The last thing Tim Bransfield remembers was attending a party with his high school baseball teammate. Returning home, he then left the house to go visit his then-girlfriend. College — and a starting position as shortstop on the Wheaton College baseball team — was only two weeks away.
He woke up 60 days later.
“Everyone told me immediately to give up on baseball,” said the Wakefield resident, who suffered a seizure.
“I’m not a quitter; I’ve never quit anything I’ve ever done,” Bransfield said. “I tore an ACL in fourth grade and I tried out for the Amateur Athletic Union [New England Mariners] team regardless. I was the first 12-year-old to make the 13-year-old team and I made the team with a giant knee brace.”
Often referred to as America’s silent epidemic, traumatic brain injuries affect an estimated 1.7 million a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bransfield’s injury came from a car crash on Aug. 14, 2002. All he knows is that his 6-foot-3-inch frame flew from the driver’s seat through the passenger side window and hit a tree.
“It was the worst time of my life, thank God I’m not there anymore,” said Bransfield, who starred in baseball at Masconomet Regional High School in Topsfield. He still struggles with short-term memory.
Now 31, his book “A Life Interrupted,” was published in April 2015.
“I wanted to show people that anything is possible,” he said. “I did it and so many other I met over the years do it every day. Don’t give up because you don’t know what would’ve happened if you gave up.”
On Nov. 30, Bransfield will be joining Hampton, N.H., resident Karen Leavitt on her radio show to discuss his story as well as hers.
In 2013, Leavitt was on her way home along Interstate 95 when another driver swerved to avoid a group of deer. She slammed through the dashboard as the car spiraled across the lanes. She then hit the steering column, the force so intense it moved, straining her spine and causing compression fractures in her cerebral vertebrae.
When her car came to rest, she exited her seat fearing the vehicle would ignite; unknowingly she was facing oncoming traffic.
“I learned I had a concussion, I was bruised everywhere, and I had some injuries from the airbags,” she said. “At that point nothing was broken and I returned to work.”
Soon Leavitt began to experience concerning symptoms: trouble seeing, speaking, and impaired motor skills. Her defining day came when she was trying to put silverware away. Her hands began to cross and the knives, forks, and spoons fell into the wrong spaces.
“I became, what I call, a ball of yarn rolling across a floor,” Leavitt said. “Everything I knew what to do, I couldn’t do.”
It took over a month to determine that she had traumatic brain-post concussive syndrome.
On her VoiceAmerica Empowerment Channel radio show, “The Sky’s the Limit,” Leavitt focuses on her personal journey as well as others who also are overcoming adversity and their challenges.
“The program is about inspiring people, everyday who think life is really tough,” she said. “I want to inspire people to really live fully. My diagnoses tells me why I’m on the journey but it doesn’t define me.”
In combination with her own experience and watching her stepchildren run from hockey to baseball to soccer practice, her most recent focus is on student-athletes and concussions,
“I want to help shed light on that, to assist the teachers, schools, and students on concussion protocol and encourage parents to ask questions,” Leavitt said.
Her show with Bransfield will air Dec. 16. The show streams online from voiceamerica.com every Wednesday at 8 p.m.
“When you look at us, we don’t look like we have a brain injury,” Leavitt said. “You don’t see the disability. So I’m really honored to step up with [Bransfield].”
For both, this is an opportunity to tell their story, inspire, and create awareness.
“I learned a lot about people and who I was, too, it took all the strength in the world to get to where I am,” Bransfield said. “Never give up, giving up is for losers and no one on this earth wants to be a loser. That’s the kind of person I was and am today, so why start now?”