“No matter who you are, the possibilities are limitless“ - By Dylan Keusch
I was a pretty normal high schooler. Being from a small, affluent town outside of Boston, I never faced much adversity growing up. I went to Rivers where academic and extracurricular opportunities were plentiful and easy to obtain. I was a national level swimmer and also enjoyed playing guitar on the weekends with friends.
I graduated in early June of 2019. That summer, I had decided, was going to be the best of my life. I had already decided to take a gap year due to my young age, and I saw that summer as a time absent of responsibilities and time to have fun with my friends and family.
It was July 8, 2019 that any hope of a normal summer, or normal life for that matter, was destroyed. As I was walking into swim practice that night, I stopped and began speaking to my coach about the past weekend's racing. After about five minutes of conversation, I grew to be extremely lightheaded and dizzy. I muttered a few words about needing to sit down, and I proceeded to black out.
My body went straight back like a board, as a result of my backpack weighing me down. My bag hit first, creating a whiplash effect that catapulted my head into the cement. I was completely knocked out. 911 was called, and an ambulance was at the scene of the accident within five minutes. I still hadn't woken up.
It was later that night that I was placed in the Neurological Intensive Care Unit at Boston Children's Hospital with severe bleeds and bruising in my brain. The prognosis did not look good. I was near comatose, and not even my best friends, girlfriend, or family could wake me up. The scene was incredibly grim.
Doctors were unsure of anything at that point. Not even the top neurosurgeons could tell my family whether I would even be an ounce of my former self. Nobody knew if I would be permanently disbaled, if I would walk, or even talk again. Just 12 hours earlier, I had been an athlete, a student, and an overall normal easy-going teenage boy. Now, I was in critical condition.
I was released from the hospital 10 days later with a neutral prognosis: the damage to my brain had missed critical spots, however, I would live with permanent effects. I was a different person. Brain injuries are absolutely devastating: I spent the next two months cycling between my bed and the hospital for continuing treatment. I went through depressive periods where I kept asking, "Why me? Why did tragedy strike me out of all people? What did I do to deserve this?" It was exhausting, painful, and heartbreaking. Doctors never truly confirmed if I could be the same athlete or person that I was. However, I had different ideas.
This is where Prove People Wrong came into play. When doctors told me that they were unsure of whether I could be Dylan Keusch again, I laughed in their face. To me, nothing was going to stop me from recovering fully. I didn't care if the odds were stacked against me. I didn't care if my brain was working against me. I would do it.
So, through endless physical and cognitive therapy, doctors appointments, blood, sweat, and tears, I did become Dylan Keusch again. I was back in the pool on October 6th, just three months after injury. I was competing again on October 26th, where I won my first event back in the pool. I placed top 10 in New England eight months after my injury. Outside of the pool, I began working as an intern in neurosurgery in November, working to save others' lives as my doctors had done for me, and I was back to school at Cornell for the start of the fall semester.
The lesson, in short, is this: Never listen to what people think you can or can't do. The only person that gets to dictate that is you. You want to come back from a devastating injury? You want to win as an underdog? You want to succeed in that class or major that everybody told you was too hard? Do it. No matter who you are, the possibilities are limitless. Work hard, put everything you have into the process, and believe in yourself. But most of all, prove people wrong.
Thank you guys so much for giving me the inspiration I needed to get through the hardest time of my life. I wear my PPW bracelet like it is my lifeline. In some senses, it was and always will be my lifeline. You guys are doing amazing work - it doesn't go unnoticed.