A Stroke Warrior Heals With The Power Of Robotics And Community with Brad Berman

AIH 09 | Robotic Technology

 

Brad Berman experienced a near life-ending stroke at the age of 37. In the process of healing, he raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help himself and others heal. During his recovery, Brad used robotic technology to assist in moving the parts of the body that had been weakened as a result of the stroke.

 

Listen to the podcast here:

A Stroke Warrior Heals With The Power Of Robotics And Community with Brad Berman

I’m excited because we’re having a gentleman on the show who I’ve got man crush on, which is interesting. I’ve never met Brad but we’ve spoken on the phone and we’ve done interviews together. He’s an amazing guy who’s basically in the top of his career, a husband, a father of two, an amazing guy in the community, his life changed all of a sudden because he had a massive stroke. He had to learn how to redo his whole life all over again.

You know a little bit about that, right?

Yeah. It’s not fun, but the journey is. It’s really not about the end goal because there is no end goal. With Brad, you cannot help but get inspired by him. What he did with his stroke and what he and his wife did together to pulling in New York to give other people hope and solutions for their stroke is just amazing. He’s my hero. I would do anything for him, and we’ve never met.

That dictates the power that social media can have to positively influence those around us. You guys connected on Facebook, right?

Yeah, we connected at the StrokeHacker group.

I think it’s interesting because so many people will bash social media as being this sucking your attention away from blah, blah, blah. When I talk to you and I hear your story and the stories like Brad Berman and Tony Boudia and all these people who watched a video on the internet and it changed their life or connected with someone on the internet and it changed their life. It goes to show you that these interactions that we have through social media, through podcasts, through just sharing our stories can have such a profound impact on the people and the world around us.

How cool is it, Taylor? We’re sitting in our sweats and talking to people and asking them the questions and shouting out to the world on how their recovery is. This is awesome and rad. Let’s bring in Brad Berman because you’ve got to hear his story. It’s remarkable and what he has done with his recovery.

Welcome to the show, Brad. How are you doing?

I’m doing well. Thank you.

Seany, how are you doing?

I’m excited to have my buddy on the show.

How do you and Brad know each other? You’re both stroke survivors. You both have similar experiences post-stroke, having the right side of your skull taken off and put in your abdomen. You didn’t know each other before these experiences. How did you guys come to know each other?

Sean and I got connected through Facebook where I saw him speaking about his experience with his stroke. He and I connected because he saw some of my stroke recoveries which was very public because of the way my wife went around fundraising, to help deal with my recovery. Sean ended up seeing some of that and that led us to be introduced to each other. We’ve developed a friendship since then.

It was through Matt I think.

I developed a very large network of survivor friends because of how my family went about dealing with my recovery. One of the gentlemen I met who had suffered a brain injury named Matt who lives in the same county as I do told me that I needed to meet this guy, Sean, and linked us together. We’ve been talking since then.

It might suck today. Yes, your feelings are valid, but it gets better. Click To Tweet

We never met but he’s like a brother of mine. We share the same similar things. He inspires me.

Warriors who were in the same battle but never saw each other or the same war almost. Brad, for our audience who don’t know you and doesn’t know your story, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and specifically who you were before you had your stroke?

I’m a person that grew up just North of New York City. Before I got sick, I was a practicing tax attorney at the time working for General Electric. I’m married to a woman who’s a lot smarter than I am, who’s an attorney. I got her to start in sports. I am the dad of two sons, a ten-year-old and an eight-year-old at this point who were very young when I had my brain hemorrhage. That’s who I am. Before I got sick, I was an avid marathon runner. It was a little bit of an obsession of mine. I spent a lot of my free time running. Life was smooth. I did well in school. I did everything I was supposed to do. I took care of my body. I was into running, sports and then everything changed very quickly for me.

Hearing you say that, you and Sean’s stories are parallel. What exactly happened? What was the moment where you had the stroke? Did you know it was happening? Walk us through that experience and then we’ll talk about the recovery and everything after.

