Simon R. Lewis would like to expand your consciousness, which might seem odd coming from the man who co-produced the silly but successful movies You Can't Hurry Love and Look Who's Talking.
But Lewis, 55, barely survived a horrific 1994 car crash that killed his passenger, his wife of five months. Now he's serious about helping others find what he calls “the hidden path.”
“It drives me nuts that one of the doctors said early on that my recovery was a miracle — I mean, don't get me wrong, it was miraculous — but it was the result of the application of real, available procedures and protocols, with measurable and repeatable results and benefits,” he explains.
After spending more than a month at Cedars-Sinai in a Glasgow Coma Scale 3 coma — the deepest level there is — and undergoing numerous surgeries, therapies and treatments over more than 15 years to repair his crushed and broken body, after navigating the insurance maze, Lewis realized he “wanted what happened to make a difference in the world. I wanted something positive to come from Marcy's death.”
So he wrote a book, Rise and Shine. Published in 2010, it details his remarkable road to recovery and “how much it means, the infinite possibilities of every moment we have,” Lewis says.
Traumatic brain injury strikes 1.5 million Americans a year. After a year or two of therapy, Lewis says, many are told they won't make more progress.
But if he'd believed that, he wouldn't be where he is today. Were you to meet the upbeat, affable Brit, you wouldn't know there's a high-tech device helping to move his left foot smoothly, or that he's “technically unsighted” (his computer has an extra-sharp monitor so that he can see it), or that he lives in “flat time” — past, present and future all seem much the same to him.
But you certainly wouldn't be surprised to learn that he's getting back into movies, having just finished the script for a sci-fi film, which he plans to co-produce. He owes his success to a regimen of cognitive therapy, which helped him to regain his focus and make the most of the two-thirds of his brain that survived the crash and a subsequent stroke. And he sees broad applications for the simple techniques he's found.
President Obama's 10-year, $100 million brain-mapping challenge has Lewis excited but also frustrated. He'd prefer to focus on more manageable goals, such as testing his ideas about cognitive therapy on perhaps 200 kids, following them over time. His experience shows it is possible to increase IQ, even to overcome learning difficulties. “It's consciousness at work!” he says.
Lewis emigrated with his family from London to L.A. as a teen. Today a resident of Sherman Oaks, his focus is sharing his experience through his book, as well as public speaking — the video of his December 2010 presentation at TEDTalks affiliate InK, in India, has nearly half a million pageviews on the main TEDTalks site. He'll speak in mid-June at London's Royal Society of Arts.
He's also started dating again, and hopes to remarry and start a family. After all, he quips, his father is still working at 91, so he should have a few good years left.
Lewis' message is this: “It isn't about getting back to what you were before — it's about making the most of the consciousness that remains to you over the long term, over the life term.”