Doug Markgraf has always loved cycling. It was initially attracted to the sense of independence it afforded him. It was that sense of independence that inspired him to move to Philadelphia to attend Drexel University. It didn’t take Markgraf long to acclimate himself to taking long bike rides around the city. However, in May 2006, while Markgraf was riding back from a meeting in the bike lane, he was struck by a large pickup truck towing an ATV. The driver sped off, never to be found again, leaving Markgraf’s helmet damaged and his bicycle destroyed. As a result, he sustained a traumatic brain injury and doctors had to induce a two-week secondary coma to reduce brain swelling.
When Doug Markgraf awoke, he was only capable of responding to very simple requests and stimuli. He was transferred to a TBI rehab facility where he struggled with memory and gaining balance. However, he was not content to let his traumatic brain injury (TBI) prevent him from cycling. Though he was told that he would never ride again—maybe a stationary bike—Markgraf would not accept that outcome. He drew strength from reading fellow cyclist and TBI survivor Saul Raisin’s blog. A sense of friendly competition with Saul spurred Markgraf to recovery. Each week he asked to be tested on the balancing machine and felt immense pride the first time he was able to get onto a treadmill.
Markgraf’s recovery has been remarkable. He spent the summer of 2011 cycling across the country from San Francisco to Toms River, NJ. Markgraf’s inspiring recovery is the subject of the new documentary “This Beats a Coma.” The documentary will discuss his accident, TBI treatment, cross-country ride and TBI activism.
Markgraf’s activism has included an annual Head Injury Ride for Recovery, which uses the motto, “riding from Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park to Ambler really does beat a coma.” This year’s ride coincided with the “Mend the Mind” Brain Injury Revitalization and Recovery Expo which took place at Ambler Theater, at the ride’s end. The expo screened “This Beats a Coma” and raised money for brain injury care, advocacy and research.
The film will also be sent to hospitals and support groups nationwide. “There’s value in seeing a story of recovery like mine,” said Markgraf. “I want everyone to come and see this for the first time, and then tell other people to see it. It’s an opportunity for survivors to connect with others, to meet other people in the field, to see a widespread view of brain-injury care.”