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Thread: Humour columnist digs into his bag of wit to overcome accident that left him paralysedテつ*

  1. #1

    Humour columnist digs into his bag of wit to overcome accident that left him paralysedテつ*

    Humour columnist digs into his bag of wit to overcome accident that left him paralysedテつ*
    Canadian Press
    Wednesday, June 12, 2002

    TORONTO (CP) - Ed Smith is like an enthusiastic kid as he writes stories and newspaper columns using a voice-activated computer program. Although paralysed from the shoulders down because of a motor-vehicle accident, the humour columnist and book author has never let go of his playfulness.

    "It's hard to keep me down for any length of time; perhaps it's because of the natural sense of humour I inherited from my mother," Smith, 61, says in an interview from Springdale, Nfld., to discuss his new book, From the Ashes of My Dreams (Flanker Press).

    The 322-page book chronicles the frustrations and triumphs of his recovery. It's a testament to his delightful sense of humour, which has carried him through 40 years of marriage and bringing up four kids, his years as a teacher and principal, his career as a columnist and through 17 months of often frustrating rehab.

    The accident occurred four years ago when the sport-utility vehicle his wife Marion was driving skidded and plunged down an embankment.
    But now, he's busier than ever.

    His satiric The View from Here columns, his takes on "anything that hits me during the day," appear in several Newfoundland newspapers. In one column covering a topic near and dear to him, Smith, who has written six books, says fame as an author "will probably be limited to your immediate family or at best your immediate neighbourhood."

    Many recent columns were inspired by his post-accident experiences, like the time an airline wanted to charge him $12,000 for a flight from Toronto to Springdale because his stretcher took up six seats.

    Smith has his serious moments too.

    "I'm not a quadriplegic; I'm a man with quadriplegia," he says from his home, which underwent $70,000 in renovations to widen hallways and install ramps so he can get about in his high-tech motorized wheelchair.

    The eldest of two kids born to a United Church minister and his wife, Smith attended Dalhousie University in Halifax and then served as a student minister. He later became a teacher in various Newfoundland schools before settling in Springdale, a community about a six-hour drive west of St. John's.

    It was Marion who encouraged her husband to share his keen sense of humour, so he sold his column idea to a local paper in 1980.

    He retired as an educator in 1996 - two years before the early January accident that changed his life.

    Smith, his wife and their youngest daughter Jennifer, now a 32-year-old lawyer, were driving home from a post-Christmas dinner in Gander with his fellow members of a community health board.

    Smith had been lying in the back seat of the SUV because of a sore back. "I remember that I didn't have a seatbelt on, but I told my wife nothing was going to happen."

    About an hour from Spingdale, the SUV hit black ice and crashed into rocks and trees. Marion and Jennifer suffered minor injuries. Smith was taken by air ambulance to the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's, where he couldn't feel anything doctors poked at his body, even after surgery to fuse two vertebrae.
    He endured nearly a year and a half of physiotherapy in St. John's and later at a spinal-cord centre in Toronto.

    Jennifer, whose journal entries chronicling her feelings following the accident are in her dad's book, recalls her father's pain. For instance, he suffered blood-pressure changes resulting in severe headaches, and had trouble breathing.
    "He isn't asking us (the family) to kill him, as he did in ICU (intensive care), but he is crying, hallucinating, shaking his head and saying he can't make it through the long weeks to come, the long dark days and long dark nights," Jennifer writes.

    Despite her family's refusal to blame her for the accident, Marion, whose thoughts are also in the book, says she couldn't help but feel responsible, which made her work harder to help her husband overcome his lethargy and "draw him back into active life."

    On the phone, Smith reaches into his bag of humour to downplay his spiral into depression.

    "The first few weeks were no picnic," he says. "Suddenly I realized after 58 years of being a totally healthy male that here I was like a beetle on my back with its legs up in the air."

    With his wife acting as his health-care advocate, Smith rebounded. But it wasn't until his rehab at Toronto's Lyndhurst spinal-cord centre that his zest for life returned.

    "The 70 people in that institution were pretty well like me, most had gone through accidents and they were 14 to 70 and had various degrees of paralysis," he recalls.

    "Seeing how they coped did wonderful things for me. You'd think they'd be bemoaning and complaining and bitter, but that wasn't so. It was a joyous place, with kids racing each other in wheelchairs and showing tremendous courage and coming to grips with what happened to them.

    "I thought, if they can do that kind of thing, I can do that kind of thing."
    He returned to writing his column in September 1999, dictating his first submission to his wife. Shortly after, he was trained on his $3,000 voice-activated computer program - a donation from a man he likes to call "Santa Claus." Called NaturallySpeaking, the program types words on to the screen as they're dictated into a microphone.

    When Smith isn't writing, he charms audiences as a lecturer. Recently, he spoke at a company function about the importance of giving people with physical challenges a chance.

    As for how he and his wife are handling things, he admits: "It takes a great deal of commitment, humour, patience and forbearance, but I think we're doing very very well."

  2. #2
    Great Story! These write-ups show the courage that all SCI people have. I love hearing them!

    Actually, I read about them all the time by members of this Forum and they inspire me so much. Good Luck to you all.


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