Blood recipient Boyle gives back

Ironman competitor helps Red Cross publicize summer drive

  • Ironman triathlete Brian Boyle donates blood for the first time Dec. 18, 2009, at Prince George's Hospital Center.
Ironman triathlete Brian Boyle donates blood for the first… (Handout, Baltimore Sun )
July 09, 2011|By Dan Rodgers, The Baltimore Sun

An Ironman World Championship participant might have been the American Red Cross representative calling to schedule your next blood donation.

Brian Boyle, 25, of the Charles County community of Welcome volunteers in many ways with the emergency response organization, including traveling the nation speaking about why blood donation is one of the reasons he is alive.

"I'm fighting for it because I believe in it so much," said Boyle, who is the focal point of the Red Cross Iron Heart Campaign, an awareness effort launched last month by the Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Blood Services Region. "By giving just a little time, you can give someone like me a lifetime."

The Iron Heart public service announcements are being released locally first, then will be rolled out nationally.

"Everything stems from here," Boyle said. "It's just the beginning."

Seven years ago last Wednesday, Boyle lost 60 percent of his blood in a motor vehicle accident and underwent 36 transfusions, among other surgeries, in a bid for survival. He was hospitalized for about two months, then spent a week at the Rehabilitation Center at Kernan Hospital.

Even though doctors told Boyle he might never walk again, he regained that ability after a few months of outpatient therapy.

Some might think he is lucky to be alive, let alone walking, but that wasn't enough for Boyle. He had dreams, and he knew they were achievable.

"Watching [the Ironman competition] as a baby," Boyle said, "seeing it on television, [I said], 'Mom, Dad, I want to do this one day.' "

In 2007, Boyle fulfilled his dream by completing his first Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, an endurance test that requires participants to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles.

However, competing was not enough for Boyle.

"When I crossed the finish line, my recovery was finally complete," he said. "Every time I cross the finish line, it's a thanks to everyone" who helped in my recovery.

Boyle joined forces with the Red Cross in late 2007, and his contributions are getting noticed.

Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross, said she is honored to have Boyle represent the organization.

"Brian makes an incredible impact as he shares his powerful story and reminds countless individuals of the need to give blood," McGovern said. "For every individual he encourages to donate blood, more lives may be saved."

Red Cross spokesman Mike Baisey, who has been working with Boyle for more than two years, said the blood supply gets low during the summer.

"Schools commonly sponsor and host [blood drives], they're not in session, and people are on vacation," Baisey said.

Boyle's story is told in a public service announcement that includes music by the alternative rock band 311, which inspired his recovery.

"I think the PSAs are told in a very unique way," Baisey said. Boyle "was an 18-year-old, and he can share the message in a different way that resonates with the younger audiences — remind or tell them the need for donations."

Boyle is excited about the potential of his campaign because he is putting a face on blood donation, especially for a potentially less-involved age group.

"It's definitely a challenge with the younger community," he said. "We feel there is a lot of potential there."

Boyle is training now for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship — a half-ironman (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run — in September in Las Vegas.

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