I don’t remember it happening. The last thing I remember is my hemorrhage happened on August 4, 2013. The last thing I remember before it happened was the evening before I was at a party in my community. The morning it happened, I was planning to go run eighteen miles because I was in the heart of training for a marathon. I have no recollection but apparently, I called my wife. I don’t remember having pain but the last thing I was told that I did was called my wife on the morning of August 4th early. I told her that I was having the worst headache of my life and then she came home from the gym where she was and found me on the kitchen floor. I don’t remember any of that. That’s all that happened. As far as I know, I went to that party the night before and then I came in about a month after sometime in September. I was out for five weeks.

The whole month I’m assuming in a coma?

The day it happened, they’ve done the craniotomy and taken out the right side of my skull to allow my brain to swell. They induced a coma and put me to sleep. Then I woke up in the fall sometime in September, I don’t remember exactly when but I was pretty disoriented. I had never spent a night in the hospital before, and I found myself in the hospital room and I didn’t feel right. I was stunned to start learning about what happened to me.

What was it like coming to your senses after being away for a month? You said disorienting, what was it like coming to that day?

It was weird because when I was in my running prime, which was right before I got sick. I weighed about 155 pounds at the time. I was running about 40 miles a week. I was in very good shape. I was in a bed that measured your weight. What I remember is a nurse telling me that I was 119 pounds at the time, which was shocking and remembered feeling a hard object in my abdomen, which turned out to be my skull. That’s when I started to ask questions and start to figure what was going on. It was slow but there were a couple of those things I distinctly remember for sure.

AIH 09 | Robotic Technology
Robotic Technology: The last thing I remember before it happened was the evening before I was at a party in my community, and then the morning it happened.

 

How was your speech at the time?

When I came to my speech, I struggled with it after a month. When I came through, I was speaking very softly that they couldn’t really hear me, but I was extremely fortunate. A lot of people that I met in rehab suffering from different types of brain injuries came out of them with significant issues with their speech. I was very fortunate that pretty quickly as I came to, my speech was okay. I didn’t have any speech deficits.

Could you walk or are you immobile, paralyzed?

Initially, the left side of my body was paralyzed. I had to learn how to walk again, which was very hard. I was in a hospital bed. I was completely tightened up on the left side of my body. Obviously, I had to learn how to bear weight on my left side again. I had to learn how to walk again. I was in bad shape. I was stuck in a bed. I was in a wheelchair at the time and I started a very lengthy recovery.

How was your mental state? Were you upset? Were you mad? Did you get in arguments?

I was more confused at the time. I didn’t understand what happened. Nobody came to me at the beginning. Maybe they did, but I don’t remember because I wasn’t all there. No one ever said, “You had a brain hemorrhage, you were sick and here’s where you are in your recovery.” It was something that I had to start piecing together slowly. It was shocking.

You come to immobile, speech is very soft and confused where you’re at after a month. What was the start of your recovery process?

My family wanted to check to see that the right side of my body was unaffected. I’ve seen videos of my dad tossing a ball to my right hand to see if I could catch it. That came back very quickly. He was very excited at the time. I’ve seen a videotape of him throwing a ball and me catching it. That was a relief to them to see half of my body being fully functional at least.

I was playing catch with Sean in the backyard and it was fun to toss a ball around. From what I’ve heard, talking to Sean is it even helps to stimulate the brain just to be re-engaging your motor function after being out for so long.

It also helped me to start relating with my family because they were sitting there for a month watching me sleep. When they saw me willing and eager to throw a ball, they knew the core of my personality was still intact. That was a relief to them.

You’re touching on a key part of going through a stroke and the recovery process is the toll it can take on the loved ones around you and your family. I’m sure having a wife and two kids, they were going through as much as you were, if not physically but emotionally.

What happened was, for my wife it was initially a complete shock. She did a remarkable job marshaling support from our communities, our companies where we were working at the time and from our friends. She knew it was going to be shocking for our kids to see me. She waited a few weeks to do that until my neurosurgeon who she met with. She went through a very lengthy process of identifying the neurosurgeon she thought would be the best one to treat me. They found the one that they loved and then he said, “I will treat him but first you have to get your kids to see him because they’re a part of this and they need to be included.” She brought the kids to the hospital eventually.

You just have to believe in yourself and do the work. Click To Tweet

How old were they at the time?

They were four and a half and two. They were very young.

Do they remember any of this looking back, the two-year-old probably not but the four-year-old possibly?

