Kristen Cameron making “significant gains’’ in her rehab

Jim Day
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Kristen Cameron, visiting with her mom Joanne in Stratford, says she is determined to be as independent as any other quadriplegic. She has been seeing great gains in recent months through physiotherapy following an accident last year in the United States.

The bad days are real bad.

On those days, intense pain burns in her legs and feet. And when the pain is significant, the energy is all but drained from Kristen Cameron.

No matter how bad the pain, though, the 26-year-old Charlottetown Islander knows how to push through the immense aching and move forward.

“I just keep telling myself it could be worse,’’ she said.

Well, it got quite bad for Cameron while she was riding a bicycle on Sept. 12, 2010, in Erie County, Pennsylvania, when a man under the influence of alcohol drove his 1979 Chevrolet Caprice into her. She was thrown more than 15 metres, leaving her paralyzed on the side of the road.

Cameron was treated at a Pennsylvania hospital before she was transferred to St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and then to a rehabilitation centre in the city. She has been fighting to regain movement in her shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands.

She told The Guardian in a lengthy interview Tuesday at her mother’s home in Stratford that she is whipping herself into good shape. She does physiotherapy three times a week at the Toronto Rehab-Lyndhurst Centre with a fourth day spent working out.

“I feel like I have made significant gains in the past three months,’’ she said.

Her goal is to become as independent as any other quadriplegic.

She hopes to start swimming later this winter, and she plans to get a modified bicycle in the spring.

And she is determined to eventually drive her own car.

The former hockey player credits her many years as a top athlete equipping her with the determination, stubbornness and strength to handle her demanding situation.

“Sometimes I think it’s good that it happened to me because I feel I can deal with it pretty well,’’ she said.

Cameron also has the mental strength to not wallow in her nasty misfortune.

She doesn’t think much of the sentence of three years a judge delivered Allan Peters of Waterford, Pennsylvania — the man who pleaded guilty to the second-degree felony charge of aggravated assault while driving under the influence in the incident that has left Cameron a quad.

Yet she can still dismiss the life-changing incident as “just the luck of the draw’’ and harbour no ill feelings toward Peters, a man she believes is in need of more help than she.

She feels fortunate for her many previous opportunities in life. And she looks forward to making the most of her future.

“Sometimes I think it’s good that it happened to me because I feel I can deal with it pretty well,’’ she said.

Cameron was pursuing a master’s degree and working as an assistant coach with the women’s hockey team at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania, when Peters ploughed into her.

She doesn’t know what career path she will take now. She would love to coach again whether or not it is part of a career.

“I think that I’ll figure something out,’’ she said.

For now, though, her focus is on building back as much mobility and strength as she can.

She lives in an apartment in Toronto with 24-hour attendant care. Her service dog, a black Labrador named Fido, can open doors and cabinets for her and pick up objects.

“I just like having her around,’’ she said. “She does a lot for me.’’

Fido made the trip with her to P.E.I., the pair arriving Dec. 17 for Cameron’s first time back home since the accident.

She has been splitting time between her mother, Joanne Cameron, in Stratford, her father, Brian Cameron, in Charlottetown, brother, Craig, sister, Jen, extended family and a host of friends.

The visit to date, which ends Monday, has been a busy but happy time for Cameron.

She has been touched by the show of support from her many friends and even from complete strangers. She calls P.E.I. a unique place.

“People are just willing to do anything to help,’’ she said.

The realization that she is inspiring others with her grit and fight, in turn, motivates her even more to keep getting stronger.

“I just want to be able to do anything that any quad can do,’’ she said.




Organizations: Mercyhurst College, Pennsylvania hospital, Hospital in Toronto Toronto Rehab-Lyndhurst Centre

Geographic location: Erie, Pennsylvania, Stratford, Erie County Michael Waterford Toronto Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • a grandpa
    February 11, 2012 - 16:13

    dear kristen. on one hand i am truly sorry what happened to you at such a young age, and so much to look forward to. on the other hand, i see a wonderful, strong, and a really heroic young lady, who is a inspiration not only to people with disabilities, but to all young (and old) people, how to cope, and overcome adversities. with today's rapid advances in medical research and discoveries, i am sure you will have many good years to enjoy yet. G_d bless you and your wonderful family and friends who are supporting you.

  • One who plays
    December 28, 2011 - 12:43

    Knowing what a great coahes are in here family and with her and their Hockey pedigree, I can imagine a National Organization such as Hockey Canada could use her skills with the National Sledge and developmental Sledge hockey teams. You are only limited by your thoughts.

    • John King
      February 02, 2012 - 21:54

      Here's a note from the US. We were privileged to have our daughter play with Kristen at Bowdoin College. Sept.12, 2010 was a terrible devastating day that we will never forget. Kristen's response to this has been nothing short of amazing and outstanding. We love her and are so impressed by the support she has from her beloved Canadiens. You should all be proud of her and yourselves. She is a great young lady from a great country. Our best to you K.

  • Ed Gallant
    December 28, 2011 - 12:02

    Kristen It's good to see you made it home for Christmas. I can see by your smile that you have a positive attitude and that will help you immensely. Keep a positive outlook and all the best for you in the future.

  • danny harding
    December 28, 2011 - 11:15

    Kristen. just remember this saying and NOTHING can stop you. I hear you says the deaf man A see you says the blind man let me talk to you says the mute man. and the man with no arms and no legs shakes your hand and gets up and walks away.

  • paula
    December 28, 2011 - 10:00

    I was so happy to read this story about Kristen and to see how well she is doing. It has been a long road for her and her family after this horrible event. So nice to see her back on the Island.

  • Marie Gallant
    December 28, 2011 - 09:43

    Thanks for publishing this story for those of us with disability issues. And may God Bless you Erin for striving through your pain to become the best you can be with such a devasting change in your young adult life. You are an inspiration to the rest of us no matter our age or disability .