Love Endures: A Remarkable Recovery Leads to a New Future
May 15, 2023
It’s true that a road trip can change your life, and it did for Sergeant Brandon Ott, just not in the way he was expecting. For nine years, Brandon worked alongside his friend, Denton Tipler, at the police department in Florence, Oregon. To break the monotony of the COVID-19 lockdown, they planned a ‘guy’s trip’ - a pandemic safe, motorcycle adventure traveling through Idaho and Washington.
On the morning of July 22, 2020, they set out on their journey. But by 8 p.m., they ran into rough weather - with wind, poor visibility and heavy rain as they rode into Nevada. Four miles from their destination, on a desolate stretch of Highway 140, a gust of wind hit Brandon. Denton watched in disbelief as his friend bounced, tumbled and ultimately came to a stop after sliding over 100 yards. He flagged down the next vehicle, a semi-truck, and the driver did traffic control while another passerby drove to get cell service and call 911.
A Distressing CallAbout 10 p.m. the same night, Angie Brog, Brandon’s partner, picked up her phone at the Florence police station. A Nevada highway patrolman let her know Brandon was in a motorcycle accident and had been taken to a hospital in Winnemucca, NV. From there he took a life flight to Renown Regional Medical Center.
Angie immediately called Brandon’s parents and told Addison, their 9-year-old daughter, the news. They quickly packed their bags and drove to Nevada. On the drive to Reno, an ER doctor called Angie to give her Brandon’s status, “I can’t thank him enough. I was so worried. He even gave me his personal cell phone number.”
Upon arrival, she ran to see Brandon in the trauma ICU. “His face was shattered, he had a collapsed lung, a tube was down his throat and something was in his head to relieve pressure from his swelling brain,” she remembers.
“He was not expected to live.”
While Brandon was in a coma for three days, Angie was by his side, trying to come to grips with a new normal. “The doctors did not sugarcoat it,” she recalls. “They told me to prepare myself if he pulled through.”
It was a rough week in the ICU with Brandon heavily sedated, so he could heal. From there he was transferred to the neurology floor, where he slowly improved. While there, his daughter Addison got to see him for the first time. Angie says, “When Addison saw her daddy for the very first time, she was relieved, happy she could hug him, and that he was alive.” Miraculously his legs were not broken and he was able to hold simple conversations and walk a few steps.
As the days went on, Brandon’s dad returned to Oregon, and the Inn at Renown became the family’s new home. “It was such a blessing to be so close to Brandon,” Angie observes. “It allowed us to relax a little being in the same building and let us settle in.”
The ComebackBrandon’s first memory after the accident was waking up in the Renown Rehabilitation Hospital, 16 days after his accident, not knowing where he was. (Brandon experienced amnesia due to his brain injury and doesn’t remember the days prior to his rehab stay.) He recalls looking around the hospital room and seeing the photos Angie posted of their family on the walls and wondering, “How did they get pictures of my family?” Immediately after learning that Brandon was awake, Angie raced back to the hospital, went outside his window and talked to Brandon on the phone, reassuring him that they were there for him and everything was going to be ok.
The next morning, he saw Addison for the first time that he remembered since his accident. They each put their hands to the hospital window “touching” each other in an emotional reunion. During the pandemic, each rehab hospital room was designated with an animal, so family and friends could visit outside safely. Brandon was in the ‘moose’ room. “Whoever thought of that was a genius,” notes Brandon.
A new phase of Brandon’s recovery began at the rehab hospital. "He worked so hard while he was there,” Angie shares. With a minimum of three hours of daily therapy sessions, including speech, occupational and physical therapy. Angie participated in every aspect of his therapy, “I learned so much from the therapists; they included me in everything,” she recalls. “The compassion and patience they have is amazing. It takes a special type of person to do this job. I cannot say enough good things about the Renown Rehabilitation Hospital staff. If he would have been anywhere else, I’m not sure he would be alive,” she says.
