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Injured musician wins award

A local musician was recognized for his positive attitude and commitment to rehabilitation, in spite of a serious fall that left him with a brain injury and paraplegic.

A local musician was recognized for his positive attitude and commitment to rehabilitation, in spite of a serious fall that left him with a brain injury and paraplegic.

Simon Paradis recently received a $5,000 Gert Vorsteher Memorial Award while in rehabilitation at Vancouver's GF Strong Centre following a workplace injury that changed his life.

"Simon is a passionate musician and a member of a band that he hopes to return to once he is discharged from GF Strong," said social worker Mary Erb, who recommended Paradis apply for the award. "He has been working with the music therapist in trying to regain his finger strength and co-ordination so he can play guitar. He's determined and remains positive and optimistic."

BC Rehab announced eight recipients of the award May 7. The award is named for Gert Vorsteher, who became a paraplegic after a workplace accident in 1962 and resided at GF Strong Centre during his rehabilitation. He died in 1997 at the age of 74.

Paradis fell from scaffolding while at a job last summer, hitting his head, which caused an arterial brain bleed and paralysis. His skull was opened for surgery, and he was in a coma for five days, spending one month in Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) and three months at GF Strong Centre.

"I arrived at VGH with one fully fixed pupil. They thought I was halfway through death's door," said Paradis at his temporary home in West Sechelt.

In the after-haze of the coma, with family gathered at his bedside, he said he recalled thinking, "Why am I the star of this medical drama? We were told to expect a year in hospital and rehab, but I squeezed everything into four months," he said.

Paradis said attitude has a lot to do with moving forward with life.

"Attitude is a defining interest in how you approach tragedy and trauma in your life," he said. "For me what helped was the advocacy group around me - friends and family."

Paradis suffered strokes resulting in brain damage and damage to the left side of his body. He will also spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

"Obviously I miss my legs, and I miss that environment those people [musicians]," he said.

He said his left arm was like "shaking an etch-a-sketch" game, but with determination and a passion to return to music, he is now taking classical guitar lessons.

"I'm not one of those to have a woe-is-me aspect to my personality," he said.

A local fundraiser held shortly after his accident helped Paradis, his wife Kara and their son Eli with expenses while they wait for renovations to be completed that will make their home in Halfmoon Bay wheelchair accessible.

"For my family and myself, there is an overwhelming sense of thanks for the fundraising -a massive thanks," he said. "I'm getting braces and adaptive driving lessons in June."

He will then be able to take himself to physiotherapy with Jody Shaw who worked at GF Strong, a specialist in paraplegia rehabilitation who now works at St. Mary's Hospital.

"Re-inventing myself as a guitar player and music producer will be key to my vocational independence and will take practice, practice, practice," Paradis told BC Rehab when he learned about the award. "Also, key to my post GF Strong recovery is to re-emerge as a husband and father. I want to be a valuable, contributing member of our family."

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