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Home News Rebuilding the Wall: former Shellbrook resident provides unique perspective during Brain Health Awareness month

Rebuilding the Wall: former Shellbrook resident provides unique perspective during Brain Health Awareness month

Rebuilding the Wall: former Shellbrook resident provides unique perspective during Brain Health Awareness month
Evan Wall. -- Photo courtesy of the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association.

As a high school athlete in Shellbrook, Evan Wall gave little though to running, jumping, or any physical activity.

Now, it’s something he thinks about almost every day.

Wall was 19-year-old when the truck he was riding in flipped and ejected him through the windshield during a late-night drive on a country highway. He doesn’t remember the accident that put him in Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital for two weeks. When he woke up, his speech and motor coordination were so badly damaged he had to relearn many basic skills he previously took for granted.

At 19, it was like starting all over again.

“I would just like to say how serious it actually is,” Wall says when asked about living with a brain injury. “I mean, not to be dramatic, but it will ruin your life, and the worst thing is, you have to live through that.”

March is Brain Health Awareness Month in Saskatchewan, and as someone who survived a serious brain injury, Wall has a lot to say on the subject. Last year he published ‘Rebuilding a Brick Wall’, a book about his experiences written with author Susanne Gauthier.

It was a daunting task, and a painful one for the former high school football player, who hoped to study engineering before the accident. He’s hopeful the book will help Saskatchewan residents see a different side to people recovering from severe brain injuries.

“It was difficult to relive this pain,” Wall says. “Difficult emotions came up because of it, but it was well worth it, I think.

“I had no idea this (type of injury) could even happen to a person, so it’s very important, I think, to raise awareness.”

Evan described the months after the accident as a grueling and lonely experience. He spent a total of six months in hospital, and later said he put more work into relearning basic life skills than he ever had in any aspect of his life.

Both he and Gauthier hope to give people a glimpse at the day-to-day activity for people recovering from a serious brain injury. Ideally, they’d like to see more understanding from the general public, and less condescension.

“Just a little more sensitive to the way we are with people with disabilities, to consider their point of view and how it may be different,” Gauthier says when asked what she hoped readers would take away from the book. “Be aware of micro aggressions that are still pretty rampant in our culture.”

Gauthier attended the same gym as Wall, but the two never met until they were introduced at a local business. The more she learned about Wall’s story, the more she thought readers would benefit from hearing his perspective. That helped start them on the road to writing ‘Rebuilding a Brick Wall.’

“At first, I thought it would make an interesting newspaper or magazine article, but the more people I interviewed, and the more I got into Evan’s story, the more inspiring I found it to be,” she explains. “It just seemed to naturally turn into a book.”

Gauthier said it’s common for people who live with disabilities isolate themselves because of how they’re treated in society. She’s hoping this book will help change that too.

“It’s not a case of us and them,” she explains. “It’s us and us.”

“It definitely changes your life,” she adds. “The most difficult change to live with is the way other people see you.”

‘Rebuilding the Brick Wall is available at Saskatchewan book stores.

As part of Brain Health Awareness month, the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association is running their annual Brain Love Campaign to help Saskatchewan residents learn about the best ways to take care of their brain and prevent serious injuries.