Flatlining four times on the operating table, Brent Worrall’s odds of surviving a horrific pro-circuit motocross crash were almost non-existent.
That was 11 years ago and despite multiple breaks in his back and neck and fractures of his clavicle, sternum, all his ribs and a collapsed lung, the Penticton man did survive.
However, unlike many other people involved in traumatic accidents, Worrall, now 56 and a T3 paraplegic with no body core function, recalls the crash at the Ontario track all too well.
“I just said, survive, survive, survive,” he remembers saying in the air when he realized he wasn’t going to make the landing. “I knew that it was 120 feet to clear down to the bottom and at the end of the jump I landed on my head and what I saw was like a missile going off.”
Fortunately, a medic at the track came running to his aid, somehow managing to clear his airway and get oxygen into his lungs.
“When I came to, I could see about a hundred people circled around me and one of the guys I know, a media guy, was over top of me looking at me and I could swear he was looking at a dead man and just that alone told me the exact nature of the hurt I was in.”
Ironically, it was that accident that helped turn his life around for the better to the point where he and wife Gisela now spend much of their time helping others and promoting mental health awareness.
He wrote a 400-page book called “Motocross Saved my Life From Its Darkness” published three years ago that tracks his journey from 2011 and beyond in very graphic detail.
Worrall, who also played hockey, is actually the survivor of multiple traumas in his life as well alcoholism, drug abuse, compulsive gambling and other mental health issues including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It was that PTSD diagnosis in 2017 by his Penticton psychotherapist and “best friend” Kevin Lefebvre that really kick started his return to some semblance of normalcy.
“It was definitely a revelation,” said Worrall, thinking back to that day.
“Yeah, it’s lousy that life-altering things happen, I have to live with the consequences of my accident every day, but there’s a
bigger thing happening, PTSD and it can manifest itself in so many ways, but once the recognition is made that there is something festering, that needs to be addressed.”
To help others with their personal battle with the disorder he and his wife for the last two years have been planning to reach out to the people of two Alberta communities, Humboldt and Swift Current.
In two separate bus accidents, 20 players and staff from junior hockey teams died and many others were badly injured.
Those crashes not only impacted the individuals involved and their families but the entire populations of both cities.
“I want to increase the awareness of PTSD and the need for mental health intervention and I want to help the people, especially the people of Humboldt because I know they’re hurting, they’ve told me that openly,” said Worrall.
“I want to carry the message that, let’s keep the conversation going, that it’s OK, we all have to deal with something.”
To that end he was in Saskatchewan recently to plan his upcoming 400-kilometre ride between Swift Current and Humboldt. He will make the journey on his hand cycle from Sept. 7-12 on his Mental Health in Motion Ride.
“We hope to break down the stigma related to these topics (mental health issues) letting people know that sometimes it’s OK not to be OK,” said Worrall.
His wife of 20 years, Gisela, a professional caregiver, has been by his side through all of his struggles and has been his rock when he needed it most.
“You need to be able to trust people,” she said. “The people that are afraid or turn away when you talk about mental health... they were never your friends.
“If you truly care about someone you care about all of them, even the parts that might be broken and that’s what we want to bring on this ride.”
Gisela will be driving the modified family van behind him as the pilot vehicle to keep her husband safe.
For those who would like to support their cause, Worrall asks people to donate to their local mental health association.
He also suggested checking out the two mental health initiatives by his good friend Barry Beck, former captain of the New York Rangers, launched after Beck’s son Brock was murdered two years ago and the death by suicide shortly afterwards of Beck’s teammate and close friend, Mark Pavelich.
They can be viewed at FallinStars.org and www.BrockandMark.com
Worrall can be reached at, email@example.com or visit him online at: brentworrall.com