On August 17, Brendan O'Brien was out celebrating his 24th birthday. He'd just emerged from a bar at 4 a.m. on 5th and Hennepin to summon an Uber on his phone.
Within moments he was surrounded by a pack of robbers. A security camera catches him being pummeled to the pavement, repeatedly punched and kicked in the head until the pack separates, revealing his unconscious body splayed on the sidewalk.
He would eventually be helped away by Good Samaritans, with enough power that he didn't immediately think of getting medical help. But a month later, the damage is evident. O'Brien can't drive, can't work, and struggles to hold conversations.
“My brother now has to deal with symptoms of brain trauma that include migraines, memory loss, inability to drive, operate machinery and unrelenting anxiety,” says his sister Lily on a GoFundMe page set up to help with medical bills. “Some symptoms may be permanent and as treatment schedule begins the fear of what is yet to be discovered resonates.”
O'Brien only recently saw the video of his beating. “It was a lot more brutal than I thought it was going to be,” he told KARE 11. “Once I got that kick to the face, that's what really did it for me."
The effects of severe concussions aren't fully known. They can retreat after the incident, only to reemerge in later life with the loss of memory, chronic flashes of unexplained anger and anxiety, and the morphing of one's personality into something unrecognizable.
O'Brien brings a young man's resilience to the incident. He doesn't worry that his phone was stolen, that his wallet, keys, and $80 are gone. Cut between the nine attackers, the individual takes from the robbery amounted to less than 10 bucks apiece. “So the joke's on them,” he says.
Some have been arrested, their $10 scores now translating to felony charges. But O'Brien worries he's lost something more.
"I don’t know how long I can take off before I lose my job,” he told KARE. “And I love my job. I just graduated college and was looking forward to getting really good at something, and it was taken away. It's completely robbed me of peace of mind. I don't feel the same way I used to feel."
Lily O'Brien realizes the trials that await her brother. “All donations will go directly to Brendan to help cover any medical costs that come from his injuries, as well mitigate any unforeseen costs related to the brain damage he received and help support him in the upcoming months,” she writes on GoFundMe.
Brendan puts it more concisely: “I just want my brain back.”