On the night of Sept. 22, 2011, James Durham was on his motorcycle in San Antonio, headed home after an employee dinner. “I was about two miles from home. A lady was stopped at a traffic light but didn’t have her blinker on so it seemed that she was trying to make a U-turn,” says Durham, a Dallas native who had moved to San Antonio a month earlier to work at an apartment complex his family helped manage. “When she pulled away from the light, she headed for the access road and T-boned me.”
The force of the impact threw him off his bike and into a light pole on the edge of the overpass, causing his helmet to fly off and land 200 yards away. The driver of the car behind him called 911 and asked for air ambulance transport to San Antonio’s University Hospital.
When the Durhams arrived in San Antonio from Dallas, they learned that their son had a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), skull fractures, multiple facial fractures including both eye sockets, a burst spleen, a broken left leg and a severely damaged left eye and optic nerve that left him blind in that eye. They also learned that his prognosis was not good. He underwent multiple surgeries, including removal of part of his skull to reduce pressure on the brain stem caused by swelling. He remained in a coma for five weeks.
“Within 24 hours of the wreck, the doctors told my parents there was nothing else they could do – you just have to pray,” the 26-year-old says. “My family stayed with me and kept talking to me and praying for me, and one day, spontaneously, I woke up. Still, the doctors didn’t think I’d ever be able to walk, talk or even remember anything.”
After he regained consciousness at the end of October, he was admitted to TIRR Memorial Hermann, a brain and spine specialty rehabilitation hospital where he spent the six weeks. At TIRR, wearing a helmet to protect the part of his brain where skull had been removed, James began the intense therapies of his new journey and unknown future life.
After he left TIRR Memorial Hermann, Durham returned to San Antonio to have the missing piece of his skull replaced, then went home to Dallas where he was in daily outpatient therapy specializing in brain injury for six months. At the end of therapy, he began to take college classes at a nearby junior college, to drive again and to bring an inspiring positive energy to others in therapy. After rehabilitation, he spent time with his family in a home they own in Panama City Beach, Florida, and eventually asked to stay. At that time he enrolled in Gulf Coast State College in 2012 just 11 months after the accident.
During his first two years of recovery, James went back to TIRR as a volunteer and liaison for patients and families, graduated with an AA Degree from GCSC, presented the Commencement Speech at GCSC 2014 graduation, worked closely with patients and families in Second Chance, a North Florida brain injury facility, worked with teens as a mentor, created a non-profit organization: TBI One Love, and completed another life-long dream of becoming a “Seminole” being accepted into Florida State University Panama City.
During the first two years of recovery and continuing into his next two at FSU, James continued to fulfill his new purpose helping other traumatic brain injury survivors and caregivers, sharing his journey and message of positivity, faith, and hidden disabilities, and spreading awareness of traumatic brain injury.
“It was always my goal to return to school, but I wasn’t sure it would happen,” says Durham, who graduated in winter 2015 with a BS Degree in Communications and a minor in Psychology. “Since my wreck I like to talk and spread the truth about God and help other TBI survivors. Communication is a natural for me and psychology helps me learn more about my brain and how to interact with people. My main goal now is to end the silence of TBI, not only in America but worldwide.”
On the four year anniversary of the accident September 22, 2015, TIRR Memorial Hermann honored James for his work and as an inspiration for other TBI survivors by induction into their Wall of Fame with 25 other inspiring survivors. Shortly thereafter, James completed his degree and his organization reached over 100,000 members featuring over 100 Survivors from several countries and continues to grow.
Starting 2016 as a FSU Alumni, TBIOneLove.com and the organization have been James’ primary focus. TBI One Love. The organization’s website provides information about TBI prevention, treatment and support, and offers a forum for others recovering from TBI to share their stories. A new website design and new partnerships are furthering the outreach, at times over 10,000 visits a day! As a new show host on “Brain Injury Radio”, each month James and TBI One Love bring topics, discussion, guest speakers, and connection to others concerned with Brain Injury.
In addition, in January 2016 the National Brain Injury Association asked James to join as a member of a future list of National Speakers regarding Traumatic Brain Injury.
Working with Brain Injury Survivors and speaking on a regular basis to organizations, churches, hospitals, the radio, website, social media, schools and through area television stations his message of positivity, faith, and Traumatic Brain Injury continues to inspire and help others.
“I’m blessed to remember everything that happened before and as a Traumatic Brain Injury patient,” he adds. “I hope to inspire others to know that anything is possible and everything can have a positive outcome."
"If you love the life you live, your life will love you right back."
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