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Rewiring Trevor Greene's brain

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Author: 
Ken MacQueen
Published Date: 
7 January 2013
Publication: 
Maclean's
Original article: 

The former soldier survived an axe attack in Afghanistan, now he’s defying the limits of science in his recovery.

It has been 25 years since Trevor Greene gave up competitive rowing for other pursuits: journalism, travel, soldiering, fatherhood, marriage. But today, at age 48, sitting in a wheelchair in his Nanaimo, B.C., home, the forcibly retired army captain is rowing as hard as he’s trained for any event in his life.

Today he rows only in his mind, where he also visualizes walking. The frustrations are enormous for a man once thought of as invincible. He used to be part of the men’s eight crew at King’s College in Halifax, and at the elite club level, pulling until his muscles screamed and the callouses were thick on his hands. Now he makes perfect strokes with his mind, the neurons firing along a familiar course as he stirs up long-remembered sensations: the feel of oar in hand and boat in water. “All that stuff: the sound and the heat and the pain,” he says. When the oar enters the water, “I imagine the tug on my shoulders, because it’s a very good feeling. Very distinctive.”

To even have these cogent thoughts, let alone articulate them and work toward turning them to action, is near miraculous. This is a man who doctors once thought was doomed to an institution; a member of the living dead. His life of accomplishment and adventure was torn asunder with one violent stroke on March 4, 2006. A teen under the thrall of the Taliban saw a Canadian soldier, helmet off for a goodwill meeting with the elders of an Afghan village, and buried a homemade axe into Trevor’s skull.

 

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Photo: Kevin Light via Maclean's original article

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