Student overcomes brain injury to become doctor

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Having the honor of putting on a white lab coat has always been 27-year-old Alex Lake's dream.

"Since I was around two or three years old, my parents told me that I would dress up in a shirt and tie and say, 'I'm Dr. Lake,'" he remembers.

The straight-A student's path to becoming a doctor took an unexpected turn a few years ago. Shortly after getting his undergraduate degree in Michigan, Lake went out with friends.

"I saw this man push a female and throw her to the ground," Lake remembers. "I was a distance of probably a couple feet."

After walking over to help the woman back up, Lake said the man became angry and punched him. Lake fell to the ground and hit his head. 

"As my friends described it, it was like a watermelon smashing onto the ground," explained Lake.

He lost and regained consciousness before leaving the bar to return home. The next morning, Lake said he had headaches so severe that he was vomiting. By the time he went to the hospital, his speech was slurred.

"Sure enough, I had a baseball-sized brain bleed on the left side of my head," said Lake.

His partial skull fracture required immediate surgery.

When Lake woke up, a doctor gave him a harsh reality check. His dream of going to medical school might be lost forever due to his injuries.

"He said I wasn't going to make it because my short-term memory was very poor," explained Lake. "He said I'm not going to be able to take on the rigorous workload that medical school entails."

Instead of taking time off to heal, Lake was determined to push forward.

Just before he was injured, Lake had been accepted to Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee. He decided to go ahead with his classes. 

It was far from easy.

"It was hard for me to make the association between looking at something and then in my brain [determining] what is this particular structure?" said Lake.

He worked day and night to overcome his challenges, using study tools like OnlineMedEd to increase his memory.

"By the end of the year, my brain felt that it had run like 10 marathons, basically. It was just extreme neuro-fatigue, but I did survive," said Lake.

Lake was able to graduate and moved on to complete his rotations at Florida Hospital in Tampa. In July, he'll start his final residency at the Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson.

Lake said he has no long-term effects from his brain injury and hopes his story of perseverance will inspire other students.

"You don't always get a second chance to redo what happened the day before, but when you wake up, it is a new day for you to win or lose. Don't lose hope," said Lake.