He remembers the initial time of seeing me. It was pretty shocking for both of my kids because I was an extremely hands-on dad when they were very young and when they were babies. A lot of people hate getting up to do the feeding and the diaper changes at night. For me, it was always something I enjoyed doing and did do, and then all of a sudden I was gone for four months. I took pride in being a very hands-on father. I had some friends when our kids were younger when they viewed a lot of things like that in the night as more of a woman’s work, which I very much disagree with and did at the time. I loved doing that. That was one of the reasons I wanted to have children, was to be able to handle some of that bonding and then all of a sudden, the rug ripped out very suddenly from under them. It was a big adjustment for me to move home after four months away and seeing a completely different person move into the house. I was battling a lot of different issues, physical issues and psychological issues stemming from all of this. One minute I was the picture of health, model parent and then the next minute, I was this broken-down dude who moved back into the house and was sleeping in a hospital bed on the first floor. It was a big change for them for sure.

I’ve heard Sean’s story so many times and the audience have as well. It’s amazing because your stories are so similar. Sean, how old were your kids at the time?

Same age, exactly. We went through the same thing. It’s crazy. It’s ironic.

Brad, I’m sure you get out of the hospital and you’re back at home, but this is just the start of your recovery process, right?

It was. When I moved home, I had an aide with me 24 hours. I couldn’t take care of myself at all. I couldn’t get dressed. I couldn’t take a shower unassisted. Because of where it had happened in my brain, I couldn’t pee. I needed an aide with me to help me deal with that every day. I was very fortunate that we were paired with the most incredible people, including one guy in particular who was my aide for a year. Coming to my house who was helping me do basic things, drove me to therapy and got me around. I was completely dependent at the time.

It was very frustrating and as a man, it was embarrassing for me. I know if you’re sick you have no choice but I viewed myself, “I’m this guy, I’ve always been not perfect but really great.” I always had my act together. I was barely good at work. I was a good dad and then was basically helpless, which was hard on the ego for sure. When you’re sitting in your house and you want to get dressed, there’s no way you can go about doing it without imposing on your spouse or whoever else to help you. It was that being the dependent part that made me bang my head against the table at times. My wife is amazing and super helpful in giving and loving. Doing that for a year or whatever, it’s too much to ask of anybody.

That sounds incredibly challenging to lose a certain level of independence after running marathons, running a business and caring for your kids the way you did. How did you mentally start to attack your ego? You said it was hard on the ego. What was your process of mentally coming through that?

The fact that I was so devoted to running marathons was a big mental help to me. One thing I learned from the marathon was I love the challenge of it. I didn’t mind the pain from the exertion. My attitude was, “I’m going to do this therapy. If they’re going to shock my muscles with electricity and it’s going to hurt, so be it. I have to do what I have to do to get through this.” I tried to approach it with that mentality of the way you feel when you’re in the 23rd mile of a marathon. When you feel pain and challenged as you’ve never felt before, I just tried to approach it. It was frustrating but I tried some encourage to get through it. It was humbling. I knew there were times when I was going to be very embarrassed, which I was at times.

AIH 09 | Robotic Technology
Robotic Technology: I ended up doing all these television interviews. I knew at the time that served the greater good than myself because it was highlighting this issue.

 

We had so much support from my community going through all of this. People giving, bringing us food and giving money towards my rehab to fund the machines I was using. People were reaching in their pockets and writing us checks for $500, $1,000 because they were supportive. They believed in me and my family. It gave me a big motivation. If somebody was giving us $1,000 that they could be using to feed their family with, I felt I better get my butt in gear and make their investment pay off. I always put pressure on myself to perform well whether it was academically, athletically, in whatever I did. I tried to tap into who I was.

It was hard because I was always somebody who never liked being the center of attention. This event caused me to become that center of attention and part of it out of that fundraising element. My family started raising money so quickly, there was a lot of media interest and I ended up doing all these television interviews. I knew at the time that it served the greater good than myself because it was highlighting this issue that Sean and I have experienced in terms of having an injury like this. It was hard. I used to complain about being the poster boy for this stuff. It’s something we battle sometimes. Sean, my family, this issue of brain injuries, whether it’s from concussions or stroke or an aneurysm or whatever, it’s something we’re very passionate about and very invested in now. We try to put our personal feelings aside sometimes and try to do what we can.

