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Paralyzed rugby player back on his feet

Paralysed rugby player Judah Campbell says he is 95 per cent recovered.
Image Credit: Facebook
January 23, 2014 - 3:07 PM

KELOWNA – A young Kelowna man who was paralyzed from an injury he received while playing rugby last October says he is 95 per cent recovered.

Judah Campbell, 24, was sent to intensive care at KGH after breaking his neck and damaging his spinal cord during a rugby game with the Kelowna Crows. The impact broke his C-4 and C-5 vertebrae and MRI scans indicated severe damage to his spinal cord.

The UBC-O science student, who first started playing rugby in grade seven, spent more than a month in hospital while the damage to his neck healed.

“On the day of the injury they told me it’s not looking good. At that point I was quadriplegic,” says Campbell. “With spinal cord injuries they can’t really tell the extent that you’re going to recover.  It was kind of a wait and see thing.”

Four months later, Campbell is walking and able to remove his neck brace for several hours a day. This week he even drove for the first time since the accident.

“I have pretty much all my range of motion back,” he says. “There are some deficits and I have some muscle weakness but in the big picture I’ve come a long way.”

Campbell has worked very hard to get back on his feet. He still has physical therapy several times a week and has begun weight training in an effort to get back his stamina.

“It’s only when I’m going full out that I see there are still some deficits,” he says. “For day to day things, I would say I’m at 95 per cent.”

Aside from the countless hours of physical therapy, Campbell credits his friends, family, team mates and support he’s received from around the world for his amazing recovery.

“I’ve had people from all over Canada and all over the world pouring in donations and helping me out,” he says. “Rugby clubs all over Canada have sent money and Rugby Canada has set up a fund for me. I’ve had huge support from all over the world and all the support has been an incredible help.”

Campbell says he has received messages from rugby clubs in Ireland, New Zealand and several others, expressing their condolences and wishing him a quick recovery.

“People who have gone through similar accidents have been kind of pushing me along. It’s been a huge help.”

Campbell is not the only Kelowna athlete to be injured while doing what he loves, and now he wants to return the favour.

Bruce Cook is a freestyle motocross rider who broke his back attempting a double front flip during a show at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton earlier this month. He underwent three hours of emergency surgery and is currently confined to a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down.

Campbell passed his contact information to a mutual friend of theirs, offering to help any way he can. He advises Bruce not give up, no matter what doctors tell him.

“What happened to Bruce is terrible,” he says. “When doctors first looked at my scans, they told me I only had a five per cent chance of recovery; whatever doctors are telling (Bruce), I would say there is always room for recovery and stay positive as much as possible. The situation may seem like it’s out of your control, but you can push hard in physio and try and stay positive during such a tough time.”

Campbell says he does not regret his time spent playing rugby and that he will return to the game, in some capacity, as soon as possible.

“I miss rugby,” he says. “It was a pretty big part of my life. I don’t know if I’ll be able to return to the game in a contact setting but no matter how I recover it will always be a part of my life whether that’s reffing, coaching, helping other players develop or playing in a touch league. I think I’ll always be involved and I definitely wouldn’t discourage anyone from playing (rugby).”

“It was just a freak accident.”

Lex Ann and Jonah Campbell pose for a picture at Kelowna General Hospital's intensive care unit as Campbell recovers from a broken neck in October, 2013.
Lex Ann and Jonah Campbell pose for a picture at Kelowna General Hospital's intensive care unit as Campbell recovers from a broken neck in October, 2013.
Image Credit: Facebook

To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at, call (250) 718-0428 or tweet @AdamProskiw.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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