WOODSTOCK - Canadian Kevin Brooks wouldn't wish what happened to
him on anybody, so much so that he travels all over the continent
to do what he can to make sure it doesn't.
Once an athletic young man who enjoyed snowboarding,
skateboarding, hockey, and hard partying, today, he speaks from his
wheelchair about the horrendous consequences which can reverberate
from a single bad choice.
"They called me 'The Creature,'" he told a packed audience at
the Woodstock Union Middle and High School last week. Brooks spoke
at the behest of the school's Teen Leadership Safety Program, which
invited him to share his experience.
Brooks' story is tragic, but hardly unique: he and his best
friend Brendon were partying to celebrate graduation night back at
their local high school; Brooks' sister Alison had just graduated.
Both Brooks and Brendon had too much to drink. They got into
Brooks' car, drove around at excessive speed, made a wrong left
turn, and then the world changed forever.
"I never thought it would be the last time I'd bounce my baby
sister," he said of that day. "I could have been in a cab. I could
have slept over... I could have done many things and not be in this
About all he recalls is getting into his car, stopping at a red
light, and a left turn.
"I was doing 90 in a 45 mile an hour zone," Brooks said.
In Brooks' case, the accident broke his vertebrae, collapsed a
lung, broke many other bones, and made his survival dependent on
machines and feeding tubes. He was 21-years-old.
What he did not know was that his mother, a nurse, responded to
the scene and helped treat him, and keep him alive, an experience
which shook her to the soul.
"Twenty years on the job and she had to take a leave of
absence," he said. "They told me later one thing kept me from
dying. I remembered my seat belt. That's what saved me."
Brooks spent weeks in intensive care, and little by little, he
found out just how far-reaching the consequences of his bad
decision were. He'd ruined his sister's graduation, and gave his
mother her worst nightmare. He had no idea what happened to
"'Kev, he didn't make it,'" Brooks quoted his mother telling him.
The next blow came when he tried to move his legs.
"They wouldn't go," he said. "I tried to wiggle my toes, and
nothing… I took risks, did stupid things, and I was always able to
walk away. I told myself it was a skill, but it was just luck. And
luck runs out."
Probably the hardest thing Brooks had to do was to pick up the
phone and call Brendon's parents. To his surprise, they did not
hate him. They had asked mourners at their son's funeral to pray
for him, raised some money for him. Somehow, they had found
"They told me he could have made different choices, too," Brooks
said. "They said, 'You could just as easily have been a passenger
in that car, too.'"
It took Brooks a long time to cope with the reality that he
would probably never rise from his wheelchair, and recovery took a
long and painful time.
But he said he has finally found peace. "I'm a happy man," he
The federal Centers for Disease Control said that
alcohol-impaired driving killed more than 10,000 people in 2010,
accounting for nearly a third of all U.S. traffic deaths. Of those,
34 percent were between the ages of 21 and 24.
In Vermont, according to the nonprofit Century Council, there
were 17 drunk driving fatalities in 2010.
WUHS Senior Reid Lansone said Brooks' presentation made him
"He made people look at life differently," Lansone said. "One
decision can change someone's life for the worse."
Marissa Farvman, a junior who is involved with the teen
leadership program, said she had seen Brooks speak before, and
thought his message should be heard by her peers.
"I had a good feeling about him," she said, "and with prom
season coming up, this seemed like a good time for him to bring his
story to us."
For more information on Brooks his visit to Woodstock, visit