Thursday, August 4, 2011

No memory of the conversation, meet Tyler Presnell

I didn't know him before. I didn't know him during. I met Tyler Presnell after.

The moment that marks the 'after' point in Tyler Presnell's life was a vehicle collision that occurred when he was 14-years old. The misjudgment of a teenage driver slammed Presnell's side of the car into a telephone pole. His sister crawled out of the car. His twin brother took off running and collapsed when the resulting hyper-adrenalin surge maxed out his ability to function.

Crumpled inside the car, Presnell could only moan, moments he doesn't remember. Memory he might trade, if the trade-off meant the reversal of his incurable inability to remember the thing he just said.

Tyler Presnell and Tai Telford
Last year, Presnell and I spent Saturday mornings with his girlfriend Tai in a coffee shop.

He'd discovered my phone number on the internet, placed a call to me between speaking gigs, mentioned he couldn't believe he had remembered to call me, and asked for my help.

I knew who he was. I'd read this article in the local paper. It stuck in my head because I'm a mom. There's a teenager in the house. I considered whether my teenager has the fortitude to resist peer pressure, the one thing that could have saved Presnell from waking up from a coma and discovering he was a 14-year old baby who had to relearn everything he took for granted: walking, talking, feeding himself.

I agreed to help get him started developing an online presence. The three of us mapped out a plan to create a blog, some social media accounts and some simple, simple steps that would get him closer to creating a speaking career that would allow him to get his story in-front of the audience who needs to hear it, young drivers.

My career took an unexpected direction when I decided to change jobs. My extra time evaporated into other responsibilites. I realized I would have with less and less moments to work on my heartfelt pro bono project, and I put Presnell in touch with others who we felt might be able to take him through the next steps. Now he has a website, more speaking engagements,more opportunities, more friends,' but some things are the same.

Presnell remains plagued by constant pain, half of his right leg is still paralyzed and he continues to struggle with memory due to the brain injury he sustained in the collision.

He's so real. He has real struggles, he makes real choices--less life or more life, and he also has real influence, but it all comes one-on-one and no amount of social media, internet SEO, or fancy online gyrations will replace the personal conversation with the man who lived to tell the story.

The story isn't about compassion or feeling sorry for his situation, his message is to stop being self-centered. His message is to start to respect each other on the road. It's not about us getting to where we need to go, it's about all of us arriving safely.

Drive friendly, today.

Tyler Presnell's Foundation.
Tyler Presnell speaks to Congress.
Tyler Presnell podcast, on
Tyler Presnell raps on respect, seriously, YouTube (and below).