Ontario snowboarder Kody Williams is lucky to be alive.

When a rare snowfall hit the city of Vancouver last December, Kody and his friends decided to ride some local handrails, doing tricks. What started as a routine jump for the experienced snowboarder, ended with him on the pavement below, unconscious with a severe injury to the right side of his head.

He was rushed to Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) for surgery and was unconscious until January 2. In early February, he was moved to GF Strong Rehab Centre to regain the motor skills he lost from the injury.

Amazingly, three months later, the 23-year-old is walking and even playing basketball with his dad.

“I’m feeling good,” he says. “I’m feeling the best I have in a long time—I’m getting back to basics and living a normal life.”

“Last week, I did my first run on the treadmill—it felt good to sweat,” he continues with a smile. “And I was shooting some hoops with my dad at GF Strong.”

Dr. Myp Sekhon, the physician who treated Kody with invasive neuromonitoring—intracranial pressure and brain oxygen monitoring—says the young man was in very bad shape when he came in. Dr. Sekhon’s colleague, Dr. Peter Gooderham, a neurosurgeon, operated to repair Kody’s skull.

“Honestly, he was a few hours away from being brain dead—it was pretty serious,” says Dr. Sekhon. “He was one of the most difficult cases I’ve ever had to manage in my career. But it’s impressive how fast he has recovered…the trajectory of how he’s gotten better is pretty remarkable.”

Kody’s mother, Jocelyn, is very grateful for the care her son received at VGH and GF Strong.

“Happy cannot even begin to describe how I feel about his recovery and the people who took care of him at VGH, GF Strong, as well as the whole snowboard community and the church community,” she says, looking at Kody. “I don’t know how to say thank you enough. We’re beyond grateful for the outcome. I keep calling it the ‘handoff.’ From emergency medical services who took the baton to the emergency room at VGH, who then took the baton to GF Strong—everyone took the baton and ran with it for my son.”

It was a tough experience, but Kody says he learned one big lesson from all of it.

“Once I start boarding again, I’m definitely going to wear a helmet,” he says. “And because of my accident, most of my friends are too, after they saw what happened to me.”

Traumatic brain injuries

  • Annually, an estimated 10 million people are affected by a traumatic brain injury globally.
  • In Canada, the annual cost of brain injuries has been estimated at $3 billion.
  • Brain injuries are a leading cause of death.  In Canada they account for about 30% of all injury deaths. 
  • According to the World Health Organization, traumatic brain injury will surpass many diseases as the major  cause of death and disability by the year 2020.
  • Approximately 1.5 million people in Canada are living with a brain injury.