It’s so tough too, Brad, because the mental state of us both, we awaited to turn the switch because I think the mindset was like, “If we’re going to go, we’re going to go.” It’s like getting up to the marathon. I never ran a marathon but I used to run a lot. It’s getting up to the starting line and saying, “Go,” and hearing that gun blow. With us, we had to make a decision at that time. For me, it was interesting because my brain was that of a three-old-kid at the age of 39. My emotional trauma is overweight even with the physical side because physical pain is ginormous but then we have everything to kick in and the mental state is even as bad if not worse.

It’s hard when you’re going through it. I believed that I was in the best hands medically in terms of therapists and stuff. When you’re sitting there in a wheelchair and you can’t take care of yourself in any capacity, it’s hard to make that leap in your mind like, “Yes, I’m going to walk again. Yes, I’m going to run again.” You’re looking straight up the hill. It’s very intimidating. Even being in the rehab setting, you see all different types of patients. You see patients that are much worse that you. You see patients that are doing better than you and you’re constantly measuring yourself and constantly being measured because of the therapists of course, to deal with things like insurance and such are constantly measuring. They need to show that you’re improving.

I found that to be hard mentally. I always gave my all to therapy, and then one day I have a great day at therapy and then the next day as well. On that test, we’re three seconds faster and I found that to be really tough. No matter what you do, what job you have, what sport you play, you have your strong days and you have your not so great days. I was in hardcore therapy for a couple of years. That’s the way it is. Some days you come, you bring your A-game, you have an unusually high amount of energy and then other days you have pain and frustration. You might feel depressed about it but it’s tough. Since I became like this poster boy of this issue, that’s what I tried to stress to people is getting that mindset of sticking with it and persevering.

A couple of things I picked up on hearing you tell your story, first off your wife sounds amazing. Two, how involved your immediate family but also your extended family and the community became in your recovery by helping donate money and encouraging you. It touches on a theme that we’ve experienced talking to people who have been through similar experiences yourself and Sean it’s that we can’t ever do it alone. We need these people around us to help get us through these struggles.

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It’s also very hard mentally as somebody who’s strong before all of this, the last thing you want to come to terms with is the fact that you need help. You don’t want to need help. It was a big leap to resign myself to the fact that I did. In this world, especially around men and fathers, a lot of people including me at the time felt shame in needing help. It’s not a good thing. It’s something that people need to get over. Life can be very hard, but we’re all here to help each other out and nobody gets through everything alone. That was a big leap for me to say, “I can’t do this. I can’t get to the car. I can’t drive a car. I need help.” That was a very tough pill to swallow.

For me, I didn’t care about little things, “I can’t run, I can’t take a shower, or I can’t drive a car.” You’re very focused on what you can’t do. Even though you know well in your mind you need help to do these things, it’s another thing to accept that you need help and to not be resentful about it. That was very hard. Some of these aides I had were amazing people that I’m still very close with. When you’re with them, if you’re with your spouse sixteen hours a day, you’re going to have some tense moments. If you’re with somebody who’s your caretaker for twenty hours a day, who’s making decisions for you, telling you what you can do and can’t do, it’s really tough to hand over the reins to somebody else even if it’s necessary.

It sounds almost like in talking to you and hearing Sean’s story as well is you almost had to surrender yourself to getting help from someone, which is so challenging. I know listening to you and Sean on the 5 Minutes With Seany, you talk about part of your recovery was this special process called robotics. Is that correct?

Yes, that is true.

What type of therapy were you doing at this facility?

I was doing in a real physical therapy, all different kinds using electric stimulation to activate my sleeping muscles. What the doctors there told my wife was if I wanted to maximize recovery, the best technology they had at the time was this Robotics Therapy. The theory behind it is that the way to reconnect the brain with body parts that have been “disconnected” is through a tremendous amount of repetitions of a movement. They created machines to do this because no human physical therapist could have the stamina or endurance to deliver 2,000 repetitions to your body in an hour. What they explained at the hospital to my wife was that MIT was creating these robots that were designed to do this. If my family could fund $600,000 that the hospital could acquire this machine for me and others to use. Within a year, my wife had raised $850,000, which was remarkable and funded machines that were working my arm, working my leg. One of them was a wearable robot called Exoskeleton, which I would use. It was remarkable. It got me up. The way these machines work is if you can’t do a movement, it will let you do it. If you don’t do a movement correctly, it doesn’t let you do it, which can be frustrating sometimes. I’m confident, it had a major impact on my physical recovery. I’m very pleased to know that these machines exist at the hospital where I was in Westchester County.

