Healthy Impressions

The strength to survive

Staying active helps Dave Loria cope with a traumatic brain injury.

He never stopped smiling, never lost hope, and never quit making the most out of his second chance.

Against all odds, the inspiring Dave Loria celebrates his 16-year recovery from a severe traumatic brain injury this month.

“People with traumatic brain injuries always say they want to be normal again,” says Dave, 64, a resident of The Villages. “You have to accept that where I am now is my new normal and always strive to do new things.”

Dave was completely unprepared for a life-changing event on Feb. 6, 2003. While riding his Harley-Davidson on a highway in California, Dave was traveling 70 mph when he made a hard turn to avoid a vehicle in front of him that came to a screeching halt. He was catapulted into the air and landed directly on his head.

After being airlifted to Stanford Medical Center, he underwent emergency surgery within 45 minutes of the accident.

“Had they not performed surgery so fast, I would’ve been dead,” he says.

Dave awoke from a two-week coma with severe aphasia, the loss of ability to understand or express speech. He spent two years relearning how to write, talk, read, and walk. His wife, Karen, labeled household items with sticky notes to help expand his weakened vocabulary.

“I knew how to use a knife and fork,” Dave says, “but I couldn’t remember what they were called.”

After moving to The Villages in 2008, Dave and Karen joined a local church choir, unaware it would help him. Music strengthened the neuropathways in his brain, improving his speech and comprehension skills.

“Everything got better after becoming part of the choir,” he says. “The right side of your brain is the creative part for activities like music, while being able to store words for the music I had to sing is one of the functions of the left side. Music stimulated both sides of my brain to work together again.”

Dave is making the most of today. He still sings in the choir at Village Park Church, weightlifts several times a week, facilitates a brain injury support group, and works nine hours a week at a golf course in The Villages.

About the author

James Combs

Akers Media Group's James Combs has been a staff writer for several local publications since August 2000. He has had the privilege of interviewing some of Lake County’s many fascinating residents—from innovative business owners to heroic war veterans—and bringing their stories to life. A resident of Lake County since 1986, James recently embarked on a journey to lead a healthier lifestyle. He has lost 60 pounds and walks nearly five miles a day. In his spare time, he enjoys target shooting, skeet shooting and watching his beloved Kentucky Wildcats!

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