Brandon Schneider Brandon Schneider
A Long Island man is opening up about a terrifying experience he recently went through in hopes of helping others in similar situations.
Brandon Schneider believes the life choices he made leading up to the moment he collapsed in an emergency room bathroom last month are the reason why he survived and is now on the road to recovery.
"Regardless of the pain I felt throughout everything that happened, I am full of gratitude," Schneider, 25, tells PEOPLE. "It's likely that if I were not in great physical condition beforehand, I might not be here telling my story."
"With every day that passes, as my family and doctors help to paint the picture of the events that occurred and fill in large gaping holes in my memory, it has become increasingly more clear that if I were not in the ER when I fell or if I was not in excellent physical condition from my running and other workouts before the incident occurred, I may be living with deficits for the rest of my life or dead," he added in an Instagram post last week.
Schneider, who works as a Peloton Sales Specialist and a Level I certified running coach, explained in his post that he initially went to the ER on July 12 after "days of increasingly excruciating abdominal pain and misdiagnoses of a kidney stone."
At one point during his visit, Schneider said he asked to use the restroom — but the events that followed are a complete blur to him.
"While I was in the bathroom I went unconscious and fell to the ground, where I apparently slammed my head, fracturing my skull and suffering an emergent brain bleed," he explained.
Luckily, Schneider was wearing an Apple Watch at the time — a smart device he believes was part of the reason that he survived.
"I was only found unconscious so soon after the fall because my Apple Watch detected a hard fall, calling 911 and sent an emergency notification to my emergency contacts after I failed to respond to the prompt on my watch," he wrote in the post.
Brandon Schneider Brandon Schneider's head incision
After help arrived, Schneider said he underwent CT scans, which showed "multiple hematomas that were increasing in size and quickly became life-threatening, requiring emergency brain surgery at about 4 a.m. on July 13."
Between the traumatic brain injury and the "heavy amount of drugs" that Schneider was on to manage the pain, the Bellmore resident said he has "no recollection or any memory in the hospital for about 5.5 days."
"It's certainly bizarre that I have no memory of this time, but I've also heard how sometimes the brain does this to protect you," he tells PEOPLE. "Sometimes the memory comes back at a later time and sometimes it just shields it from you, so I take comfort in knowing that I am on the other side of it and don't have to know what actually happened because it was so painful and scary."
On July 17, Schneider says he finally regained consciousness, opening his eyes to the sight of his supportive family.
"The first thing I remember is being with my family," he recalls. "My soon-to-be brother in law was wearing a shirt that said, 'The comeback is greater than the setback.' I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and I feel like someone was trying to tell me it was all going to be okay."
After spending a total of seven days in the surgical ICU, under the care of the "incredible" hospital doctors, nurses and staff, Schneider was discharged from the hospital on July 19. (At this time, the cause of his initial medical scare is still unknown.)
Today, Schneider is focused on his recovery — a process he knows will be gradual, but worthwhile — as doctors continue to monitor his progress and look for answers.
"I likely experienced some deconditioning from seven days in a hospital bed, but I have enough strength to continue doing many activities independently," he explains. "For example, I can't bend over to put on a pair of shoes or pants, but I can squat and have great ability to balance."
Brandon Schneider Brandon Schneider
"I have a long road ahead of me until I'm 100% or better yet, 110%," he added on Instagram. "Since returning home, I have been recovering more quickly than anyone truly expected and am encouraged by moments of what I consider extreme productivity."
In addition to fully recovering, Schneider's goal is to get back to running — and race in the New York City Marathon in November.
"It's just a few days before my birthday and that's one thing helping to keep my head up," he says. "It will be my fifth marathon and will also serve as a celebration and recovery run."
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As he continues to take it day by day, the Long Island resident is counting his blessings — and urging people to do two things: prioritize their physical fitness and set up the emergency contacts on their Apple Watch or other smartwatches.
"I share my story, not for sympathy, but because I want to encourage every person who reads this to purchase an Apple Watch or if you have an Apple Watch to set up your emergency contacts," he says.
"Being physically fit can help people in their everyday lives when going about your daily routine, but it can also save your life or make your fight or comeback that much easier," he adds. "Especially if you wind up in a situation where you need to fight to survive."