Drumming Against All The Odds

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Dean Laponsee nearly lost his life to an infection that resulted in the amputation of both of his legs and the fingers on his left hand. But thanks to specialists at Ottawa Rehabilitation Centre, Laponsee still enjoys his greatest passion in life: drums.

The former military lineman and drummer's life changed suddenly last summer on a fishing trip when he started feeling sick and vomiting. The 44 year old father of two woke up six weeks later with a massive infection ravaging his body.

He had contracted double pneumonia. Laponsee had to have both legs removed, and all the fingers on his left hand. He also lost the sight in his left eye.

He could no longer work, but he still wanted to drum. Laponsee's band North of 40 were already asking when their lead drummer was coming back. “Drums are my main thing,” he says, “and when I lost my feet I thought, 'Jesus what's going to happen?'”

Enter experts at Ottawa's Rehab Centre: "You know it's always about how we can best help people achieve the best quality of life with what they have and what they can support,” says rehab engineer Louis Goudreau.

"We'd love to see him play again,” says Tony Zanbelt, a mechanical technologist with the centre, “and I'd be proud to say I had a small part in his recovery.”

The two collaborated and came up with a special holder for Laponsee's drum sticks and special feet for the pedals. In addition, Long and McQuade sent along an electriconic drum kit. There are still some quirks to work out, but for Laponsee, it's more than enough.

“It's awesome,” he says. “When you're playing music and you're in the zone, there's nothing like it.”