With these specialized machines that are helping assist you in motion, is it something you have to sit and receive? Are you walking around and you can start doing your daily routine or going back to your day life while you’re receiving this? Is it something you basically have to sit and you endure these repetitions?

I had a real drop foot on my left side.

What does that mean?

When you walk, as you bring your leg forward your toe naturally comes up. After my stroke, I had a condition called foot drop on my left side where that doesn’t happen. If you’re walking, your left toe would hang down and you’re at risk of tripping over your own foot. What this machine would do is it would force you to raise that toe. It teaches your ankle that motion again. Dorsiflexion, it’s called.

What happens too is the foot spasms and the toes will curl and you can’t extend your toes. You’re trying to connect your heel with your calf muscles. It sounds funny but there’s a disconnect and it causes you to trip over your own foot. I have that from time to time if I get really tired. It’s a constant effort of having to focus on your weak side, lift up the foot and make sure you can go heel to toe. If not, you’re walking around like this brick and it becomes heavier, it’s weighted, it gets frustrating and it’s painful.

AIH 09 | Robotic Technology
Robotic Technology: You need to trust the therapists. You have to have the more skilled therapists you can get.

 

What I pick up on when you say that too is it sounds like you have to become aware of motions in your body that a normal person doesn’t even have to think about at a certain point in their life.

You start to doubt yourself when you start saying, “I can’t.” One of my big things on my other show was I say, “I can, I shall, I will.” You can get caught up in that state of mind of saying I can’t and then all of a sudden you play victim to your own story and your stroke and then you’ll never get better. Brad was able to come out of that and started saying something, “I can do this.” The therapy he was doing helped him see that sight and that light.

What’s so incredible about the story with you and the robotics, Brad, is that not only did your wife helped raise the money but also you raised the money to buy this stuff. More people are actually benefiting as a result of this. How does that make you feel knowing that other people out here are helping heal themselves because of you, your wife and your family?

It’s rewarding because first of all the money she raised funded the machines themselves but they also funded hiring personnel to operate the machines and work with patients. It helped to hire therapists who were educated on using these. That is such a key component of using these things. For example, on the Exoskeleton, I was put with a team of people who knew the machine cold, knew how to teach me how to use it and understood medically what was going on. When you can’t walk and you’re afraid you’re going to fall over, you need to trust the therapists. You have to have the more skilled therapists you can get. Since my wife was so successful with the fundraising, I was able to staff these machines with amazing people that would help patients.

I even saw some weird and special things after we had these machines put in where I’d been in therapy and someone will come up to me and like everyone at the hospital knew I was involved with this robotics program. We had met patients like a guy came up to me one day and makes, “I saw my sister stand up for the first time in two years.” I was like, “That is unbelievable.” That made me feel good and an appreciative. As much as initially I hated being in the hospital poster boy for all of this stuff, when I actually saw real results happening to people right before my eyes, that made it sink in, “Put your own crap aside, put your pride aside, someone just stood up for the first time in two years because of something your family has helped to do.” It was very powerful. It will stick with me for the rest of my life for sure.

Everyone is in awe of that story because it is so powerful. When we started this episode, we’re going into the depths of your struggle in going through the stroke and enduring the mental, emotional, physical challenges. That story that you told makes me think for you and so many out there, like Sean, there’s always a silver lining of you helped someone walk. I know there are countless people who have messaged Sean as well saying, “You’re the reason I got back on my feet again.” It makes me realize how much power we have to influence and help each other when we get out of our own way. As much as you hated being the poster boy, you took it and ran with it.

One thing we talk about is the struggle. One thing in rehab hospitals that’s very under-served or under thought about is the psychological side of recovering. For me, it was like, “This stinks. I can’t walk. I want to run. Get me out, get me to work.” When I was in the hospital and they brought me to the neuropsych to talk about how I felt about all of this. At the time, my initial thought about that was like, “This is a waste. This isn’t helping me work on my muscles or work on my movement. Why do I have to do this crap?” For me, I had an enormous awakening along the way that that stuff is so important to healing. It’s your state of mind. In a rehab facility where they’re clocking your progress by, “Did you walk faster? Is your grip strength stronger?” Initially, to be honest, it’s hard to care about how you feel about it. Having a spouse that’s very aware of mental health and thinks about that a lot, it was one thing for me that I talk about a lot with my neurosurgeon who’s doing some really special work at NYU hospital for stroke. The psychological side of it is just grossly underserved in most settings.

