TBI survivor gets back on her bike to help other veterans

In 1987, retired Air Force Capt. Sue Davis was going for a bike ride — one of her favorite activities. As she rounded a corner, a car driving erratically collided with her. Sue wasn’t wearing a helmet.

“I had a helmet — but, back then, the only time I’d ever seen accidents were in large organized bike rides. … So I didn’t wear a helmet, and most of my friends didn’t wear helmets either,” Sue said. “I have my brain injury because of a poor decision. … It had an impact that’s been a lifelong impact that I can’t change.”

Sue was initially diagnosed with a concussion, but after her symptoms — such as memory loss and speech problems — persisted, her doctors diagnosed a more severe brain injury. Over time and through treatment, Sue’s speech problems subsided and her memory grew stronger. Yet she was scared to cycle again, and thought that she never would. 

After 20 years, Sue overcame the fear that stemmed from her crash, getting back on her bike to complete a charity ride. That’s when she realized: “You never know what you can do until you try.”

Completing the ride showed Sue that she had recovered from traumatic brain injury (TBI). “That was me proving to me that I could ride and things were going to be OK,” she said.

Now Sue bikes regularly and takes part in long-distance rides. Recently, she participated in a 400-mile ride to help injured veterans. No matter where she is riding, Sue makes sure that everyone is wearing a helmet. She also shares her story to inspire other veterans to be safe and get help if they may have experienced TBI.

Check out our tips for preventing TBI. For more information, download the TBI Awareness Fact Sheet from the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, and read this blog post from the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.