Brad Baylis had a head-butting contest with a moose.
“And I won … that’s the story,” he says with a laugh.
If you were a betting person, you would be forgiven for betting on the moose. But you would have lost. In the aftermath of the ‘head-butting contest’ in late August 2018, the odds-maker, also known as neurosurgeon Dr. Myp Sekhon, gave Baylis less than a 10 per cent chance of surviving.
Baylis, 39, was driving to his home in Prince George after spending a weekend at the Bulkley Valley Fall Fair.
Between Fraser Lake and Fort Fraser by Drywilliam Lake a moose ran out of the woods and Baylis’ SUV hit it head on, sending him careening into a ditch nearly a kilometre down the road. The crash knocked Baylis unconscious. The commotion alerted a nearby resident who immediately called 9-1-1. A passerby also stopped to help until first responders arrived on the scene.
While Baylis jokes that he won the head-butting contest, in actuality he doesn’t remember any of his accident.
“I barely remember the weekend before that,” he says.
He was airlifted to Vancouver General Hospital where the medical teams evaluated his injuries — which were severe. He had fractured his cheek, orbital and nasal bones, the upper palate in his mouth, and his forehead … more than 150 breaks in the bones in his face. His brain had extreme swelling and bleeds.
“Thank goodness our volunteer fire departments and medical responders are as well-trained as they are,” he said. “The medical staff in Vancouver said if the first responders wouldn’t have acted, and treated me, as if I had a brain injury, there’s no way I would have made it.”
When Baylis arrived at Vancouver General Hospital, his prognosis was grim.
“When Dr. Sekhon went over the initial CT scan with Brad’s mom and I, his brain had become so swollen that it had nowhere else to go,” says Carla Lewism Baylis’ partner. “All of the little ridges in his brain were completely gone and it was starting to push down on his brain stem. He had little bleeds all over the place and a more severe bleed on his right lobe.”
The prognosis was that if he did make it through, there was a high chance he would be in a vegetative state and that he would never walk again.
“There’s about a month-and-a-half where I have no recollection of even a thought,” he says. “They put me in an induced coma and induced hypothermia. The coma was for a little over three weeks. But I’m lucky I had the support of my partner and my parents. You never think of the kind of support you might have until it happens. I saw friends that I hadn’t seen since high school and they came down to visit me. I was blown away.”
He was in Vancouver General Hospital for about three months and G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre for about a month-and-a-half.
His recovery has been nothing less than miraculous. Even though hasn’t yet returned to work as a welder, he is recovering well. He has problems with his short-term memory and fatigues easily, but is mobile again and getting back into a normal life.
And part of his miraculous recovery is due to cutting edge technology called a brain bolt.
Dr. Sekhon and his team decided to use the brain bolt, equipped with a new micro-dialysis catheter not found anywhere else in Canada.
The brain bolt is a cutting-edge brain monitoring device. By placing specialized catheters into a patient’s brain, the medical team receives vital second-to-second information including oxygen levels, blood pressure and, since summer 2018 a new feature; nutrient supply. This level of sophistication is not in use anywhere else in Canada — and only a few places globally — due to the level of expertise and expense required.
The technology was developed in Sweden and Dr. Sekhon trained on how to use the technology at Cambridge in the U.K.
“We put the bolt and the catheter into Brad’s brain and the numbers we got back were astounding,” says Dr. Sekhon. “The micro-dialysis numbers revealed that his brain cells were under severe stress and actively degenerating. They were being starved of oxygen and nutrient supply.”
Immediately, this information changed Baylis direction of care. The team brought his body temperature down, increased the nutrient levels in his blood, increased his heart function, and controlled his ventilator very specifically. In a few hours, his brain cells started to pick up and function properly.
During those days, Lewis didn’t know if Baylis would ever wake up and if he did, what kind of function he would have. She was terrified her partner would be lost to her either way.
“They took him off the sedative and it wore off the next morning,” says Lewis. “Gratefully, I was with him when he woke up and he gave us the thumbs up when we asked him if he was OK.”
Carla describes this moment as one of the most unbelievable experiences of her life.
“The only thing I can compare it to is like watching your child being born. It was just this surge of all different sorts of emotions,” she says.
After getting out of the woods with his brain injury, Baylis needed facial reconstruction surgery for the extreme damage he sustained in the crash. He also needed physical rehabilitation to help him walk again.
“It was 10 hours of reconstructive surgery (to put 12 plates into his face) … then I got to rehab they worked on my short-term memory and they worked on getting me walking again,” he said. “That’s the strangest thing in the word, being 39 and physically telling your legs and your feet where to go and what to do. I had to learn how to walk again.”
Brad has returned to his life in Prince George and is feeling very close to a full recovery. While he has ongoing vision issues, he has returned to the Brad everyone knows and loves. He doesn’t suffer from headaches or other common issues associated with head injuries. He feels so lucky to have not only survived the crash, but to be able to continue his lifelong adventure with his partner Carla and to be an active parent to their children, Holden, Bodie, Grier and Levi.
He also wants to give back and help raise money for more hospitals to have the technological equipment that saved his life. The best to do that is to tell his story in support of the VGH and UBC Hospital Foundations Millionaire Lottery.
The Millionaire Lottery supports VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation and money raised goes to funding innovative research, advancing specialized adult health care, and purchasing critical medical equipment at Vancouver General Hospital, UBC Hospital, GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, Vancouver Community Health Services and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.
“VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation is thankful to everyone who supports the Millionaire Lottery,” said Barbara Grantham, President and CEO. “Every year across BC over 700,000 people are injured, and 60 per cent of all adult trauma cases are managed by VGH & UBC Hospital. A single stretcher alone costs approximately $6,800, and the community support of the Millionaire Lottery helps fund an extensive amount of hospital equipment and specialized medical devices, as well as much-needed research; ultimately saving the lives of British Columbians every day.”
The grand prize winner of the Millionaire lottery can choose one of seven luxury homes located in Vancouver, North Vancouver, White Rock, Langley, Sidney, Sooke Point, and Kelowna. The winner also has the option of choosing $2.7 million in tax-free cash instead of taking one of the prize homes. The prize homes located in White Rock and Langley will be open for tours daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting on Saturday, Oct 19. Visit www.millionairelottery.com for more details.
Millionaire Lottery tickets are 2 for $100, 5 for $175, 10 or $250 and 25 for $500. The lottery also includes extra games: the 50/50 PLUS lottery with a maximum prize payout up to $1,140,000 (depending on the number of tickets sold), and the Daily Cash PLUS game returns with 105 days of winning, with a value of all prizes being $300,000.
Ticket sales for the Millionaire Lottery run until midnight, January 10, 2020. Individuals can purchase their tickets on-line at www.millionairelottery.com, by phone: 604-602-5848, toll-free: 1-888-445-5825, or in-person at VGH, any London Drugs, or at the White Rock and North Langley prize homes. Visit millionairelottery.com for location details.