T.J. Lavin: The New Chapter
Following a serious head injury in October, T.J. Lavin speaks about his ordeal
One day before T.J. Lavin crashed at the Dew Tour Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada in October of 2010, his good friend, Las Vegas local Ty Pinney crashed while riding Lavin's backyard trails. Pinney was hospitalized for swelling on the brain, and placed in a medically induced coma. Lavin wore a t-shirt in support of Pinney during dirt qualifying to show his support.
The next day, Lavin entered the same hospital, suffering bleeding on the brain, a broken wrist and an orbital fracture. Lavin remained in a medically induced coma for close to a week, just a few beds away from Pinney, and the BMX community at large rallied behind T.J. and Pinney to offer support. Lavin showed steady progress during his recovery, and on November 19, he left the hospital and returned home.
Over the past two months, T.J. Lavin has endured rigorous physical therapy to regain control over his right side, alongside daily visits to Pinney, who remains in outpatient therapy. Although he's not fully recovered just yet, he shows improvement every day, and hopes to one day return to riding his bike. It's been a long, hard road for the 33-year-old Las Vegas native, but T.J. Lavin continues to endure, and his determination, along with his continued concern for friend Ty Pinney, is a testament to his strength and selflessness. Recently, while finishing his daily routine at physical therapy, Lavin spoke for the first time with ESPN about his ordeal. This is T.J. Lavin.
ESPN.com: How are you T.J.?
Lavin: I'm good. I'm at physical therapy now, just getting some ice. I put in time at physical therapy. I go to my friend Tim Soder's place, and get it done. That's what I've been doing lately. And afterwards, I go see Ty [Pinney]. And that's all we do, just keep on moving.
How is Ty doing?
He's getting better, but he's got a long way to go. He can talk, but he can't walk.
How are you doing now?
I'm getting there. Every day is a new day. Every day, I learn something new, and every day, I wake up and my sight is a little bit better, so I love it.
Was it tough to be reminded of your crash when the first episode of The X Life aired on VH1?
A little bit, but it is what it is. It happened. It's not like I'm at the point where I wished it didn't happen, cause it did. And I've got to deal with it, and put it behind me. It wasn't even really hard to watch. I don't remember October, so I didn't have trouble watching it. When I look at it, I wish I could stop that guy, (referring to himself) and say "Hey, you've got a long road of rehab aged of you if you go down that hill right now."
What was the last thing you remember?
I remember my friend Ty Pinney, and I remember his crash from the day before. That's it. That was the last thing I remember.
What was your first recollection upon waking up?
I remember my mom saying that I wasn't paralyzed, and not to worry. And then feeling my girl's hand. That was my first recollection. I'm not really too sure about what I really remember. Some things can come in your mind, and your mind plays a trick on you. You think you remember something, but it could be from before you even had your crash. It's pretty funny.
The guy that hit his head died. He's dead and gone, and it is what it is. I have to deal with what's happening now.
Do you remember the terrible start hill from the 2000 X Games in San Francisco?
Yes I do. I remember that like it was yesterday.
What's been the toughest part of this whole ordeal?
Having someone else hurt is the worst part. For me, having somebody else go through what I've gone through, I hate it. I hate anyone else having to experience physical therapy, and deal with the struggle. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. But the hardest part is going to physical therapy, not being able to drive, that sucks. But more than me, seeing my friend go through this is the worst thing ever.
What does a typical day of physical therapy entail?
I go in the morning. And I start with some wrist exercises cause my wrist was so blown up. And then I do weights. I'm trying to get my arms a little better. I'm also working on my balance. My mind didn't let my right side work for a long time. And now that my right side is going, I'm trying to make it even better, to where it once was, which is catching a ball, throwing a ball, and working on balance at the same time.
How long do you think you'll be in physical therapy for?
I'll be here forever man. I love those guys. Tim Soder is a friend of mine, and I'll always go there to work out once I'm better. But as far me getting back to 100%, I don't think I'll ever be the same person. But I'm hoping to be another person; whoever else I can be. The guy that hit his head died. He's dead and gone, and it is what it is. Now I have to deal with what's happening now. It's a new chapter in my life, and that's what I tell myself every day so I don't go crazy.
Do you want to ride BMX again?
I'd like to. I definitely think that big jumps and dirt jumps deserve a full-face helmet, and that BMX should show it the respect of wearing a full-face. But I'd like to ride again someday. Maybe not do as many crazy things, and maybe not competing against 15 or 16-year-olds, but I can see myself riding again.
What's one message you'd like to say to your friends and fans that have shown support?
Thank you. Thanks so much for everyone's messages. It means the world to me, and I can't say ever say thank you enough. Every message I've read, through Twitter, Facebook and e-mails, is really appreciated. And I also want to thank Steve and Dana White for having a big party for us. They really stepped up, and if they ever need me for anything, anytime, anywhere, consider it done.
Follow Brian Tunney on Twitter: @briantunney