Outpouring of support boosts Waterdown’s Campbell family:Dad Brian suffered spinal injury after falling from ladder

The irony of the situation, said Brian, is that he’s a technical director and production manager at the Hart House Theatre at the University of Toronto. Prior to his management role, he was a lighting technician.

“I’ve probably logged thousands of hours on ladders and lifts,” he said. “I have my Working At Heights training and certification. It’s kind of ironic that I fell off a ladder.”

The accident happened, he said, because the rung stop was slightly apart; when he put his foot on the ladder from the garage roof, the ladder slid, causing him to bounce off.

While Brian can smile about the situation now, Claire said the family has had a very difficult few weeks. Brian was in the Acute Care Unit at the General for three weeks, before being moved to the Rehabilitation Centre. He’ll remain there until Feb. 8 – after which he’ll return home but return for three sessions per week as an outpatient.

But since starting rehab – he does an hour in the morning and an hour and a half in the afternoon – Brian said he has seen a big difference. “Things that I found difficult at first are getting much easier,” he said. “Even just transferring myself out of my chair to a surface or something like that, the first time doing it, I found really, really difficult.

“But now it’s becoming much easier.”

Since the accident Claire, a self-employed travel agent, has been off work and at the hospital with Brian almost every day. “There was only once or twice I didn’t come because I was really sick and rundown,” she said.

She said from the get-go their neighbours on Fellowes Crescent were incredibly supportive. “They all chipped in – with meeting my daughter off the school bus, taking care of the kids, bringing dinners around for us,” she said. Within a few days of Brian being in the hospital the community started a GoFundMe page for the Campbells.

And, Claire said, the family has had to set up an app called Meal Train – because they were so inundated with people wanting to help. “Because everyone kept offering to cook for me and the kids and bring dinners, we were getting so many lasagnas brought around,” she explained. As a result, people sign up for a day to bring food, streamlining the process. “Since the week after the accident, I’ve had dinner every day delivered to my house – there was one day where I didn’t get it,” she said. “It’s just been incredible.”

Claire added that even complete strangers have offered to help out. “Yesterday these teenage girls turned up with a big tin of cookies,” she said. “‘They said, ‘We heard about what happened to your husband and we just wanted to say we’re sorry.’”

A chef from Izabel’s in Waterdown has dropped off soup and chili for their freezer, and a local woman who has a cleaning business offered to clean their house. Claire declined, so the woman raffled off her services to support the GoFundMe page.

The neighbours got into the Christmas spirit, too. “A few days after the accident happened there were several neighbours all around putting up Christmas decorations and lights at the house for us and the kids,” she said. “Some other neighbours took my daughter to go get a tree.”

Brian said he couldn’t believe what was happening. “I was absolutely flabbergasted by the outpouring of support,” he said, adding that it sets his mind at ease. “Because then I can concentrate on getting better and not having to worry about, ‘Oh, are they doing OK at home?’”

He said that although the family has only lived in Waterdown for three years, they’ve noticed the community always pulls together in the face of a tragedy. “The outpouring of support from the people of Waterdown is just unreal,” he said.

Claire noted Brian’s parents cancelled a trip to Florida to help out and her mother has flown in from England to help.

Moving forward, the family could face a number of changes – such as potentially having to move out of their three-storey home.

“We are temporarily going to be living with (Brian’s) parents in Burlington, because they’re in a bungalow,” she said. “Until we can come to a conclusion on whether we’re going to spend money renovating our house or whether we’re going to sell and find a bungalow. But we’re going to stay in Waterdown – we love it.”

While the family may have to buy a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, Brian is hopeful that won’t be necessary. “By the time I leave here I should be able to transfer into a car,” he said, “So hopefully we shouldn’t need a new car.”

He noted the family is not entirely sure about the long-term prognosis but he did see some progress in the past week when he gained some movement back in his upper legs.

“When I told the physios that…they seemed really keen about that,” he said. “They’re now shifting their focus to gaining back some of my leg mobility. It’s encouraging.”

The family has also felt support from other patients with Flamborough ties. Migrant worker Jesus Rosas Flores, who had his legs amputated after a Flamborough farm accident in early November, was in the next room at the General.

While the Flores family didn’t speak English, Claire said they reached out and gave her a hug during difficult times.

“We translated via Google Translate,” she said. “We’ve kept in touch with them.”

As well, Brian has been able to draw encouragement from Waterdown’s Blake Davies. The 19 year-old was paralyzed after a trampoline park accident earlier this year and is in physio at the Rehabilitation Centre three days per week.

“It’s nice to be able to have someone to relate to, from an injury standpoint,” Brian said. “(Blake) is arguably worse off than I am physically and he’s keeping positive.”

But what perhaps the most difficult thing about being in the hospital was missing both Emily’s sixth birthday and Charlie’s first.

“That stung a lot – to not be at home or able to be with the kids on their birthdays,” he said.

In both cases the children came to the hospital. In fact, on Emily’s birthday the family adopted a superhero theme – and all four of them wore Superman shirts. That gained the family the nickname of the Super Family.

“It was very close after the accident and all the nurses were just amazed at what great spirits Brian was in and how the family just really picked him up,” she said. “His positivity, the way he’s approached the physio and everything has just been incredible.”

Brian said there are two ways to go in the face of the injury. “You can be all, ‘Woe is me, I’m never going to walk again, why is this happening to me,’” he said, “Or I thought, ‘This is the hand I’ve been dealt – let’s try to make the best of it.’”

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