The Snowboarder’s Brain: Stories and Science Make Compelling Hospital Social Media


I love the outdoors. I spend a lot of the time at my desk wishing I could work outside, especially when the weather turns balmy and I can hear the birds chirping and the kids playing. Since I live in Oregon, there is no shortage of gorgeous trails for hiking or rivers for paddling. One way that I remind myself to get outdoors is by reading Outside magazine. I became a fan in my twenties, when I realized some of my favorite authors, like John Krakauer and David James Duncan, were contributing writers.

Yesterday, I was flipping through the June 2011 issue and read several articles that were really compelling, about Michael Light’s aerial photography, supplemental testosterone, and nature deficit disorder. One that stood out to me, “Some Reassembly Required,” was about 23-year-old top snowboarder Kevin Pearce, whose career ended a week before the 2010 Olympic trials when he suffered a traumatic brain injury while practicing a risky trick (a double cork 1080) in the halfpipe.

The article focuses on how Kevin has had to rehabilitate himself after being in a coma for six days, his brain tissues dangerously swollen and his left eye socket broken. He has had to relearn talking and walking and, though now doing very well, still struggles to strengthen the brain connections that support his short-term memory and other functions.

Jonah Lehrer, the article’s author, published How We Decide in 2009, a book about how modern neuroscience explains decision-making. The moments in the Pearce article when Lehrer explains the trauma to the snowboarder’s brain are riveting, as he clearly understands, and is fascinated by, the physiology of the brain.

One thing I noticed about the article was that Lehrer quotes Dr. Alan Weintraub, medical director of the renowned Brain Injury Program at Craig Hospital, in Englewood, Colorado, where Pearce was rehabilitated. And it got me thinking, of course, about hospital social media.

Anyone in a hospital could take great some cues from Lehrer’s article—combining a compelling human story with modern science. This reflects the dual nature of a hospital’s role—to provide top-notch medical care while also recognizing and meeting the emotional needs of patients and their families. Lehrer’s subject happened to be fascinating in part because of his incredible athletic accomplishments, but it was his humanity when faced with a traumatic medical event that shines through. Combining that with the naturally interesting science behind Pearce’s injury and recovery created a whole story that was informative and touching.

Craig Hospital’s own social media efforts show that the hospital understands how human stories and exceptional medical knowledge can go hand-in-hand. Their short YouTube video, I Am Craig, features some incredible testimonials, and they run a Twitter account (by their Communications Manager, Mary Bonner) and a Facebook page.

So, the next time you’re wondering what to write about in a blog, or capture on video, or Tweet, remember Johan Lehrer’s article and combine your hospital’s singular medical expertise with the human stories of your patients. Chances are people will want to listen.


How we help

Hive Strategies helps hospitals engage patients through social media. We don’t manage social media. Instead, we help hospitals develop an effective social media strategy and mentor them through the implementation process. Read about our services. Start a conversation. Email us or call us at 503-472-5512.

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