New Brunswick, Canada
Paul Campbell used to be a talented hockey player before an accident. After tragic car crash and waking up from the coma he started his journey to recovery which last until this day. Paul is now a motivational speaker, father, book author and so much more.
What Paul remembers from that tragic day is asking his parents to take him to the friend’s party. He spent there a couple of hours. After that he left to drop off his friends, however after some time the car went out of control and struck a tree with such a force that it jackknifed around it. Within one hour from the moment Paul left the party his parents received a phone call to come and identify a body as he was there in the destroyed car along his friends.
“I remember my friend yelling something about a dog jumping out in front of the car, and then grabbing the wheel. The next thing I remember were seeing all these little dots on the wall”
After the car crash Campbell was in the coma for 51 days, he broke three vertebrae in the back and his heart stopped three times. What was more of a concern for his doctors was his head injury which he suffered after hitting against the window.
When Paul woke up from the coma in the hospital the dots that he remembers appeared to be a get well cards attached to the walls in his hospital room. Intensive rehabilitation took him about 18 months, however it continues until today. Campbell goes to the gym five to six times a week and keeps counting every single workout. He is now after 13068 workout since March 1989 which was one year from the day that he came out of the coma.
"I like failure, because it means that I’m trying. Failure is a good thing and you learn from that more than you would from success"
Picture from Paul's private archives
The hockey dream was over but Paul never gave up and stays active as much as he can. He sometimes meets his friends to put on the skates, “but I’m not very coordinated anymore I think I can do things on the ice, but I can’t.”
Paul was never shy about his abilities what definitely helped him during recovery “Even when I was hurt, I wouldn’t have traded my position with anybody. I saw this as a test, and I was going to pass it. I wanted to show everybody that I can beat this.”
Cambell says “I’m the luckiest man to be alive. People come up with so many excuses to not do stuff that they want and then I’m thinking ‘Are you kidding me?’.
“I think my brain injury helped in my recovery, because I was feeling so angry and wanted to prove people wrong. One doctor said that I can do whatever I want and the other that I won’t be able to come back to school. I have nothing against him since he was doing his job but that was my motivation, to prove people that I can do it”
I’ve asked Paul what could help other people to have the same mantra to never give up and keep going and he said “Because there is no alternative, you have to keep going. We need internal motivation, that’s the key. It’s good to have support system because sometimes it’s hard to become self motivated. It’s helpful to have somebody to encourage you and say that you are doing good.”
What Paul learned along the way to recovery is “I’m as smart as everyone else and I’m not different with the exception that if maybe some people have to study for one hour and I will have to study for four hours, It doesn’t matter. I will do it. “
“I think we are in trouble in Canada as we do not have doctors to meet the needs. I also think that people have to take responsibility for their own health. However when it comes to accessibility I think Canada is doing pretty good. There is a lot of accessible parkings and other amenities.
I used to be a president of New Brunswick ski association for people with disabilities and from that observation I would say that we just have to be more accepting, tolerant and welcoming.
"I would like to share to others with disabilities some things. Firstly break the word ‘disability’ down. ‘Dis’ means inability and ‘ability’ is a skill, so get rid of the first part and focus on ability. Just do as much as you can and practise. “I understand that I have limitations but I don’t let my disability control me. I like failure, because it means that I’m trying. Failure is a good thing and you learn from that more than you would from success” Paul says.