“My parents were told if I didn’t die, I may never walk or talk again.”
Thirty-two years and a day after Allan Boss suffered a traumatic brain injury, he will air the radio program Against All Odds delving into the how and why of his recovery on April 18.
“It started with a pitch I made to do a podcast for CBC about miraculous recoveries,” said Boss. “We decided to do this kind of single program and called it Against All Odds.”
He is certainly an exemplar of the subject.
On April 17, 1990, Boss was out with friends when they rolled their Jeep.
“I was thrown and landed in the ditch on my head, suffered a traumatic brain injury and was taken to the local hospital,” Boss said. “It was in Enderby, BC and they couldn’t do anything for me, so they sent me to Kamloops.
“On that trip I went comatose.
“I don’t remember anything from about two hours before the accident to about a month later, except for little snapshots of memories that came into my brain.”
Upon arrival in Kamloops, his family was called to the hospital and prepared for the worst.
If he survived, he would likely spend the rest of his life in an institution, and may never walk or talk again, or relearn those things.
After a week, once stabilized, he was transferred by air ambulance to the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton nearer where his family lived.
Following a month’s stay there, he was moved to the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, where he started to defy expectations.
“I was there a couple of weeks and during that time, I started recovering very quickly,” Boss said, adding once discharged as an inpatient, he continued returning as an outpatient for three and a half years.
“At the final release I met with a neuro psychologist and as he was signing my release he asked if I had any questions,” Boss said. “I said to him why I recovered as well and as quickly as I did, and he looked at me and said ‘You tell me.’”
That set him on a journey to retrace his steps trying to learn what helped him.
“So I kind of put those pieces together of the things I did that I thought helped me recover, like support from my family — humour was a big thing — diet and exercise,” Boss said. “I quit smoking, I quit drinking, I had to because of the medication I was on.
“Another big one was playing an instrument; I played a lot of guitar.”
With these theories in hand, Boss spoke to experts such as Dr. Simon Gilbertson, a music therapist and researcher at the University of Bergen in Norway.
“So I talked with him about whether or not what I thought was real, was real," Boss said.
“What I did was take my theories and then I went to the experts, and I asked them what they thought, does this work?”
Boss went on to complete various degrees, including a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing, a Masters of Fine Arts in film production, and a PhD in Drama, and is also the Culture and Heritage lead for the Town of Okotoks.
The show will talk about what Boss found when he spoke with researchers and scientists about his journey of recovery.
“This program, it’s kind of a story of hope,” Boss said. “You get to come out of it with an understanding that the brain is an amazing organ that can regenerate and redefine your life.”
Against All Odds will air nationwide on CBC Radio One on April 18 at noon.