Bryan Stow, the paramedic and ambulance driver who in March 2011 was beaten into a coma during an attack outside Dodger Stadium, visited Sunnyslope Elementary School in Hollister on Jan. 27 to share his anti-bullying message with third- through fifth-graders.
The incident involving Stow, who suffered a severe brain injury and spent nine months in a coma before learning how to walk, speak, eat, write and read again, gained national attention. He spent time in nine hospitals over a three-year period and eventually went from using a wheelchair to a walker and then crutches.
During his Friday morning visit to Hollister, Stow talked about his life before the beating, explaining how he enjoyed concerts, movies and working out. Alongside Stow was his sister, Bonnie, and in attendance were his parents, Ann and Dave.
Stow talked about how he gets around on daily basis and talked about his life after his severe brain injury. Each day, he has to take a total of 24-and-a-half pills per day. He will need help the rest of his life, from stretching, to getting out of bed, to dressing and bathing.
The reason for his visit to Sunnyslope was to talk about bullying and how bullies negatively impacted his life and hurt his family. Despite all that he has endured, Stow has maintained a positive attitude and can still do some of his favorite things, including attending San Jose Giants’ games, meeting San Francisco Giants’ outfielder Angel Pagan and working out.
In talking to Sunnyslope students, Stow explained the importance of not being a bystander, and he encouraged all the students to be “up-standers.” He noted that it only takes one person to start the change and he encouraged the students to stand up for what they know is right and tell people who are not nice to them that what they are doing is wrong and not acceptable.
Stow explained to the students how they should lead by example and stand up for what is right and to reach out and help others. After showing a video from USA Today Inspiration Nation, Stow had two questions for the students in attendance: Have you ever been bullied? Have you ever bullied someone else?
After most of the students and staff raised their hands for both questions, Stow said, “It’s important to remember that we are all are different but we can all be kind and helpful to each other!”
Stow and his sister had all students stand and repeat after him the anti-bullying pledge: “I will treat others with kindness, compassion and respect. I will NOT be a bystander to bullying. I will stand up and speak up when I witness bullying. Bullying hurts lives and I am a life-saver.”
Stow then talked about how he has a long way to go in his recovery and needs help from others, but his next goal is to walk with a cane. He asked the audience to encourage him while he showed them how he practices walking with a cane.
As he did, the crowd clapped and shouted “Bryan! Bryan!” encouraging him to walk with assistance from his father.
Stow said, “I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. My brain damage does not define the person I am inside. I just want people to understand and to just be kind. I just want people to encourage me.”