Brady McLaughlin is a member at the Torigian Family YMCA in Peabody and a daily presence there.  He came to the YMCA wheelchair bound a couple of years ago to attend the Partnership Program, which is unique to the Torigian branch.  Through hard work and determination Brady has worked with personal trainer, Steve, to regain enough strength in his legs that he can get by without the assistance of a wheelchair.  The following, told in his own words, is a story about how the YMCA impacted Brady’s  life and gave him the courage and strength to stand before an audience at our Where in the World Celebration to talk about his experience.

“My name is Brady.  I stand before you as a survivor of an accidental drug overdose. And when I say stand, that is something a couple of years ago I wasn’t sure I would ever do again.  I survived an accidental drug overdose while I was in college in Santa Barbara California, and what I mean by accidental is that I never wanted to overdose, I never thought it would happen to me, but then it happened. Being a drug user for years, I thought I knew what I was doing.  However, in anyone’s struggle with addiction drugs will win almost every time.

So what brought me to the YMCA? I acquired a brain injury in June of 2017.  A crazy night of partying led me to waking up two months later asking my mom “how fast was I going?”. I thought I got into a car accident.  I didn’t want to hear that I overdosed.  Nobody wants to hear that they OD’d.  Waking up after being in a coma for nearly 2 months, I had no clue as to what was going on and where I was.  I woke up and could not move a thing…and when I say a thing, I could not move my arms, my legs or even talk.  I did a good number on myself for sure.  Then one day, when I was in Spaulding Rehab, I yawned and I moved my leg and that’s when I knew I was going OK.

For some reason I was okay with where I was at, I was pretty content being at Spaulding Rehab in Charlestown overlooking beautiful Boston Harbor.  Little did I know what lay ahead.  I was discharged from Spaulding after spending 100 days there and went home to living in a hospital bed in my living room.  It was October and I was living in Salem, you know how that goes.  My mom and sister took me to downtown Salem to check out Salem Haunted Happenings…in a wheelchair.  You wanna talk about being embarrassing?  Every time I got into that wheelchair it was my motivation to get out of it.

So then I started going to the YMCA in January 2018.  I was too embarrassed to go in a wheelchair so I tried to walk in with a walker.  I couldn’t do it.  So I went in with a wheelchair, nearly covering my face in embarrassment.  Then I met my man Steve!  Steve was the first person to get me walking with a walker.  That was a huge deal!  There truly is no worse feeling than trying to take a step and your brain not allowing you to.  Having no balance was something I had to embrace too.  I keep that in mind every day when walking.

The YMCA has opened a ton of doors for me.  From my social life, to getting back to myself physically.  I have met a bunch of friends here and everyone is always down to help me when I need it.  From Debbie and Ursula moving the rugs every time I come, and every time I go, so I won’t trip.  To Kevin and Steve jumping up to help me when I fall off the treadmill …that only happened once…and let’s just say I didn’t go on the treadmill for a couple weeks after that happened.  Everyone here is so kind and helpful.  Always letting me know that I’m doing a good job and to keep fighting the good fight.

Living with a traumatic brain injury can be frustrating, but has always made me realize how lucky I am. Things could be much worse.  Everyone stops using drugs eventually but few live to talk about it.  I would like to thank Steve, my trainer, and Chris Tognazzi for getting me into the program, but more importantly for teaching that class on Wednesdays night and getting the beautiful ladies in here.  And also want to thank Kathleen Walsh for encouraging me to share my story.”

-Brady McLaughlin, 22 year old Torigian Family YMCA member