routine.

The amount of adjustment this normally takes is fine but now it is like getting a bomb dropped onto your life. It is only two hours of my day but the time it takes to adjust can take weeks. Also any change in medication, insurance, or routine can be upending.

Swimming has been incredible for me. I feel so good being able to disconnect from the world and get into the pool. This takes me away from new found annoyances like barking dogs or constant talking.

These days I need so much more alone time than usual and these are the times I find I’m able to heal. My parents don’t understand this and neither do I. They think I know people know about my TBI and I’m afraid to talk to them.

Yea right. I know people have no idea what happened to me, and I’m retracting into my own shell so I can deal with my own feelings. To say the least it has not been easy and things always seem to get worse before they get better.

In a lot of ways I’m like other people in this way when they suffered a similar injury. Where I’m different than other is my previous intelligence level, tolerance of pain, and my ability to continuously learn. This helps and hurts me.

The desire to learn is never satiated and my intelligence level almost makes me a case study. My tolerance of pain is an interesting one since I don’t feel half the things people complain about. I think the biggest takeaway is situations are temporary. How we rise above them shows people who we really are. We should heal our beautiful brain!

Sunset over the lake!

The next steps are moving into a new role that will fulfill what I want. Harder and especially difficult as I discover and label my own deficiencies. The thing is I can do it and I know that I will make something of nothing.

After a year I’ll be clear of all restrictions, yet I don’t know what I will restrict myself. I’m almost seeing this as an opportunity to do what I want to do. Be happier, healthier, and alive. Avoid toxicity and follow my path. We all try to do this, but something or someone always gets in the way. I think I’m a prime example of how to ignore distractions and stay focused on what makes you happy.

This new era of my life is exactly that. A new era. A time to really make a difference in the world in ways I can see instead of sleepwalking through life. I know I can make a difference and it starts with you. Do what you love today because you never know if it will be the last time. We should heal our beautiful brain!

Enjoying some delicious BBQ!

That’s what I’m doing. I’m starting with what I love and building. I’ll make mistakes but it’s the only thing I can do. I have to start somewhere. And if not now then when?

I’m happy to be on the path of healing and I thank you all so much for being there for me. I will keep you updated as my healing and discoveries continue. I would encourage you to reach out if you need anything. Shoot me a message or leave a comment.

Our big beautiful brain has done a lot for us so don’t forget about it. I lived 30 years without thinking about it. But this has awoken me to what our brain is and what it does for us. Remember things can always be tougher. Sit and take a few breaths and let it pass. There will always be another chance…

Please be there for those that are as important to you as you have done for me. Without you, I don’t know where I would be. It’s a big beautiful world and anything can happen. How we overcome difficulties determines how we move forward. We should heal our beautiful brain!


  1. Carol Wilson

    Joseph—I loved reading your blog! You are so courageous and inspiring. It’s such a blessing that you took such excellent care of your physical self prior to the accident which allowed you to put forth the extreme effort that has brought about your astounding progress! My daughter suffered a TBI at age 16 and she too, was athletic and far surpassed all the experts expectations in her recovery. Reach for the stars Joseph! 👏🏻👍

    • Joe

      Same for me. I’m sorry to hear about your daughter and I really appreciate you reaching out. As you know everything heals with time.

  2. Grace and Al Jacobson

    Dear Joseph,
    We think you have come such a long way and have done a wonderful job in recovery.
    We still pray for you every day and will continue to do so.
    Love and prayers,
    Aunt Grace and Uncle Al

  3. Greg Brooks

    Dear Joe,
    Thank you from all of us for your post. It takes a lot of courage to lay your thoughts and dreams out to the world as you have. You are to be admired.
    Keep trusting yourself and have confidence in your direction. Our Lord has chosen to let you have more time here to inspire and amaze us with your journey. Draw strength and belief from Him at all times. We are blessed to witness, and be allowed to be part of your life. Thank you Joe.

    • Joe

      Thank you Greg for your heart felt response. I especially thank you for being with me recently and your amazing family and son who gave us some excellent books.

  4. Carla Brooks

    Hi Joseph,

    Thank you for writing and letting us know how this whole ordeal has affected you.

    There are members of my own immediate family that have had brain injuries and I know it is not easy to navigate the healing process. One memory of my grandson reminds me of your need to retract. I understand how important it is to have down time to allow for healing and this story below is proof.

    One day in 2008 I woke up feeling that I had to go to Charlottesville to see my son( in law school) and his family. They lived in a small condo near school. It was unusual to wake up in the middle of the work week and head out of town. My husband urged me to wait until the weekend so he could go with me but there was a sense of urgency that day that can’t be explained until the whole day played out.
    I arrived in Charlottesville early morning and my son gave me a tour of the law school. We went to Panera Bread to have coffee and he urged me not to stop by the condo since his two children (18mos and 4 yrs) were sick with colds and fevers and he didn’t want me to catch the virus. I told him that I must see them.
    I arrived at the condo and it was clear the kids were sick and struggling with colds. I asked their mother if there was anything I could do to help. The kids asked me to bring in my labrador, Layla. They loved her! I went to get the dog and as I approached the condo I could hear my daughter in law screaming “He’s seizing”
    Sure enough my 18 mo. grandson, Gregory, was having a febrile seizure. I had never witnessed a seizure before, neither had my daughter in law. We didn’t know high temps could cause seizures. I dialed 911 and asked for assistance. They stayed with me through the whole ordeal. When the seizure stopped, Gregory was limp, eyes wide open with no sign of life. My daughter in law told me he was “gone” -as I stood on the condo balcony asking a passerby to please open the gate to the development so EMTs could get in. The voice on 911 told me to tell Gregory’s mother to lay him down on the carpeted floor and keep him still. They did not instruct to resuscitate which I thought was odd.
    Anyway, Gregory was carefully laid on a small stretcher and brought to the hospital. His mother went with him. The EMT’s explained to us that while Gregory appeared to be lifeless, it was actually his brain healing from the trauma of the seizure. He had to be kept still for this healing to take place. The doctors kept Gregory on a table in ER and monitored him.
    My son, John, eventually arrived at the ER and when Gregory heard his dad’s voice his head popped up and he said “DA!” At that point in the ER, everyone chuckled!
    The takeaways from that day were real. First of all, we must follow our instincts. I believe the good Lord guided me to the condo that day in spite of advice to the contrary from many sources. I followed the urgent feelings that were upon me. My daughter in law needed help that day and somehow I knew I was going to be needed.
    The second takeaway is that our bodies do what they need to do to heal and we must allow ourselves to be guided. We are not doctors but we can hear and we must listen and take the time to heal. You are doing exactly what you should be doing Joseph and we know you will reach your goals because you are persistent and you take excellent care of yourself. If you feel the need to retract, then please do so.
    I love that you were hiking and taking time to connect with nature. And that can’t be as dangerous as getting behind the wheel of a car in Franklin County, right? God bless you on your recovery and keep us posted!

    • Joe

      Thank you, Carla. I really appreciate your heartfelt story. You’re right you never know where your instinct is leading you and in your case, it put you in the exact right place. What happened to me was kind of the same. I had no control over it but it happened and how we move on determines what comes next. Thank you for your support and I’m happy to be able to move on and almost restart.

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