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A Twist of Fate: Traumatic brain injury survivor aims to empower others to conquer their limits

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Before experiencing a traumatic brain injury, all Austin Morgan knew about the brain was the fact that he had one. But now, the biology sophomore from Georgetown is planning to change his major to neuroscience.

“Not many people in that field have the background or real experience that I have dealing with a traumatic injury,” Morgan says. “I feel like a unique puzzle piece in that way.”

In 2014, Morgan was riding his dirt bike when he lost control in a technical section of the motocross track. At the time of the accident, a fellow rider had also crashed in a different section of the track, so an ambulance was already on the way. The first rider to approach Austin was a paramedic and together with his mother, who is a nurse, they stabilized his airway until he was life-flighted to the University Medical Center Brackenridge. Without those two twists of fate, Morgan is unsure if he would have survived.

He spent several months at St. David’s Medical Center as he progressed through physical, occupational and speech therapy. He has spasticity, which causes a continuous contraction of his flexor muscles in the right side of his body (forearm, bicep, hamstring and calf) as well as aphasia, which at times causes him trouble in finding the correct words to complete sentences. His memory was also greatly affected.

After surviving a near-death experience, Morgan wants to take full advantage of the many opportunities that come his way. In addition to increasing his coursework load, he is participating in HOPE Austin, a service organization that promotes health awareness and aid to the campus and community.

He also teamed up with a recent graduate to start Empower360, a new organization that will inspire members to fight and conquer their limits.

With assistance from Services for Students with Disabilities, Morgan knows there are no limits on his path to graduation. He receives additional test-taking time and a reduced- distraction environment as well as copies of class notes.

“The staff at SSD are excellent—and they’re more than willing to work with you on anything,” Morgan says.

Morgan, who is a self-admitted hard-headed individual, refuses to accept “no” under any circumstances—even when his doctors warned him against working out his adductor or flexor muscles again. Despite their warnings, he took to the gym and proved them wrong.

Morgan plans to apply a similar outlook as he progresses deeper into the field of neuroscience.

“Although I may never be a surgeon due to my spasticity, I believe I’ll open so many doors as I’ll have both the mental and physical experience in the field of brain science.”