After suffering serious brain trauma in wipeout, pro surfer finds breakthrough treatment

Updated: May. 31, 2021 at 3:10 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mikey ‘Redd’ O’Shaughnessy has spent a career going after the world’s biggest waves, but his entire life changed after a horrific wipeout at Pipeline back in February.

“The whole wave was golden, so I just remember that last glimpse and then, I don’t remember much for the most part because I was so dazed and knocked out,” O’Shaughnessy said.

“Just had that one thought of thinking, ‘oh no this isn’t good’ and then I was just fricken’ out, out in the dark, blackout.”

The moments leading up to the incident are vague, but the pain and trauma to emerge since couldn’t be more vivid.

The former big wave champion was carried out of the water that day and resuscitated after suffering multiple concussions.

And after leaving the intensive care unit, he continued to struggle with debilitating symptoms: Extreme headaches, anger, and depression.

“I would get really sad and have a lot of suicidal thoughts and I never really followed through with anything, thank God,” O’Shaughnessy said. “But just out of nowhere I would start crying and kind of like have to look in the mirror and look at myself and look deep and ask myself, ‘Who am I?’”

Through the help of close friends, O’Shaughnessy turned to the specialists at Brain Health Hawaii, who have a treatment centered on restoring activity to damaged parts of the brain.

“A special and unique form of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, which is a fancy way of saying of using a very low level of energy,” said Dr. Jason Keifer, of Brain Health Hawaii.

“It’s non-invasive. It’s painless and basically, what we’re able to do is to is use a gentle energy level, specific to a patient’s brain and the regions we need to go to in order to essentially gently turn them on.”

O’Shaughnessy sustained trauma to a number of areas, including the frontal region. And if not for a helmet, he says he may not even be alive.

But after just a week of treatments, every day for 20 to 30 minutes, he started feeling results.

“The fog started clearing,” O’Shaughnessy said. “It was like a portal opened in my head and I can remember just getting more organized and more focused and more driven and ambitious to get back in the saddle or back in the water.”

The therapy has also been rewarding for O’Shaughnessy’s father, a Vietnam War veteran, who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress- Disorder.

“I had many problems, many problems, it’s hard to explain how many problems,” Michael O’Shaughnessy said. “My counselor thought that my family had the worst cases of secondary PTSD that he’d ever seen and he said how could you do this to your family? And I said, I didn’t know.”

The elder O’Shaughnessy says the sessions have dramatically improved his stress levels and sleep deprivation.

Mikey O’Shaughnessy has been getting treatment everyday for roughly six weeks and sees his experience as an opportunity to advocate the importance of mental health.

What’s even more valuable is they were able to emerge from the depths together.

‘It’s a bad accident and all that, but out of it, have come so much good,” Michael O’Shaughnessy said. “So much good for both of us, for our family.”

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