Back from the brink: BC musician rediscovers himself after traumatic brain injury

A tragic fall left Simon Paradis paralysed with a traumatic brain injury. Doctors said he wouldn't survive the night. Years later, Simon accepts parts of him are gone forever. But with the help of his wife, Kara, Simon has created a new life and embraces his new normal.
Simon Paradis and his wife Kara Stanley have learned to adapt to life after a brain injury. (Courtesy)

For Simon Paradis, life as a working musician meant having to work a construction job to make ends meet. Nine years ago, Simon was re-siding a house on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast when the scaffolding he was standing on collapsed. Simon fell ten feet onto flagstone.

The fall severed his vertebrae and caved in the back of his skull. He was airlifted to Vancouver, but his condition worsened during the flight, leaving him in a coma for the next 19 days.

Simon and Kara before the accident. (Courtesy)

Simon's wife, Kara Stanley, remembers hearing the sirens of the ambulances.  Unbeknownst to her, they were racing to help Simon. Kara says that once she got to the hospital, after a long ferry ride to Vancouver, doctors didn't give her much hope for Simon's future.

"The prognosis initially was very grim," said Stanley. "I was told there was a high degree of probability that he would not survive the next 24 hours; that if he did survive the next 24 hours there was a high degree of probability he wouldn't survive the next seven days; that if he did survive there was a very good chance he'd never regain meaningful consciousness."

But Simon woke up. 

After weeks in a coma, he began to regain some of what he'd lost in the accident. He even showed early signs of recovering linguistic ability, something doctors weren't sure he would be able to do. 

"One of the a-ha moments ... was my father used to sit and play songs that I'd learned on the guitar as a kid by my bedside, and one day [he] played a Graham Parsons tune called 'Hickory Wind'. The last verse starts with the line , 'It's a hard way to find out that trouble is real / In a far away city with a far away feel', and I mouthed those words with him while he sang them. And I didn't sing, I couldn't push any air through my lungs, but I was mouthing the words, which was kind of an appropriation of language."

Simon credits this moment as the beginning of his recovery. The next day, he started writing in a journal, and soon after regained much of his language.

Simon and Kara were told that because of the extensive damage to his frontal lobe, there would be difficulties in his executive functions. Abstract concepts like multitasking, planning, focusing and improvising would be affected.

Simon Paradis and Kara Stanley (Courtesy)

"Finding myself in a position where I could no longer improvise was disheartening," said Paradis. "It was probably the moment where I was most aware of my acquired brain injury because it actually felt like when I tried to improvise, my brain was literally moving through jello or porridge."

Although much of Simon's injury healed over time, the accident left him paralyzed. Still, he and Kara remain positive as they work to adjust to a new way of living.

Click LISTEN above to hear more of Simon's powerful drive to find a positive approach to life after a brain injury. 

This segment originally aired July 9, 2017. 

Throughout the episode we featured some of Tapestry guest host Kinnie Starr's music. Check out the playlist below:

1) Song: Up in Smoke, Artist: Kinnie Starr, Album: Anything
2) Song: Bonfires, Artist: Kinnie Starr, Album: A Different Story
3) Song: Everything Changes, Artist: Kinnie Starr, Album: Kiss It

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