Two Seconds That Changed a Life
This week's blog is different from any I've written over the past couple of years. It's the story about the son of a friend, whose life was changed because of one jump into a ball pit at a Sherwood Park trampoline park.
You may have seen Landon Smith's story in the news this week. An upcoming clinical trial in Miami that he'll be a part of may give him a new lease on life.
I was happy to get Landon and his mother Brenda Smith in front of the media on Monday to tell their stories about the hope they have and the change needed to make sure this doesn't happen again.
A Concrete Trap
It likely took less than two seconds.
One night in January 2017 Landon Smith was with friends at a Sherwood Park trampoline park. Shortly after getting there, he did a front-flip into a ball pit, not knowing that his life was about to change forever.
He didn’t know he was jumping into what his family contends was a concrete trap.
Landon broke his neck. He was paralyzed from the chest down. That led to numerous other complications to his health and a very long road to recovery. Today he’s in a wheelchair and manages to get around ok, but life still isn’t easy. When he drops his cellphone it can take 20 minutes for him to pick it up because his hands and fingers don’t work very well. Normal activities that most of us don’t even think about can take ten times longer than normal.
Landon will be leaving for Miami in early October for a clinical trial that involves harvesting cells from a nerve in the back of his leg and injecting as many as 200 million cells into his spinal cord. Smith will be the first Canadian and the youngest person ever to participate in the clinical trial. It might lead to him walking again, something he’s confident will happen.
I interviewed Landon last week at the ReYu Paralysis Recovery Centre, where he was worked out and taken physio for the past year.
Telling His Story to the Media
I met Landon’s mother Brenda Smith several years ago when she worked for a speakers bureau called Limelight. I used to be one of the bureau’s speakers and although I eventually left Limelight, I stayed in touch with Brenda and followed Landon’s story since it happened.
She wants to turn the tragedy into a positive for others. Brenda has been lobbying the government for change and wants trampoline parks regulated to ensure safety. The Alberta government is conducting a review, but Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson has refused to meet with Brenda and Landon until later this year.
I offered to help Brenda and Landon with any media relations work needed and on Monday, a media availability was held in Edmonton to allow Landon to talk about his upcoming trip to Miami to start the medical procedure. He also talked about fundraising activities that will be taking place before he leaves in early October.
I got Landon prepared to take questions at the media availability, since he’s only 20 and talking to a room full of reporters isn’t something he’s ever done. I also volunteered to arrange the availability, invite the media and write a news release.
The turnout by media was outstanding. The coverage provided was more than fair and I sensed reporters are really pulling for Landon to regain more of a normal life.
Here's How You Can Help
On Saturday September 22, there will be a fundraiser for Landon at the Clarion Hotel in Sherwood Park.
I’ll be interviewing Landon on the stage at the event to let people know about his struggles, but also about his optimistic outlook on what lies ahead. My friend Wayne Lee will emcee the event and do his hypnosis show, which is always hilarious. You can find more information and buy tickets here, but there aren’t many left.
There’s also a Go Fund Me page to help with the funds needed for Landon’s living expenses in Miami, the clinical trial and a host of other costs he and his family face. Around $25,000 has been raised already, most of it from family and friends.
Landon’s story is a clear reminder of how important good health and an able body are. It’s also a good lesson to show how a positive outlook can come in pretty handy too.