From Injury to Industry

Brandon La Forest's Brain Injury Kickstarted Activism

Jason A. Michael

Oct. 5, 2010 started off just like any other day for Brandon La Forest. He woke up a little early, had a meeting at the office and was on his way to an appointment in Lansing. But just outside the city, while La Forest stopped to avoid an accident that had just happened in front of him, his life changed forever.
"A car came from behind me hitting me at 80 miles per hour," La Forest said. "My car then got pushed into the next lane, where another car hit me at 70 mile per hour and then I was hit a third time from behind again."
La Forest speaks about the day casually but he's only relaying what he's been told. He cannot recall the day at all.
"It is just a date to me with no memories," he said. "But it is a date that would forever change the rest of my life."
La Forest said that original reports said he died at the scene.
"A nurse that was in a nearby car helped to revive me originally," La Forest said. "I was then revived three more time in the ambulance by the paramedics."
Upon arriving at Sparrow Hospital, La Forest underwent emergency brain surgery. When his mother got to the hospital and doctors were finally able to talk to her, the prognosis was grim.
La Forest was placed on a ventilator and a feeding tube was inserted. He had a broken back and neck, a damaged spleen which doctors removed, a collapsed lung and shattered ribs. He fell into a coma, where he remained for over a month. La Forest wasn't expected to live through the night initially, and doctors predicted that if he ever did come out of his coma, he would be "a complete vegetable."
But vegetables don't talk and La Forest tells this part of his story very well.
"In the end, I beat the odds," he said. "I regained consciousness and later upgraded to a brain injury recovery center called Special Tree in Romulus. I lived there for almost seven months and I relearned the basics of life from dressing and bathing to walking and talking."
After he left Special Tree, he continued for years as an outpatient through their facility in Troy.
Therapies he received included massage therapy, physical therapy, acupuncture, vocational therapy, recreational therapy, spinal manipulation and more.
"On top of all those therapy appointments I had to go to several doctors' appointments weekly," La Forest said. "It's pretty bad when the most contacts you have in your phone are doctors that you see. To date, I have 57 doctors in my phone that I have seen or currently see."
Slowly, though, La Forest began rebuild his life. He credits much of his recovery to his connection with God.
"I always believed in God before I had my accident and had some relationship with him, but nowhere to what I have with him now," La Forest said. "I truly believe he kept me here for a reason and that reason was to help make me a vehicle to show the dangers of texting while driving, to be a motivational speaker to others going through tough places in life with medical conditions. And to educate other on what brain injuries are."
To that end, La Forest created Heads Up, Phones Down, a campaign to end texting while driving.
"Me and my family created it and started going around to high schools, colleges and churches to give my presentations. When I am there I sell T-shirts and wristbands at the end and only allow people to purchase them if they agree to sign my pledge and not text and drive," he said.
Listening to La Forest speak about his struggles, what stands out is his commitment to both short-term and long-term goals that he said will help him in his recovery. He said that anyone who has experienced similar circumstances or medical struggles should set a variety of recovery objectives.
"That is one thing I always tell people in my speeches," La Forest said. "You should have numerous goals, some short-term and some long-term so you don't get discouraged if you don't hit a goal right away. … I had to come to grips with the fact that I can't do things like I used to do. I can still achieve the same goal, but it just may take me a longer time to do it or I may have to do it a different way than I did before."
That philosophy is what allows him to keep moving forward. When asked what his current goals are, La Forest is both straightforward and driven: continue therapy, get back to work to help people just like him and find love.
"My future is to continue with therapy and doctors, to go back to work at my insurance agency, continue speeches, continue helping people out on my website, continue to work with the Brain Injury Association, continue the fight to keep no fault insurance, find a partner, have children, drive again on my own, live again on my own and enjoy life," he said.
For more about Brandon La Forest, visit


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