June 04, 2009

By Tony Krickl

Lifelong Claremont resident Tony Banks, 48, has almost fully recovered from a serious head injury that nearly ended his life 2 years ago.

While attending his daughter Taylor's volleyball match on May 12, 2007, Mr. Banks fell off the bleachers while retrieving volleyballs. He dropped about 30 feet and hit his head on a nearby cement wall. He immediately fell unconscious and spent weeks in the Intensive Care Unit, where doctors performed multiple surgeries and removed a portion of his front temporal lobe.

During a 3-week coma, Mr. Banks explained the sensation of being stuck in a crypt made of ice and screaming at doctors and family members above. In reality, he could not speak or move.

While in the hospital, his wife Jacqueline played his favorite album and doctors said his blood pressure would improve while he was listening to the music. The album was Live to Win by Kiss guitarist Paul Stanley.

'The power of music really amazes me,' Mr. Banks said.

After showing signs of improvement, Mr. Banks was transferred to Casa Colina in Pomona for rehabilitation and therapy. Mr. Stanley made a surprise visit to Mr. Banks after hearing the influence his music had in his recovery. Mr. Banks endured months of physical, occupational and speech therapy at Casa Colina and was able to relearn basic motor functions like walking and talking.

'It was some of the hardest stuff I have gone through in my whole life,' he explained. 'It was so frustrating to not be able to button up your own shirt or tie your shoelaces. But I can't say enough about the staff at Casa Colina. They were just amazing.'

Today, Mr. Banks is back on his feet. He works for the Claremont Forum and is happy about the opportunity to walk to his job. He enjoys riding a bike and pursuing his passions of writing, listening to music and attending his daughter's volleyball matches.

'Every time I'm on the bleachers, I hear the same joke over and over. Watch your step!' he said.

Mr. Banks believes he is about 90 percent back to his old self, but still has a slight stutter and is not as quick on his toes as he used to be. 'I feel like my mind is racing and my mouth is still trying to catch up,' he said.

He sees a neurologist regularly and takes daily seizure medication. The good news is he hasn't experienced a seizure for over one year.

Mr. Banks grew up in Claremont and has been active in the community, especially as a coach and referee for AYSO & club soccer, Claremont youth girls softball & baseball and CHS volleyball. Formerly a production assistant for stage productions in Burbank and Hollywood, Mr. Banks hopes to get back into the entertainment business as soon as possible. For now though, he is enjoying the life that he nearly lost.

'I've realized how all the small things in life are so important,' Mr. Banks said. 'I take one day at a time and stay in the moment. You really never know what tomorrow will bring.'