Les Paul Morgan’s life changed 28 years ago.
“I loved riding and racing motorcycles, I was very athletic and played a lot of different things. I had headaches on occasion that were strong, but I didn’t think much about them,” the North Augusta resident said.
One day, what he figured was simply another headache was something much more serious. Morgan, then 22, was a senior operator at a factory in Aiken when he experienced his first aneurysm in 1984.
“In that much time,” he said as he snapped his fingers, “I had a rapid, severe pain, as if someone hit me in the head with a baseball bat. It felt like it had exploded.”
He was rushed to the hospital, and doctors had to do several operations.
Ten years later, Morgan had a second aneurysm. Between the two, he had a few concussions. The incidents and surgeries have contributed to him having short-term memory loss, he said.
Morgan has used his story to help others. He has worked with Walton Options as a peer supporter advocate for 10 years. He facilitates the Augusta Brain Injury Support Group and the CSRA Dream Catchers, which are for those who have a brain injury, spinal cord injury or another disability, their families and those interested in learning more about the disabilities.
“It’s something I love. I get to meet people with new brain injuries and related injuries and share my story with them. Hopefully, they’ll learn how to share theirs and move forward with their lives,” he said.
He is also on the boards of the Brain Injury Association of South Carolina and the Brain Injury Association of Georgia, and is with the ThinkFirst Foundation, an organization that aims to prevent brain and spinal cord injuries.
“I’ve been on a long journey, but I’m still here,” said Morgan, who celebrates his 50th birthday Friday.
Morgan and others hope to raise awareness about brain injuries this month, which is Brain Injury Awareness Month. The 5K Brain Injury Awareness Walk, sponsored by Walton Rehabilitation Health System and Neuro-Restorative Georgia, will be from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Columbia County Amphitheater in Evans. Proceeds benefit the Augusta Brain Injury Support Group.
Traumatic brain injuries affect about 2.5 million people in the U.S., said Dr. Pam Salazar, the medical director at Walton Rehabilitation Hospital.
“A brain injury is any event that causes disruption of the functioning of the brain,” she said, noting that damage to the brain can affect a person’s ability to move, speak or think.
Motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries and falls are the most common causes of traumatic brain injuries. Nontraumatic brain injuries can be caused by medical issues such as a disruption of the flow of oxygen to the brain.
Generally, the most rapid recovery is expected within the first six to 12 months after a brain injury has occurred. After that time, recovery continues, but often at a slower rate, Salazar said.
Morgan hopes the walk will provide encouragement for others who have suffered brain injuries.
“You can live life after a brain injury,” he said.