Sometimes the hardest part of any process is just showing up. Click To Tweet

I’ll share a story I’ve heard before with you and it will help put it into context. There’s a guy out there named Joe Dispenza and his whole program is using the mind heal the body. The short story is he fractured several vertebrae and used meditation and mindset to help his body heal. He frames it well and he says, “Your thoughts can create a response in your body in terms of hormones, which can either help heal you or it can basically impede you from making progress in healing.” I completely agree with you that the mental side is not the only piece but it is an important piece.

The emotional therapy helps with self-awareness, which was completely gone. Nobody in the hospital came up to me and said, “The right side of your brain was severely damaged. The part of your brain that allows you to be an empathetic person was decimated.” I later learned all of this stuff. Once I took that knowledge and wasn’t pissed about it. I accepted it and decided I needed to work on it, it helped me turn a corner of understanding my own situation and learning things that I need to work on. Maybe it happened to Sean. When I got hurt I was like, “This happened to me. It happened to nobody else.” It was hard for me even though it was very hard on my spouse and all my kids. In my mind, “This happened to me. It didn’t happen to them.” I had to accept and try to understand the fact that it happened to my whole family. It happened to everyone who knew me. That was hard and slow. I know I drove my wife crazy at times. When you’re sitting there and your arm hurts because it’s so tight and spastic from its injury, you’re not thinking, “I’m hurt but my spouse is also hurt.”

You’re like, “This is me. This happened to me. It didn’t happen to her.” I often think about that. Sometimes I’m ashamed like, “I was such a pain in the ass. It’s amazing this person still speaks to me, not only sleeps in the same bed as I do.” To me, it’s the psychological side where you start to understand your injury better is so important. In terms of understanding what everyone around you is experiencing and in terms of setting realistic goals for yourself, in terms of what you might be able to accomplish in recovery. It’s challenging. When you’re going through all of that, you don’t want to hear about it, you’re like, “Get me walking and get me up. Get me to work. Get behind the wheel.” Whatever it is but you don’t want to think about the psychological part because it’s too big.

How long ago was your brain injury?

It was August of 2013.

Are you getting better, improving?

I feel subtle changes. I’m still working very hard physically. Even though a lot of the medical community would tell you that real recovery doesn’t happen after a year, I felt a muscle in the left side of my back function.

The serratus muscles, the boxer’s muscle, which goes numb and starts to atrophy. That’s what’s coming back. I’ve got a deep question. Are you okay with who you are now? Are you in love with yourself now?

Yeah, I’m proud of it. I’ve endured a lot. Of course, it would be better if this didn’t happen but it allowed me to appreciate more basic things in life. When I go home and I see my kids at night, I’m thrilled and ecstatic. Being this “poster boy” has been a gift for me. A woman that I’ve become good friends with, who’s had a blood vessel malformation similar to mine, we connected. It’s allowing me to convey what happened to me and the knowledge that I’ve gained. The fact that I get to share that with people and share my experience so that it can help them avoid the mistakes I made, I can give them positive things to do, makes me feel good. In some ways, it made me a better person. Beforehand, I was so focused on my career, making money and everything else. I was living too fast to stop and notice people around me that were sick or suffering and I’m much more aware now.

Am I where I wish I was physically? No, but I’m happy with where I am. I am optimistic, I can get a lot better still. I am happy with how I am as a person. I think my people skills are very good, which has helped me in many ways in terms of getting back to a career, getting back to my friendships, which I had to put on the side for a couple of years because I was not up to dealing with people or being seen by people. It’s a long road back from where I was but I’ve accepted myself. I’m happy with myself. I do my best for others. I’m sick of thinking about myself.

