He remembers nothing — not the events leading up to it, or the weeks after.
Two years ago, on Jan. 18, 2013 Walden and two other young men were on the road. It was just before 6 p.m., they were on a mission for some Vietnamese pho soup.
In a moment, the world slammed shut for Walden, a Brock University student who will take part in Saturday’s commencement ceremony.
“I had only five courses left to graduate with honours,” said the 25-year-old history and classics double major.
“The crash affected almost every executive function (of my brain).”
Police say a pickup truck was heading down the Burleigh Hill Dr. slope. The driver lost control of the vehicle and it crossed over the centre line. He rammed head-on into another car carrying Walden and two others in their 20s.
It was bad.
At the time, the Standard reported that resident who lived close to the crash scene said she heard the incident. Kattawe Henry, who said she was shovelling her sidewalk when it happened, described it as “like metal scraping against metal.
“It was really bad. At first, I though a Mack truck had tipped over.
“It looks pretty intense. If you look at the car, there’s not much left of it.”
The three men inside were seriously hurt.
The driver of the truck, Normando LeBreton of Thorold, 49 years old at the time, was charged with drunk driving causing bodily harm. That charge was later dropped, and he pled guilty to dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
For a time, Walden was in a coma while in intensive care at Hamilton General Hospital.
Walden, who speaks with some hesitation due to his brain injury, says it took two months for his memory to return.
“I have some word-finding issues and sometimes disorganized speech,” he explains, in an interview inside his Merritton apartment. “Memory is another thing. I can get too overloaded and my brain just shuts down … but my rehab team has given me strategies to counter that.”
The Clinton, Ont. native adds his family and others have been unwavering in their support.
The physical part of his recovery was tough, “because I thought I could do it,” said Walden. “Then I found out I just can’t; I have to do some things differently.
“I remember trying to get to the washroom in the middle of the night. I fell, the nurse came running … I didn’t know I had a torn right knee (muscle), which meant I couldn’t bear weight on it.”
His recovery required rehabilitation at Hamilton General, then through Niagara-on-the-Lake’s ResCare where he learned to live on his own. Walden continues doing physio by himself at the YMCA, and no longer has to wear leg braces.
As his health slowly returned, so did his desire to complete his Brock program.
“One of my main goals was always to return to school, to finish my honours,” he said. “My consulting neuropsychologist made that part of my program … that school aspect.”
By August 2013, he started auditing courses for his honours — he’d earlier graduated with a three-year-pass degree. “I had to break it up over two years,” he said. “Maybe one course a term.
“I had … some extended time on test papers, and a second chance on others,” he said with a smile. “I also had help (from) two editors.”
On Saturday, he celebrates his commencement at Brock with his full honours diploma.
Meanwhile, Walden is opening a new chapter in his life.
He wants to further his education in museum studies. On the practical side, he’s volunteering at the St. Catharines Museum as a data entry tech.
Staying above water through all this has meant “championing my optimism,” he said.
“I would make sure that no pessimism was ever thought about.”
As for the driver whose actions caused so much grief, Walden spends a moment considering what he would say to him.
“I want to rise above what his wrong actions have done to people,” he said. Anger will accomplish nothing.
He then points to a reminder he’s written to himself on his iPhone.
It’s dated April 17, 2013 — nearly three months to the day from the crash.
“To endure any event,” it says, “you must have a strong mental attitude and the drive to move forward.”
Source: Saint Catharines Standard