Woodbury teen raises awareness about traumatic brain injuries after accident

Ben Menier is planning a race. 

Like most teenagers, he’s already seemingly running a mile a minute with his parents trying to keep up. But in Ben’s case, the race he’s planning is about giving back and raising awareness on brain injuries.

"I’m doing better than I used to," said Ben from his home in Woodbury.

Ben was traveling with his father Dave to Marshall, Minnesota, three years ago to visit family members when their car was t-boned by another vehicle. The crash left Ben critically injured. He was airlifted to Children’s Minnesota where multiple teams worked to keep him alive.

"He had contusions and he had bruising to his brain and bleeding on the surface and inside his brain and multiple fractures as well," recalled Dr. Meysam Kebriaei, a neurosurgeon at Children’s Minnesota. 

Ben spent seven weeks in recovery at Children’s Minnesota. Since then Dr. Kebriaei says Ben’s progress is nothing short of a miracle.

"He’s had some weakness on the left side of his body for a few months, but he worked really hard at physical therapy," said Dr. Kebriaei. "He’s got some challenges that he’s still overcoming, but I have no doubt in my mind that if anybody was going to overcome them, Ben would do it."

Ben’s motor skills and energy have all returned, but he admits that he still struggles with his speech. His brain injury doesn’t let him process language as fast as everyone else, and long words with several syllables still trip him up.

His mother recalls when Ben came home from rehabilitation he could only speak 30 words. She explained that Ben had to relearn everything.

"All of the basics, back to the beginning of mom, dad, all of those basic kind of words," said Robin Menier.

Three years after the accident, he’s now relearned many of his words, but it takes him longer to talk.

"If people really don’t understand how brain injuries work, just let the person that has the brain injury take their time if they need to answer a question," explained Ben. "Let them take their time slowly."

Sadly, brain injuries are an all too common injury. The Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance says the number of TBI’s continues to grow, especially within the state.

"Typically, there are about 100,000 folks living with an ongoing long-term disability due their brain injury," said CEO David King.   

Even among children the numbers are growing, especially during the pandemic.

"Well, our theory really is that there are a lot more kids going outside and gotten more free time," said Dr. Kebriaei. "And so when you’re out and about and being active, which we want our kids to do, that creates more chance and risk for injury and traumatic brain injury."

As a level-one pediatric trauma center, Children’s Minnesota sees its share of brain injury cases, and Dr. Kebriaei counts them into the hundreds each year.

"There are just people there I will never, ever forget," said Ben’s mother of the caregivers who interacted him during his treatment and recovery.

And it’s exactly why Ben and his parents are trying to give back. As a part of Ben’s Eagle Scout project, he’s planning a pine car derby at the BSA Base Camp for patients who have had their own recovery at Children’s Minnesota.

"They’ve done so much to help me and I want to help patients and former patients," said Ben.

The event will be help on Saturday, June 4, at Base Camp Minnesota located at 6202 Bloomington Road, St. Paul. 

Ben has started a fundraising page to help pay for the event, which can be found HERE.

"We just talked about how this is a great way to have a full circle moment to give back to the place that literally saved his life," said Robin.