Man Defies the Odds

Published Friday, July 14, 2006

Ten years ago Johnny Borgen was driving home from a vacation in the Cariboo with a friend. While on the freeway another motorist fell asleep at the wheel, crossed the center line, and crashed head-on with Johnny’s truck. The driver died at the scene. Johnny and his friend were taken to the local hospital.

Johnny sustained injuries to his face, back, and both of his feet. He was unconscious from the moment of impact. His friend was paralyzed for life.

As Johnny lay in a coma his family was told that he would never wake up. After a week Johnny showed signs of awakening. The doctors decided it would be best for Johnny’s recovery to stay in a coma for another two weeks so Johnny was placed in a drug induced coma so that his body could repair itself without movement.

When Johnny woke up he learned that he had fifty three pieces of titanium holding his face together. In addition to the fracture of his lower back, and the injuries in his feet, Johnny had sustained a brain injury to his frontal lobe.

Once Johnny was stabilized he was transferred to GF Strong Rehabilitation Hospital. Johnny’s brain injury had caused him to lose the ability to walk, read, and write. He worked with a team of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and a speech pathologist to regain the skills once taken for granted. It took two years to regain the skills to the best of his ability.

After leaving GF Strong Johnny tried to move back to his home in Richmond but quickly decided that a change of locale was necessary. Johnny moved to Maple Ridge to be closer to his immediate family, and to live in a quieter and smaller community. Maple Ridge also offered a support group through the Lower Mainland Brain Injury Association.

Johnny continues to experience the effects of the accident. The fracture in his back has turned to Osteoarthritis which forces him to use a scooter on occasion. The injury to his frontal lobe sometimes affects his reasoning, decision making and emotions. He also suffers from headaches that come on suddenly and which feel like a “spike being driven through my head”.

Johnny’s experience has helped to shape the lives of those around him. Johnny has been a Big Brother for seven years and was able to assist his little brother through a hard experience. “My injury benefitted him because years into our relationship his mother was struck by a car and suffered a head and back injury. With having gone through it myself I was able to guide him and offer him advice.”

During his stay at GF Strong Johnny’s family took turns visiting him. One family member was affected positively by the experience. “One of my nieces was very young when she came to visit me in the hospital. She was young enough to be awed by the situation and old enough to absorb what she saw for herself. Now that niece is a nurse.”

One could never guess by looking at Johnny that doctors once believed he would never wake from a coma. Johnny says that “without the support of the Brain Injury Association and my family I really don’t think I would have made it through”.

The Brain Injury Support Group is for those with acquired brain injuries (brain injuries not present at birth or the result of degenerative disease) and their family members. For more information about the group call Ian at 944-9030.

For more information about the Lower Mainland Brain Injury Association visit their website at