Twenty-three-year-old Brandon Reeves is a go-getter, an achiever, and an all around good guy. He graduated from Berkeley High in 2008, and although he was a member of the Varsity Cross Country, Track and Field, and Basketball teams, he was offered a full academic scholarship to Santa Clara University.
While at Santa Clara, he excelled and completed his studies in 2012, unknowingly about to take on a fight for his life.
Brandon fell from the roof of a house in February causing severe swelling to his brain. He was on a breathing machine, fed intravenously and in a coma.
In critical condition, doctors weren’t sure that Brandon would survive the fall.
He was rushed to Highland Hospital where he immediately underwent emergency brain surgery to observe the swelling on the brain. Under close monitoring, doctors realized the swelling wasn’t going down so he underwent another brain surgery to remove a portion of his skull to give room to his traumatized brain.
The portion of Brandon’s skull removed was placed in his stomach, a process allowing it to be nurtured for up to nine months, if needed, while his brain healed.
But nine months wasn’t needed. Just four months since the fall, Brandon reflects on the incident. He says he always had faith that he was going to be all right.
“My brain was working, I knew I was in a coma…I just couldn’t wake up,” Brandon said. While he couldn’t respond, he remembers being in the comatose state.
So when he finally woke up, he was determined to turn the tragedy of his fall into triumph. Doctors told Brandon of the paralysis on his right side, something they believed was going to be permanent. Brandon refused to accept it.
“I’d sit in the bed and use my left side to exercise my right side,” said Brandon. “After my hand came, then it was my right ankle, and I would just move my foot up and down…I never felt it was going to be permanent.”
After one month, he was released from Highland and admitted to Oakland’s Kaiser Hospital for rehabilitation. He had to relearn his alphabet, how to brush his teeth and other basic communication skills. He worked his body physically and mentally to continue his rapid improvement.
Brandon’s father, Gary Reeves, describes Brandon’s condition as “being a man working with an infant mentality.” However, he says he made sure the energy around Brandon was always positive, never willing to accept that his son would not pull through, let alone walk again.
Gary Reeves says, “The first month the doctors had a hard time balancing his blood pressure and breathing,” and he had to regulate visitation because the impact visitors would have on Brandon’s emotion. Today, he credits God, the doctors, therapists, nurses, and the love from family and friends as the motivation that contributed to his quick recovery.
“You’re only stuck if you allow your mind to become stuck,” Gary Reeves said.
Brandon regained his speaking and walking ability, and though still needing to complete the rehabilitation program, he was able to go home.
Today, he says he is about 90 percent back to his original self. While he still works on strengthening his cognitive and speech skills, he has regained all physical movement.
Currently, he is a mentor at Berkeley Youth Authority, helping teach young kids about government funding for medical costs.
He also works with Community Partners for Bright Futures International, a charity that supports underprivileged children around the world by providing programs that help them achieve academic and professional success, and “B.U.” academy, which is sponsored by Blair Underwood.
He has volunteered teaching English as a second language to Spanish speaking mothers in San Jose at Sacred Heart Community Center and has even taught a beginning youth ski board class for the Bay Area’s Black Avalanche Ski Club.
But now Brandon’s life is the lesson. Three brain surgeries later, and overcoming every obstacle most would have counted him out on, he knows his life has purpose and new meaning.
“You do what you have to do to get better,” Brandon said. “Don’t just become a victim of your circumstances.