A few people early on after I’ve made a pretty miraculous recovery, thought it might be interesting for me to write a book. The way I felt about that at the time was recovery is all about thinking about yourself and being inward looking. I have a family, I have kids and I have friends. I’m sick of thinking all about myself. All of that is good. You can sit there and dwell every day and wish your leg work better or wish your hand work better. You can also make a choice to make the best of it to commit to continuing to recover because nobody in medicine understands the limits of a brain injury recovery, which is one reason I was so drawn to Sean too. When I would see him walking a football field without a cane, it gave me a lot of courage and encouragement that this dude can do it. He’s not more motivated than I am.

AIH 09 | Robotic Technology
Robotic Technology: Having a community around you is so important because getting severely injured is a very isolating experience in a lot of ways, and it shouldn’t be.

 

When you see somebody that came from where you did do something, seeing that is a very powerful thing. Why can’t I do that too at some point? That’s why having a community around this stuff is important. Getting severely injured is a very isolating experience in a lot of ways and it shouldn’t be. That’s why it’s my pleasure to speak and why I spoke with Sean. If the one person hearing this is struggling a lot and was ready to throw in the towel, Sean and I can say, “It might suck. Yes, your feelings are valid but it gets better. You have to believe in yourself, do the work and it does get better.” I’m not resentful that it happened to me because worst thing has happened to people every day. I saw so many people with worst injuries than me in rehab and I always felt bad for pitying myself when I saw that.

Thank you for sharing, Brad. We’re so grateful to you for coming on the show and sharing your story. I’ve got one last question for you. It’s a question we ask all of our guests, what’s your inspiration?

My inspiration are my kids. I always pictured myself being a certain kind of parent, being very involved, being very hands-on and being a doer. That’s the way I feel about it is, “This happened to me. It was brutal and hard.” What I want to do is to make their life as least interrupted as possible from all of this. It makes me accept having to try things I wouldn’t otherwise be doing. I tried adaptive skiing where initially I felt, “I don’t want to do adaptive skiing. I want to do real skiing.” To be realistic, if I wanted to go skiing with my kids, I had to do it in a certain way. Doing it was better than not doing it. They went through hell watching me go through all of this and that’s what really inspires me. Kids are so observant that they notice everything. I was walking with my son and he said, “Dad, you’re walking much faster.” To hear that from a ten-year-old, there’s nothing like it. One thing I’ve learned through this is that your kids are watching every single thing you do and kids are so observant. They see everything. Being aware of that is powerful and motivates me to display a good attitude all the time. They’re carrying this with them for the rest of their lives. Once I said to my wife, “Am I a perfect parent?” No, but I told her that one day, my kids will tell their kids when talking about me they’ll say, “He was dealt a tough hand, but he was tough. He worked hard and he did his best,” and that’s all I can ask.

You’re embodying a motto that we have on the show, which is, “Just show up.” We believe that sometimes that’s the hardest part of any process is showing up. Thank you, Brad, for showing up. Thank you so much for coming on the show, sharing your story and sharing your inspiration with everyone out there.

Thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

Thank you. We’ll catch you later, Brad.

Thank you. I’ll talk to you soon.

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About Brad Berman

AIH 09 | Robotic TechnologyBrad E. Berman is a Director on the Insourced Solutions for tax team of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Stamford, CT. In this role, he advises large business enterprises regarding how to effectively and efficiently structure and execute transactions. He maintains relationships with multiple clients of the firm. Prior to this position, he was Senior Tax Counsel at General Electric. For three years, Brad headed the tax team at GE Asset Management, an asset manager formerly owned by GE.

Prior to his time at GE, Brad was a tax attorney with American International Group (“AIG”). At AIG, Brad’s legal practice was broad. He helped AIG to navigate through the financial crisis that occurred in 2008. Brad began his legal career with the law firm of Proskauer Rose LLP in New York and then practiced at the law firm of Chadbourne & Parke LLP. On August 4, 2013, Brad suffered a hemorrhagic stroke caused by a ruptured Arteriovenous Malformation at the age of 37.

He was in a medically induced coma for one month and underwent extensive physical rehabilitation afterward. Brad’s wife, Jessica, started a fundraising initiative called “Run 4 Brad” in February 2014, with intention of helping Brad and others. To date, she has raised over ¾ of a million dollars to fund brain research and rehabilitation for individuals with brain injuries from strokes. Brad was raised in Yorktown Heights, New York and is the father of two sons, Noah and Andrew.

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