Imagine waking up one morning, and finding out you no longer have the use of your legs. Motivational speaker, Kevin Brooks, knows this all too well.
On a Monday morning, some odd months ago, we were informed in homeroom that a motivational speaker would be coming to talk to us about drinking and driving. Let me tell you, no one in our school cared to hear some dude come in and lecture us about the consequences of drinking and driving. None the less; we all filed into the gym to hear the presentation. When we looked to the center of the gym, there was this guy in a wheelchair in about his twenties. Slightly shocked at seeing his appearance, everyone shut up and listened to what he had to say. This man sitting in front of us was Kevin Brooks. Kevin told us his story . . .
Kevin was always a partier, he was actually known as "The Creature". When coming home from parties he would be drunk, yet still driving. He knew the road to his home well and he thought that there was no danger in drunk driving to get home. Up until that point, he had been lucky and nothing unfortunate had happened while he drove home. That all changed one night. Kevin was at the wheel and his friend Brandon was in the passengers seat . . . they crashed. The crash killed Brendon, and rendered Kevin paralyzed. Kevin had to go to court where he was on trial for manslaughter. He would have gone to jail, but two people stopped that from happening. Brendon's parents. Brendon's parents didn't blame Kevin for Brendon's death. They knew that that whole group of kids drunk and drove on a regular basis, their son included. They decided to fight in court on Kevin's behalf, because of them Kevin was saved from having to spend time in jail.
After Kevin was done speaking, we all sat in silence. His presentation was just amazing, one minute he would have you smiling, the next crying. And I'm not exaggerating, looking around the gym I saw a ton of people just bawling their eyes out. Sometime during his presentation, Kevin said the line "Just wiggle your toes, it's something so easy, yet I can't do it." And it had everyone in the school wiggling their toes without even realizing it.
Kevin has spoken at over 700 high schools and events. He has even appeared on "The Tyra Show"!
I decided to email Kevin and ask him if he wouldn't mind being interviewed so I could share his story with teens and hopefully discourage them from drinking and driving when they're old enough. So Whyvillians, here is Kevin Brooks!
ocean10kv: How fast were you driving before you crashed, and do you remember how many drinks you had?
Kevin: I was driving between 130 - 140kms and I was well into double digit drinks.
ocean10kv: Do you remember anything from the crash?
Kevin: I remember nothing leading up to, during or after the crash . . . my first memories are waking up in a hospital weeks later.
ocean10kv: How long were you unconscious for?
Kevin: I was out of it for the better part of 3 weeks.
ocean10kv: How long were you in the hospital for?
Kevin: I was in the hospital for 2 months and in rehabilitation at GF Strong in Vancouver for 4 months. I crashed my car June 24th and was not home again until December 21st.
ocean10kv: What was your hospital experience like?
Kevin: Initially the hospital was hell. I was on so many meds I was seeing things and thinking staff were out to get me. I ended up strapped down to the bed. I was in and out of it for almost a month . . . out of it mostly. But my hallucinations and dreams were so vivid. I remember them to this day. It was like a revolving nightmare . . .
ocean10kv: What injuries did you have?
Kevin: Multiple lacerations (I needed two blood transfusions) dislocated shoulder, partially separated shoulder, 2 broke collar bones, a collapsed lung and a fractured C6 - C7 vertebrae in my neck that rendered me paralyzed from the chest down.
ocean10kv: When and how did you find out that you could no longer work your legs?
Kevin: I think it was about a month in . . . I asked why they didn't work and my mom broke the news to me. It was an awful day.
ocean10kv: You talked about wanting to die while in the hospital, but you couldn't give up on life. What made you want to pull out the tube? What made you leave it in?
Kevin: I thought I didn't deserve to live after killing my friend in the car. I thought I wouldn't be able to live being paralyzed. But something inside wouldn't let me quit. I don't have a name or explanation for it . . . maybe it was the will to live.
ocean10kv: What was your first response when you were told that Brendon was dead?
Kevin: Total shock and disbelief. There is no way anyone could ever be prepared to hear such a thing . . . I was devastated.
ocean10kv: Did you blame yourself for his death?
Kevin: I did blame myself at first. But I was very lucky to have many around me, including Brendon's parents supporting me and not blaming me. They taught me how to forgive myself by forgiving me.
ocean10kv: In court, Brendon's parents fought for you, not against you. Were you surprised by this?
Kevin: I was shocked when his mom called me the night before and told me what they had done. I mean who does that?? Amazing people for sure.
ocean10kv: Did your friends stop drinking and driving after your injuries and Brendon's death?
Kevin: Many did . . . or at least smartened up. Some didn't. Those who didn't I had to separate myself from. It definitely had an impact on those closest to me and still does for many.
ocean10kv: What was your dream job, did you have a plan for your future before the accident?
Kevin: I really wanted to be an electrician at the gravel pit where my dad has worked his entire employable life. I also worked there all growing up. The money was going to be great. I really liked the people at work. And I especially enjoyed going to work every day and getting dirty. There was nobody to impress. No need to look presentable . . . I liked that.
ocean10kv: You were a hockey player, and a skateboarder. You still go to the skate park with your wheelchair, but it's not the same is it. Can you talk to me a little bit about having difficulties doing the things you love?
Kevin: In time (11 years just this Friday) since the crash I have learned to both let go and also to find a way. I have done a lot of stuff in a wheelchair most likely don't or wouldn't. I still try to find new adventures too. I called a surf shop in Oregon just this morning because I was to take up surfing on my stomach. But for sure there are days where I would do anything to be shredding on my skate, out on the ice or on the hills with my board. I had to make the choice whether I would let missing these things keep keeping me down or if I was just going to accept it wasn't happening today, while being grateful for my past experiences doing what I loved and never ever giving up on tomorrow.
ocean10kv: Why do you tell people to "just wiggle your toes"?
Kevin: My presentation has just evolved over the years. Nothing was ever really written down. Some things I have said have had a noticeable affect on others more than other things I have said or shown . . . my video, the three chairs, Hayley b'day wish to name a few . . . the wiggle your toes thing just came out one day years ago and I could tell people in the audience were wiggling there toes. So I called them on it and there was this awkward laugh like 'How'd he know??'. It hit me that something so simple that the majority of my audiences can do and do do can encompass to much of my point of my story. Wiggle your toes . . . remember to be grateful for what you have. Wiggle your toes . . . don't throw it away. Wiggle your toes . . . it goes on and on . . .
ocean10kv: Do you have anything else you'd like to add?
Kevin: I have learned that the best way to heal from a traumatic experience is to turn it into something positive. This story could have been the end of me, but rather it became a new beginning. The future wasn't clear for years and I can't say it was easy but today I have found my greatest passion through the worst mistake and experience I ever went through. Life is very unpredictable, and when it gets bumpy as long as we just keep hanging on it all eventually comes together and makes sense. Life is not so much about what happened. It is more about what happens next!
I would like to thank Kevin so much for answering my questions, especially since I realize some may have been difficult.
So Whyvillians . . . remember, if you're going through a tough time, just wiggle your toes.
Author's Note: Check out Kevin's website at http://www.kevinbrooks.ca/ where you can learn more about Kevin, send him an email, or book an event.