NEWS

Kara Stanley pens book about husband's devastating brain injury

05/10/2015 02:04 EDT | Updated 05/10/2016 05:59 EDT
It's been seven years since Kara Stanley's husband Simon Paradis fell from scaffolding on a construction site on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, suffering a catastrophic brain and spinal cord injury.

But Stanley remembers the details as clearly as if they had happened yesterday. She remembers wondering at the sirens she could hear blaring from inside her home, followed soon after by a knock on the door — and then, horrific news.

Paradis was in a coma for 19 days and today still can't remember the incident.  When he finally gained consciousness, a heartwrenching road to recovery ensued.

Now a paraplegic with spinal cord damage and severe brain injuries, Paradis fought to return to work as a musician, and Stanley journeyed with him through the pain and uncertainty.

The couple's story is documented in Stanley's new book, Fallen: A Trauma, a Marriage, and the Transformative Power of Music.

While Paradis was comatose, Stanley rarely left his side, desperately hoping for signs that her husband would come through.

"There were moments in the ICU when he was very much not conscious, but his right hand started to communicate with me," she told North By Northwest's Sheryl MacKay.

"It was Simon and I. Together we were having a conversation. I sometimes tormented myself, I was — again, with that magical thinking — almost fabricating it because he wasn't lucid, he wasn't truly awake at that point."

The healing power of music

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Paradis recalls, it was music that finally brought him back.

His father, who is also musically-inclined, had taken to singing by his bedside. One day, he sang Gram Parson's Hickory Wind.

"The third verse actually is, 'It's a hard way to find out that trouble is real,' and when it came to the third verse, I actually mouthed that phrase as he was singing it," said Paradis.

"And that was the moment for him where he was like, he's still there."

For Stanley, the moment she knew her husband was "still there" was when he wrote in a log book the words, "a blank page for Eli," shortly after waking up from his coma.

Eli is the couple's son.

"It spoke to me that the person that was waking up was really Simon and that one of his preoccupations would be what was happening to Eli and I," Stanley said.

"Because of course that's what we want for our children — a blank page, endless opportunity. And out of this semi-lucid comatose state that Simon was emerging from, that that would be the message that he would want to get across was very significant for me."

Paradis believes the message about Eli was his way of reassuring Stanley that despite his devastating injury, there was still capacity for him to be a father.

"We're still a family. We're moving forward," he said.

To hear Kara Stanley and Simon Paradis tell their story, listen to the audio labelled: B.C. couple document heartbreaking journey to recovery  

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