Finding purpose after tragedy
A lesson for every parent
Nine years ago, at age 7, T.J. Floyd lost his independence just as he was discovering it. His parents, Heather and Bo, lost the child they knew — and all the dreams and aspirations they had for him. But out of tragedy, they found a purpose. Now they have new dreams and aspirations for their son.
The Floyds’ lives changed in a split second in April 2010 when T.J. flipped over the handlebars of his bike and landed very hard on the pavement. He wasn’t wearing a helmet.
His siblings couldn’t rouse him and ran to get their parents. They found him unresponsive and called 911. He was rushed to Norton Children’s Hospital.
“We were put in a room alone off the emergency department and chaplains came to talk to us,” Heather said. “It was terrifying.”
At the same time his parents were learning that T.J. may not survive, he was being rushed into surgery to remove bleeding on his brain and repair a fractured skull. The left side of his brain was severely damaged.
But T.J. did survive.
He spent 63 days in the hospital and endured three brain surgeries. Now, nine years and nine surgeries later, the hospital stays and therapy visits are well into the thousands.
“The first years he was like an infant,” Heather said. “He had a feeding tube, was incontinent, and his speech, language, memory and ability to walk were gone.”
Those were dark days for Heather. Her world was turned upside down.
“I felt very alone, hopeless and overwhelmed. And then one day I saw T.J. smile,” Heather said. “He was happy. He was laughing.”
T.J.’s laugh pulled Heather out of depression. Inspired to connect with others facing the same challenges, she started an online support group for families affected by traumatic brain injuries.
She also started working with state legislators to pass a bill that would raise awareness about the need for children to wear helmets. She took on speaking engagements and learning events. News spread about a message she felt passionate to share: Kids need to wear helmets.
That’s when Heather established T.J.’s Warriors, a group with the mission of “protecting children from brain injury one helmet at a time.”
T.J. has improved far beyond anyone imagined after his initial prognosis. He no longer needs a feeding tube and he is talking and walking. He has defied many odds, including that he would need to use a wheelchair. His progress is thanks in part to new gait technology funded by the Children’s Hospital Foundation at Norton Mobility Lab at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital.
Teaming up with T.J.'s Warriors
The Children's Hospital Foundation and T.J.'s Warriors have teamed up to help more kids wear helmets because they want to! In conjunction with Norton Children's Prevention & Wellness, the foundation is working to support training and education, along with ongoing funding for Nutcase helmets.
You can help out by making a donation on this page or by joining the T.J.’s Warriors team for the Splash ‘n’ Dash Walk/Run on Aug. 3!