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Scott G. Winterton, Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Josh Morros, right, talks with Life Flight paramedic Alan Bartlome. Morros returned to Intermountain Medical Center to meet the team that saved his life after a racing accident.

MURRAY — At a young age, Josh Morros became popular in Reno, Nev., for his motorcycle racing skills. At 16 years old he had already won a MRANN championship and was under contract with Kawasaki. In fact, the pros said he was the next big thing in the off-road motocross racing world.

Back then for him, it was all about the win.

In August 2008, Morros crashed during a high-speed racing competition near Wendover. He said, that's when his journey began. Morros writes this message on his Facebook page:

"In that moment, which I didn't understand or comprehend at the time, my life gained true meaning," he wrote.

Now, three years later, Morros is beginning a new journey in life — raising awareness for traumatic brain injury survivors.

He's doing it with a cross-country bike ride. He started his 2,700 mile trek from Reno, Nev., on June 20 and plans to reach Vienna, Va., the headquarters of Brain Injury Association of America, by July 29.

This week Morros is riding through Salt Lake City with the team of doctors and other caregivers who helped save his life.

And if you ask the now 19-year-old why he's riding a bike cross-country while still recovering from a traumatic brain injury, he'll say it's because he can.

"Sky's the limit," he said. "And whatever's up there, I'm going to grab it."

He'll make that journey one mile at a time, as he put it, riding his bike 38 to 100 miles a day.

It took a team of nearly 60 medical professionals to help rehabilitate Morros. His parents, John and Teresa, have photos of him with his doctors, nurses and physical therapists. Looking at those photos of himself while he lay in a hospital bed in a coma for two weeks, Morros never thought he'd to do what he's doing now.

"There's time when I wanted to get off and start walking. I was tired," he explained. "I just kept thinking to myself other kids have it way harder. And they just keep pushing. If they can do it, I can do it."

His doctors never thought he'd make it either. Don Van Boerum was one of Morros' doctors who cared for him at Intermountain Medical Center.

"His parents told us all along, 'Well he's a fighter. He has a competitive spirit. He's going to bounce back. He's going to do just fine,' " explained Van Boerum, a critical care surgeon at Intermountain Medical Center. "Those of us that see a lot of brain injuries know that's not always the case."

Morros' mother admits there were days she, too, was nervous about his chances of surviving the crash.

"The last time we were here, it was just so bleak," she said. "I never in my wildest dreams thought it would be to this point. I really didn't."

His mother says now her son is on a life mission to help the millions of people living in the United States with traumatic brain injuries.

"We push him every day to understand that he doesn't have to necessarily be that champion on top of a podium to touch people's lives," she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 1.7 million people in the United States are living with traumatic brain injuries, and 56,000 of them are Utahns. Ron Roskos, the director of the Brain Injury Association of Utah, says brain injuries hurt families in so many different aspects.

"Many of them do lose their homes, their cars, jobs," explained Roskos. "It's an impact not just on the person or the family, it's an impact on the whole state."

Roskos says insurance only pays so much and then it's up to the families to pay for rehabilitation, which cost an estimated $4 million to care for a survivor of a TBI. Roskos said many families can't afford that. "Once they lose their funding, through the insurance and their own money," explained Roskos, "then it's upon the federal government to help take care of them."

John and Teresa Morros said they lost two businesses in real estate and construction caring for their son Josh. But she said she would do it again.

"We had to really just rely on our love and our support," she explained. "But we just dug deep and realized that the love and faith would get us through. And we always believed that Josh would be better."

As for Josh, he wants to get back to motocross racing. He said his dreams are even bigger now.

"I still have a lot of ground to make up, and I'm not going to settle until I reach my point."

Email: niyamba@desnews.com