Choosing a new path in life is a challenge. It feels impossible when the path is chosen by someone else.
It’s summer 1989. Brian Gut has just finished a day’s ride in the annual Bike Across the Magnificent Miles of Illinois event, a week-long, 500-mile marathon trek across the state. At just 19 years old, Brian is now a sophomore at Winona State University. His is a life filled with promise and potential.
After the day’s ride, he chats with friends on a street corner. Down the road, a drunk driver loses control of his vehicle. The driver careens off the street toward the street corner, striking Brian with catastrophic, terrifying speed. Brian is thrown 30 feet, landing without cushion or safety against the concrete.
When Brian recalls the accident today, he describes this moment as the one when his “life changed in the blink of an eye.”
While Brian escaped death on the pavement, his struggle was only beginning. He faced a multitude of life-threatening medical challenges and endured years of arduous rehabilitation and therapy to adapt and overcome the physical, cognitive, behavioral, and emotional effects of a traumatic brain injury.
Fast forward 28 years. Brian isn’t just surviving—he’s thriving. He has transformed the ultimate adversity into a golden opportunity. Brian tells his story to audiences across the region and passionately educates them on the dangers of driving under the influence.
In November, Brian achieved another milestone. He once again climbed aboard his Schwinn Super Sport touring bicycle—the very same bike he rode on that fateful day in 1989. With the assistance of four QLI staff members, not only took his place on the familiar seat, but pedaled the bike within the security of a stationary trainer.
The bike and an accompanying saddle bag had been kept in safe storage for nearly three decades. When it was brought to QLI, they were complete surprises for Brian. The bag itself contained two more surprises—the bright red sunglasses he wore that summer, and the driver’s license he used throughout high school and college.
The image of Brian riding on his old bike represents more than the detour his life has taken. It’s the meaning of perseverance and spirit. It’s the gap between mourning loss and redefining your own ability.
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