While battling strong gusts of wind on a desolate, hilly highway in central Wyoming, Doug Markgraf slowed his bicycle to a stop and pulled a marker from his bag. In large letters he scrawled "This Beats A Coma" across his sunburnt forearm. He was 19 days into a 56 day journey across America, and the phrase reminded him why.
Five years earlier, Doug was involved in a hit-and-run accident while riding his bicycle in a bike lane in West Philadelphia. In the collision he shattered bones, helmet, and bicycle – and suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. As Doug lay in a coma for half a month, doctors refused to acknowledge that his condition would allow a complete recovery. The last thing they ever expected was that he would awaken, recover, and return to the bike. But he did.
"This Beats A Coma" tells the story of a young man's journey from coma to an inspiring cross-country bicycle trek. It reflects on the difficulties faced by a traumatic brain injury survivor and documents the struggles to return to a norm, independent life. It's a story about hope, overcoming debilitating setbacks, and achieving amazing things.
Scott Richardson is an ambitious young documentary and music video producer. When he moved to Philadelphia in 2009, he found a close friend in Doug, whom his wife had known since high school. Doug wasn't just close as in a good friend, but also close geographically, residing within the same West Philadelphia neighborhood. Doug often encouraged adventurous activities, and his outgoing personality allowed him to find a captive audience wherever he went. When he announced his plan to bike cross-country in support of those affected by traumatic brain injury, Scott saw an interesting opportunity to document the process on film.
Although Scott has enjoyed providing complete direction over his past productions, this project demanded that he trust his documentary subject to capture much of the action while on the road alone. This was accomplished through months of pre-trip preparation and interviews, as well as long-distance conversations to advise on technical and editorial issues.
Scott earned his Bachelor's degree in Digital Media Arts from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY and currently works by day as a multimedia graphic artist. His work has been honored by the Public Relations Society of America, Communicator, and Telly Awards, and has been featured on Think Bright TV and in numerous film festivals.
Doug Markgraf grew up riding bikes and building robots. He enjoyed the thrill of independence and used his bike as a vehicle to find it. He was developing a promising career in engineering when the unthinkable happened. While riding his bicycle in a bike lane in West Philadelphia, he was involved in a hit-and-run accident that left him suffering from a severe traumatic brain injury. After 14 days in a coma, he awoke to an unfamiliar world with new limitations both cognitively and physically that he had never known before.
Doctors warned of Doug's new reality. It was hard for him to concentrate, conversations were hazy, and his short term memory was shot. There were physical injuries and he needed to learn how to walk again. Everyone said biking was forbidden. Instead of being discouraged by the expectations of his family and doctors, Doug used it as motivation to return to a normal, active, and independent life. He pledged that if he ever had the chance to return to the bike, he would travel across the country. A short five years after his accident, he did.
Doug biked across the country in the summer of 2011 using himself as an example of hope for others suffering from traumatic brain injuries. He spoke with patients, doctors, support groups, and countless roadside strangers on his trek from California to New Jersey. He continues his mission as a noted speaker at brain injury conferences where he encourages everyone to recover to the best of their abilities and do amazing things.