A Show of Courage

We’re proud to present the winner of our first ‘Fearless Hearts’ online story competition. A story of tragedy, trial and the relentless spirit of an amazing family.

P4010187We were celebrating my sister’s 50th birthday. It was a surprise party with family and friends. Just before the cake was to arrive, I made a trip to the washroom and my life changed forever.

I was viciously attacked from behind. A witness ran to get help. If he hadn’t, I may not have survived. I never saw it coming. I was jumped by a total stranger … we had never met or spoken before. He stomped on my head and caused critical injuries. Afterwards he bragged about what he’d done. He told the police it wasn’t his fault, that I should have fought back and that he was just trying to have fun. My wife said that the washroom looked like a murder scene. Melissa was in total shock at this unprovoked, vicious and random attack on her husband.

I was taken by ambulance to the University Hospital where I spent the next two weeks in acute care. During that time I was moved a half dozen times through a barrage of tests to determine the extent of my injuries. Eventually I was sent to the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and admitted as a Ward 4B patient for my brain injuries. I received another series of tests and daily examinations to begin my very long road to recovery.

When I was admitted I was unable to walk, speak properly or even eat without assistance. I’d grunt, get frustrated and confused and my own kids were afraid of me. Melissa came to me and said: “it’s horrible whats happened, its terrible, but I know the person you are. When you talk to people, look them in the eye, show them respect, be polite as I know you can be, they will understand and help you” My nickname at the Glenrose became “Mr. Manners”

I required a walker and a wheelchair for over three months. Six weeks into post trauma, I said to Melissa “watch me,” and I sat down by myself. I had to hold my walker, but I sat down. Imagine being so excited about sitting down without falling over.

Tiny steps.

I was briefly discharged as an outpatient only to be re-admitted after some regressions. One of my physical therapists said “Scott, its important for us to understand what your goal is.” I told her “to defy gravity.” We both knew then that I was committed to the challenge.

My schedule consisted of three to four therapy sessions a day, four to five days a week. Almost three years after the attack, I am still an outpatient at the Glenrose. In addition to my basic therapy sessions, I do other physical and occupational exercises and continue to work on my speech. This requires a minimum of 60-90 minutes per day to assist in any recovery. Due to the extent of the attack, my injuries have not allowed me to return to my work. My full-time job now is recovery. On March 1st, 2014 I finally passed my road test and got my drivers license back. I was no longer reliant on Disabled Adult Transport Service so it became a lot easier to attend my numerous therapy sessions.

My left-side hearing is still weak and my entire left side remains mostly numb with a tingling sensation. My right shoulder has required various tests and ongoing treatments. The current diagnosis is “frozen shoulder.” Any movement causes tremendous pain and further anxiety. My physical endurance and stamina are greatly affected and fatigue causes difficulty in accomplishing tasks. I am physically, emotionally, and cognitively challenged with no clear light at the end of the tunnel.

The worst of it is trying to be an active father and loving husband. My young children, one who was only a few months old and the other in kindergarten when this happened, have been greatly impacted.

I have been very active all of my life. Since this attack I have been unable to train in Kenjutsu; Classical Japanese Swordsmanship which a friend of mine described as “more like a religion than a passion when I’d been doing it for 19 years.”

The downside of this experience is enormous.

My family suffers daily. I find it difficult to play and parent. I can no longer ride a motorcycle or scuba dive; things I loved. Returning to my job as a Senior Account Manager with the same company for over fifteen years is out of the question. Financial hardship is creating significant emotional barriers. My full time role is now dedicated to trying to be stronger and healthier, so one day I may reclaim my roles as father, provider, and husband. I devote my days to trying to improve. I’m thirty- six months into the most demanding, challenging, exhausting, and frustrating progress I will ever face. I am nowhere close to where I want to be. I can only try to maximize what I have left since the attack and continue my ongoing therapy.

Every single day is a challenge. and I must face the reality of trying to be functional. My physical obstacles from this attack now prevent me from doing all that I wish to do or was able to approach before. The tremor/shaking in my right hand persists. I must prepare myself physically and emotionally well in advance for any social activities. I ‘m constantly frustrated and in pain. The damage done is permanent and our lives will never be the same. As my wife says “my husband is facing a life sentence”

Thanks to the Glenrose and treatments repeated over and over again, I’ve become an expert in “therapy.” But my progress makes me feel more like a “habitual offender.” Still, back in April of 2013 I had the privilege to be recognized at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital “Courage” awards Gala.

You search for the upside.

In life you expect to change, grow, develop and improve. To come to understand where you are and be confident in what your next step will be. You don’t expect to have to start over again.

I started a diary for my youngest daughter Hadley. Unlike her sister Avery, she didn’t really know her dad before the attack, and I want her to. When the time comes and she’s old enough, and the question “was Daddy always like this” comes up, I want her to be able to have something to help her know who I was and what I’ve gone through to try to be that for her again.

If I could to go back in time, I’m not sure that I’d trade everything that I’ve learned, experienced and seen to erase that night in the washroom. I had a life then and I have a different kind of life now. The journey isn’t over, the destination uncertain. The adventure is as real as it gets. Whatever we have to work with, every minute matters and the legacy we leave is a life well lived.

At least as well as it can possibly be.