It wasn’t easy. Brandon had a brain injury that required a bolt in his skull to relieve the pressure, and a broken left collar bone and left eye socket. His entire face had to be reconstructed. He remembers his face hurting and thinking he looked like Freddy Krueger. When he saw himself in the mirror for the first time, he was surprised to find he only looked thinner, with a gauze pad on his temple.
Prior to the accident, Brandon weighed 300 pounds, but had just finished a year-long fitness journey losing 119 pounds, by doing CrossFit and overhauling his diet. During rehab his weight dropped to 160 pounds and he was known as “the double portion” guy, eating extra food to gain weight.
Shaun Stewart, Therapeutic Recreational Therapist, recalls Brandon riding the recumbent cycle during his recovery. “I remember him saying he didn’t know if he was ever going to be able to ride a bike again and was appreciative when adaptive sports were discussed. He was very willing to participate and excited to be able to get on a bike again. He had a positive attitude and always was willing to get up and get back on the bike.”
Better TogetherAlthough Angie and Brandon were in a committed relationship for almost 11 years, they were not legally married at the time of his accident. “In our minds, our lives were perfect,” Angie asserts. “We had lived together for so long and have a child together.” However, because of COVID-19 restrictions, Angie had to lie and tell the medical staff that they were married so she could be by his side. When Brandon woke up from a coma, she told him, “No matter what I’m your wife.” He asked, “What do you mean, you are my wife?” After hearing Angie’s explanation, Brandon said, “Then, let’s do it.”
“We realized when faced with death that the benefits far outweighed the negatives in becoming husband and wife,” Angie discloses. “The rest is history.”
On Tuesday, August 18, 2020, Brandon and Angie were married underneath the trees behind the rehab hospital. Their family, friends and several staff members attended the ceremony. “I think that’s a first for us,” declares Dr. Gavin Williams. “I cleared him for capacity to make decisions, and we had a COVID-friendly wedding on our back lawn before he went back home to Oregon.”
The next day, Brandon officially left the hospital. “I felt good. Like ‘he’s gonna make it,’ but I was also scared,” mentions Angie. The family stayed in town for a couple of days to make sure everything was ok and then traveled home to Oregon.
Not TodayDr. Williams set Brandon’s recovery in the range of six months to two years. Brandon set the six-month mark as his goal and returned to work full time in just under that time. Then, in March 2021, he and Denton completed the David Goggins challenge run – running 4 miles, every 4 hours for 48 hours. He completed the run with “not today” on the front of his shirt – a new motto.
After the race we wrote a letter of thanks to the Renown Rehabilitation Hospital staff. “I have learned doing ‘hard’ things on purpose is so important. I’ve said this a few times over the past few months after my crash, but I maintain it is the only reason I am still alive. When you do ‘hard’ things, your body (and more importantly your mind) is much better prepared for those unplanned times you face hardships. Maybe even a conversation with death itself, where I somehow had the strength to answer with a firm ‘not today’.”
Brandon describes the rehab hospital as, “A phenomenal facility. Everyone is happy to be there from the doctors, nurses and therapists, to the cleaning staff. Everyone was helpful and nice. They reinforced the positive aspects of my recovery and kept my head in a good spot.”
“Brandon was a great patient and he has made excellent recovery from his brain injury and multiple fractures,” Dr. Williams observes.
Life Goes On
These days you can find the Ott family happily spending time with Addison’s new German Shepard puppy Density, camping at Crater Lake for Father’s Day and planning future adventures. Angie reflects, “Life is so precious and tomorrow is never promised.”
Since his crash, Brandon sold all of his motorcycles and now prefers biking on his own power. He even completed a 50-mile ride on July 8, 2021.
“Before this happened, I was on the judgmental side,” Brandon confesses. “This recovery led me to a place of compassion realizing everyone has their own struggles. I’m a much more caring person and am aware how fragile life is. I appreciate life a lot more.”
In April 2023, Brandon ran the Eugene Marathon in his home state Oregon. "I was active and ran before my crash, but this marathon is something I would have likely been reluctant to try even before that," Brandon said. "I thought about a lot in the last 7 miles of those 26.2, and I kept coming back to how none of this would likely be possible, or if I would even be alive, if not for Renown and the staff."
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