The human brain is one of the most fascinating things in the world. Sometimes we do things that seem downright stupid and then just minutes later figure out a mathematical formula that has been confusing professionals for years. We use our brains to think, feel, calculate, imagine, and so much more.
Our brains are also capable of handling an intense amount of trauma. Many have suffered a concussion, only to end up being just fine as long as the concussions aren’t repeated. Then, there are those that have suffered a brain injury only to end up better than ever. It’s something that has stumped scientists for ages, but a traumatic brain injury (TBI) has bettered the lives of a handful of people, with these five being the most shocking cases.
When we think of dangerous sports, we probably think of football and hockey first and foremost. In the case of Orlando Serrell, though, the sport was baseball. As a child, Serrell was hit on the left side of his head and was knocked to the ground. Since this was in 1979, far before we took concussions more seriously, Serrell popped back into the game.
Serrell had a headache that eventually subsided, but what didn’t subside was a newfound knowledge of mathematics and photographic memory. Serrell immediately improved in math so much that he was outpacing the other students in his class and could remember almost every detail of his life. Serrell still loves doing mathematical work while also drawing large murals.
Alaska native Jason Padgett grew up with a penchant for extreme sports but didn’t care much for academia. In fact, he made it to community college but quickly dropped out to be a furniture salesman. Things would change for Padgett in September 2002, however, as he went out for a few drinks with his friends in Tacoma, Washington. When leaving, Padgett was hit from behind, suffering a brain injury while being robbed.
The severe concussion left Padgett feeling much different, and he instantly developed both Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. However, the injury also allowed him to become a savant as he started to see the world in geometric shapes. Padgett would end up getting into mathematics and instantly understanding everything he didn’t know before.
There are a lot of us that would like to go the rest of our lives without having to feel sad again. For Malcolm Myatt, that became a reality. The late Myatt had retired from his truck driving job when he suffered a stroke in his late 60s, spending nearly five full months in a hospital recovering. When he suffered the stroke, doctors said that the frontal lobe of his brain was the source.
This is the part of the brain that regulates emotions, and Myatt no longer had the ability to feel sadness. He spent the rest of his days smiling and in a generally good mood because of his stroke. “I am never depressed,” Myatt said. “Being sad wouldn’t help anything, anyway. I would definitely rather be happy all the time than the other way round. It’s an advantage really.”
Growing up in New Jersey, Jon Sarkin had almost no aspirations of doing anything with art. He received a degree in environmental science and became a chiropractor during the 1980s. Toward the end of the decade, though, he suffered from tinnitus and underwent an unsuccessful surgery that caused a stroke.
Sarkin was seeing things much differently when he finally recovered, and his brain was almost completely rewired. He instantly became obsessed with art and started drawing some of the dark images that his brain was now showing him. Eventually, Sarkin became a professional and was featured in galleries for his work. He said his life following the stroke was akin to “Alice in Wonderland” where “everything is cool, but everything is weird, too.”
Most of us have dived into a pool that was probably too shallow but thankful came out unscathed. That wasn’t what happened to Derek Amato, though. The Colorado native was visiting his parents in South Dakota when he jumped into a pool while attempting to catch a football. He ended up hitting his head on the pool floor and was immediately bleeding from his ears and suffering from a TBI.
It took Amato several days to recover, and he was still experiencing headaches and partial deafness when he found a new skill. Amato was able to play the piano, which was something he hadn’t done before. He even showcased his skills on television to millions of viewers.