Six years ago, Dundalk resident Scott Collier was driving a company truck on a work-related errand when a tree root in the ground caught part of the vehicle’s plow harness, and he went from a slow speed of 10 to 15 miles per hour to a sudden, dead stop.
“It doesn’t seem fast when you’re in a car, but 10 to 15 miles per hour is pretty quick when something happens,” says Collier.
His head slammed into the sun visor area, while his arms and legs wrapped around the steering wheel.
He had been as in a rush that day. The seat belt of the borrowed vehicle he was driving had been left fastened to prevent the annoying warning buzzer that accompany an unfastened belt.
Collier suffered a traumatic brain injury, and, as a consequence, his life changed dramatically.
A TBI is an injury in which the brain is damaged by an external force. Varying in severity, a TBI may result in a minor concussion, change a person’s personality and cognitive abilities, or worse.
For Collier, the results were catastrophic.
“I’ve learned how hard it is to go through life when your greatest fear in life is yourself,” he wrote.
Collier’s friends and family noticed major changes as well.
“Scott was a raving maniac after that accident,” said Collier’s uncle in one of many YouTube videos Collier created to chronicle his experience and raise awareness about TBI. “Irrational…Screaming…He couldn’t be calmed down.”
Collier’s friend Jean Chreist, with whom he participated in historic reenactments of the War of 1812, could also clearly see that something was wrong.
“After a bit, it seemed like he just wasn’t fitting in,” she said, adding that Collier was apparently having serious difficulties taking direction and completing tasks such as loading rifles with blanks or marching in formation.
“We didn’t know what was going on with Scott, but we knew that he had some sort of problem,” Chreist said, adding that Collier soon started to “drift away” from the reenactment group.
Collier’s difficulties were far beyond the medical, or even the mental.
“An injury like this can put people in the poorhouse,” Collier says. “I’m very lucky to have a roof over my head. If I didn’t live in a family-owned house, I’d be out on the street, and there would be nothing I could do about it.”
Somehow, he pulled himself together.
“He resurfaced,” recalled Chreist. “Scott had dropped a lot of weight. He seemed calmer…more focused. It was like a transformation.”
A large part of Collier’s cognitive therapy has been his dogged and single-minded mission to bring more awareness of TBI, as well as to encourage preventative measures.
One thing he says again and again: “I am 100-percent sure that prevention is the cure, and knowledge is the key.”
In his crusade, Collier has expanded his knowledge base not only on the topic of TBI, but also to the tools to get his message across.
Since his injury, Collier has become more technology-savvy and computer literate. With the help of friends, he learned to video record himself and post the videos online to chronicle TBI and his struggle.
“Someone told me I should put stuff on YouTube,” Collier recalls. “I typed in ‘u’; they said, ‘No, it’s y-o-u.’”
On July 29, 2012, Collier posted his first video on TBI and launched his own YouTube channel, DundalkTV. “Webisodes” include interviews with elected officials and snippets of his own story, as well as tips on prevention and precautions. He recently interviewed Annie Ricketts, a TBI sufferer from the U.K. who, like Collier, is trying to raise awareness of the debilitating injury and add to the support network for those who suffer from it.
While TBI is the focus of DundalkTV, the YouTube channel also chronicles community events, including a Dundalk Christmas celebration, the Historical Society Train Garden, and the first day at the new Dundalk High School.
Collier truly believes that prevention is the most important topic when it comes to TBI. He says that helmets should be mandatory for all contact sports.
“When you ride a bike, you don’t use your head at all, and you’re supposed to wear a helmet,” he says. “In soccer, you’re supposed to use your head, and there’s no helmet. That doesn’t make sense to me.”
The culmination of Collier’s efforts is the TBI Awareness and Prevention Picnic and resource fair, this Saturday, Sept. 21, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., on the Community College of Baltimore County Dundalk Campus. The picnic will be held on the athletic field on Merritt Blvd., between Searles Rd. and Moorgate Rd.
“This is three years of me working my butt off to bring TBI awareness to our community,” says Collier. “There will be many events on September 21, but I’m unaware of any other events on that day that just might save your life or the life of someone you love.”
Attendees are asked to bring lunches in picnic baskets. CCBC prohibits grills, smoking and alcoholic beverages.
In addition to the picnic, Collier has a petition on change.org for Dr. Phil to “help stop the global TBI epidemic.”
“Ten million brain injuries occurred last year,” Collier says. “A lot of those can be prevented.”
Find more information on the petition on Collier’s Facebook page, facebook.com/scott.collier.543.
by Erik Zygmont