Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Teen's story of hope leaves an afterglow

Blair's recovery draws swift, heartfelt reaction

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WHEN I find a story -- especially one as touching and triumphant as Saturday's column on 18-year brain-injury survivor Blair Stewart -- I always look forward to what I call the afterglow.

More commonly, it's known as the readers' reaction.

A Story of Hope describes how the young Shaftesbury High School hockey team captain miraculously survived a traffic accident and was playing hoops in the driveway less than two months later.

Rarely has the reaction come from so many angles.

Starting at the hospital, from a passer-by.

"Your story in today's paper made me smile," Erin Terhoch Harris's e-mail began.

Late last May, right after the accident, Erin and her husband Jim Harris were visiting her maternal grandfather in the Health Sciences Centre's surgical intensive care unit, when she noticed a crowd gathered day after day.

"They were camped out with coolers, and more food than needed to feed an army," the 25-year-old elementary school teacher said.

Erin said she never had the courage to ask the family members why they were there.

"We knew it was somebody young; there was a banner that read: 'Get well soon, Blair.' I wondered what happened to their family member. Wondered how long they would camp out. Your story answered my questions -- and I am so happy for this young guy and his family."

Then there was this note from an ER nurse who was working the morning Blair was brought in.

"As the days passed following his traffic accident, we often wondered about his condition. You have provided us with a glimpse into the recovery process that we often never hear or see.

"I am very glad to read that Blair has graduated. That was one of the first things his mom talked to him about when she saw him lying on the stretcher in our ER (department)."

Then, oddly, there was this outstretched hand all the way from the United States.

It was from a guy who, like Blair, grew up playing hockey in the city's southwest.

But that's not all they had in common.

"My name is Blair Stewart," the e-mail began.

The other Blair Stewart explained that he is a former NHL player, who now lives in Annapolis, Md., but plans to visit Winnipeg -- and hopefully, Blair -- next month.

"I went through a lot as a player before, during and after my pro career, so maybe some uplifting words may help him stay strong."

There were other offers.

A teacher named Lane Curry wants Blair to guest-coach at a hockey school in Morden this week.

Jason Chapman from The Olive Garden wants the family to have dinner on him at the restaurant's Family Table.

And then there was this message of hope about the story of hope.

"Just finished reading your article on the young man who suffered a severe head injury.

"It sure brought a flood of memories back. You see, I had a similar experience 22 years ago.

"I was 17 years old. I do not recall the accident itself.

"I do recall some alarming experiences after the accident and I thought that they may be worth sharing with Blair to let him know that he is not alone and that what he is feeling is normal.

"I remember feeling dazed and confused.

"I recall thinking that I really was brain-damaged and that nobody was telling me the truth. I remember seeing the world as a different place, realizing that I had beaten the odds and survived, that there was a special purpose that I had not yet fulfilled.

"The first year after such an experience can be challenging, but that is most likely the post-trauma stress, as opposed to any lasting effects of the accident.

"Sleep can work wonders. I remember sleeping about 14 hours a day for the first several months. It passes.

"In my case, I am busy living happily ever after. I am married, have three healthy children and a successful career.

"I hope that Blair will carry on and recognize his talents and strengths. He is truly blessed.

"I also hope that his parents will encourage him to seek some professional support through the challenging first year."

-- Linda

"Please let Blair know that life goes on, only with more appreciation," she added.

I read Linda's letter to Blair's mom.

She suggested that Blair would be able to relate to much of her message of hope.

Especially one part.

Being more appreciative.

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 7, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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