LAYTON -- It's been three years since Dr. Blake Welling removed most of Kyle Johnson's skull and froze it in an attempt to save his life.
On June 2, 2010, Johnson, then 25, went for a spin down his neighborhood street on his longboard. Dedicated to wearing a helmet 99 percent of the time, he neglected to do so that fateful evening and ended up losing control of the board.
His head cracked on the road like a hard-boiled egg, said Welling, an Ogden neurosurgeon. Johnson laid in a puddle of blood four feet long and a foot wide and he was breathing irregularly. When he arrived at McKay-Dee Hospital tests concluded he had at least a 90 percent chance of dying.
Because his brain was swelling, Welling's only option was to remove both sides of Johnson's skull and place his skin back over his brain so it could expand as much as it needed to. His skull was then placed in a deep-freeze for preservation.
Now at the age of 28, Johnson looks back and wonders why he didn't wear a helmet.
"Doctors tell me that I would have sustained a concussion but nothing compared to the traumatic brain injury I had," he said. "No surgery's would have been needed. I would have had a headache, some road rash and a funny story to tell."
Instead, he said, because of the thoughtless choice he made, he nearly lost his life.
"It's a wild thought that bears on my mind during this month. It happens annually," he said. "Thinking about how I was in a coma three years ago, literally fighting with all my might to stay alive ... It's been an interesting three years for me relearning how to walk, talk, read and write."
He said he is amazed at the things he took for granted before the accident such as playing his guitar, playing baseball and soccer.
"All of my efforts of my previous 25 years of life were swept away because of the choice to not helmet up," he said. "Recovery from a traumatic brain injury is such a hard thing to explain. To say I'm fully recovered is not and will never be true. I do have a few cognitive disorders such as a headache for three years and running. My memory is constantly foggy. My attention is easily lost. My hands will shake from time to time. My smell is gone. I have shoulder and neck pain. My reaction is still a bit slow."
Being able to read and write is difficult, Johnson said, and every once in awhile his balance gets scrambled.
But although the accident crushed his skull in 10 places, it hasn't crushed his spirit. Johnson has told his story all over the world and has appeared on many television programs, including BBC's Bizarre ER and The Doctors. He's also a motivational speaker, giving presentations at state conventions for youth and safety conferences.
"My speaking all came from a conversation I had with Dr. Welling. He said to me, 'Kyle, there is a reason you are here. Your job now is to figure out what that reason is,'" he said. "Truthfully that was rather heavy to hear. Being told that by a medical professional who played a major roll in saving my life was like putting on a 500 pound backpack with one arm. I took what he said seriously."
Johnson said he talks about helmets and safety, but he also talks about the value of life. The title of his speech is Reach Your Tower.
"We are only given one chance to life and life is not a spectator's sport," he said. "I talk about going after one's dreams and to never feel that something is impossible. Many thought it would be impossible for to live. I did. Then after living, many thought it would be impossible that I would ever snowboard again, yet I did and still do."
If you would like to schedule Johnson to speak, go to http://www.kylejohnsoninternational.com.