A New West man’s Run to Remember
David McGuire was living the good life of a single guy in 2005. He was making big bucks working as a bill collector. He loved hitting the casinos, could kick butt in a game of Xbox Halo and scarf down two large pizzas.
It’s quite a contrast to the man who is on the final leg of his nearly ninth-month Run to Remember. The 38-year-old New Westminster resident has averaged a marathon a day running across Canada to raise awareness about brain injury prevention.
And all because his brain blew up on him.
McGuire wasn’t feeling well at work one day and his boss sent him home.
“I started acting weird. I would cry for no reason. I’d cry at Judge Judy. Who cries watching Judge Judy? My emotions were off the charts,” said McGuire during a stop at the River Market, just two blocks from his Downtown condo, on Friday.
Finally doctors thought he might have a brain bleed so they opened him up. Seven days later he awoke from his surgically induced coma calling his now-wife Mandy by a previous girlfriend’s name, and not even knowing who his parents were.
To allow for the swelling to subside, the doctors left the back left side of his skull exposed. That meant he had to sleep on his right side and he wasn’t allowed to roll over. “I thought it was the coolest thing in the world that I could touch my brain.”
His old life began to crumble. He had been subletting an apartment, and while he was in hospital the sale on it went through. To make matters worse, his job was outsourced. He was out of a home and out of work, so went to live at his parents’ place in Tsawwassen, and they had just downsized.
“I had to learn everything all over again,” said McGuire, who gave this explanation of what he goes through on his website.
“It takes everything I have to remember to put on shoes, plan a run, take my water, set my training watch, and find my way back home. Every time I go out I am on my own. I have no mental map that guides me. I have no memory of where I am, or mental link to where I am going. It is a scary thing, a huge thing ... I depend on technology and my family to get me to my destination, get me home, and keep me safe.”
Although they had bought a home together, it was a difficult time for Mandy because she had to get to know the new David McGuire. On top of that she had had to work several jobs to pay the mortgage.
A turning point for McGuire was a big argument they had. “I want to be your wife and not your caretaker,” she told him.
That got him going.
“I just wanted to try, I really love her and watching her exhausted [was heartbreaking],” said McGuire.
It wasn’t easy, though. He had a difficult time getting help and making sense of the social security system. It bothered him that it made more sense to sit around collecting welfare than to work. He knew a brain injury association had an office nearby so he walked over there only to find out it had been shut down.
“My frustration came out. I wanted to scream and yell because of the lack of services out there,” said McGuire. “I was dealing with a lot of negative people.”
To relieve those frustrations he began running. And he hasn’t stopped.
His wife had a connection with a specialty footwear store in Vancouver, so he went to work there. Every morning he’d lace up his shoes and run 21 kilometres to the West Broadway outlet, and then run back after work.
“I don’t know what the switch was. It was one thing I could do by myself. I didn’t need somebody to drive me there,” said McGuire.
He ran some marathons and competed in some triathlons, including the World Ironman in Penticton, but wanted to take it all to another level.
The Steve Nash-produced film about Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope in 1980 inspired him to do a similar trip. He contacted Braintrust Canada, a Kelowna-based organization, and they agreed to help make it happen, assigning Melissa Wild to accompany him across the country.
McGuire started in St. John’s, Nfld., on March 31, alongside about 100 kids and a police motorcycle escort.
Along the route, McGuire made appearances to talk about brain injury prevention. Although his was not preventable, about 90 per cent of serious brain injuries are—especially by wearing helmets.
He was helped by the fact concussions had become a hot issue in the media, particularly the one suffered by hockey’s biggest superstar.
“The timing was right not only because of Sidney Crosby, but brain injury prevention has been on everyone’s minds recently. The side benefit of that is it’s getting people to talk,” said McGuire.
The cross-country trek had many trials and tribulations.
“I had no idea what real weather is like,” he said. “Ontario was huge. Ontario was never ending.”
Along the way he got food poisoning and a lung infection. He also developed knee and foot problems. One foot throbbed so much he couldn’t sleep. But pride prevented him from stopping.
“I’m so lucky. There are so many people that can’t do this. I had this incredible opportunity. If I help one person avoid a brain injury it’ll have been worth it. I know that sounds cheezy, but it’s true,” McGuire said.
After enduring the cold of Rogers Pass and the Coquihalla Highway, spotting the Pattullo Bridge last Thursday was a welcome sight.
“I know where I am in the world again,” said McGuire. “My internal GPS is gone, but I know where I am now.”
Run to Remember, which at last report had raised $40,000 in cash, wraps up this weekend in Victoria.
“My wife wants me to get a real job,” said McGuire with a smile that seems ever-present. “How do you put running across Canada on a resume? What have you been doing [career-wise] in the last nine months?”
While making his presentation at the Quay, McGuire forgot the name of his speech pathologist. His short-term memory loss can serve as a good excuse not to remember names or dates. But his wife won’t give him a break when it comes to their anniversary since they got married on 08-08-08.
“She said, ‘Not a chance there buddy,’ “ laughed McGuire.
• For more on McGuire’s journey go to www. runtoremember.com; or brain injury prevention go to www.braintrustcanada.com.