Dr. Matthew Galati, traumatic brain injury survivor and Founder of Brain Changes Initiative

In 2013, Matthew Galati was well on his way to becoming a doctor. One weekend, on his way back to medical school from visiting friends and family, his car hit black ice and spun out of control, hitting a tree.

“I hit my head on either the side of the tree or the side of the car and was knocked into a three-day coma.”

Matthew suffered fractures to his skull and ribs, collapsed lungs, a damaged nerve in his face and – most critically – a brain bleed.

“When I woke up from the coma, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t talk. I basically had to relearn everything from scratch.”

Maintaining a positive attitude, Matthew relied on his supportive family to begin his journey toward recovery with the hope of one day returning to medical school.

“My mom was at my bedside with flashcards teaching me things like basic math and how to tell time. One of my sisters was constantly researching nutrients and supplements that would be helpful in my recovery. It was really a shared experience for my whole family,” he explains.

As part of his in-patient rehabilitation program at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Matthew participated in a study where he underwent a series of intensified treatments including occupational therapy, speech therapy, and neuropsychiatric evaluations.

“While I was doing these treatments, I also started delving into the research and finding things that I could do to improve my recovery.”

What he learned was that exercise can create new brain cells through a process called neurogenesis, which can play an important role in improving mental processing and recovering from a brain injury.

“I took this information and literally ran with it,” he says. “I started running five kilometres every morning to prime my brain for learning and then I would go home and fill these newly created brain cells with meaningful information like reviewing my medical school notes.”

Six months later, Matthew returned to studying medicine.

“When I felt I was ready to go back to school, they were hesitant to admit me,” he states. “I rewrote one exam to prove to them that I could handle it and my mark actually improved by 15% from the year before.”

Matthew successfully completed medical school and residency training.

“Initially I told myself that once I got over this injury I would never look back because I was so ashamed of it,” he explains. “But, as time went on, my family and I realized how much I had learned and how many gaps there are in the system. I found through my unique experience as a brain injury survivor and a medical doctor that I could really help by changing the standard of care.”

Now, as the founder of Brain Changes Initiative, a national not-for-profit organization that funds ground-breaking research in the field of traumatic brain injury, Matthew is building awareness, promoting education and offering support for brain injury patients, their families, and healthcare providers.

This year, Brain Changes Initiative is partnering with Brain Canada to improve our collective understanding of traumatic brain injury (TBI) by convening thought leaders and expert stakeholders in a unique knowledge forum to be held in the fall. The knowledge exchange will then inform a transformative and original new research program, led by Brain Canada.

“There is still so much to be done to better understand the nature, diagnosis, and treatment of brain injuries. Both brain and spinal cord injuries have a significant impact on productivity, health, and quality of life,” explains Viviane Poupon, President and CEO of Brain Canada. “We are very excited for this partnership and looking forward to working together so we can support the implementation of effective health care services in Canada.”

“It’s not just about the research,” notes Matthew Galati. “The goal is to increase the research being conducted and then to translate that research to clinicians so survivors can receive the best treatment possible.”

If you are interested in supporting Brain Changes Initiative’s annual fundraiser, the Brain Gains Run for Neurogenesis, please scan the QR code below.

Brain Gains