Several years ago now, the Frontenac News ran stories about Drew Cumpson, the Sydenham High School graduate who suffered a freak accident while body surfing. In that moment, his life changed forever. The next thing he knew he was in the Intensive Care Unit at Kingston General Hospital, where he remained for 16 months, followed by 3 years at St. Mary’s hospital. As a quadriplegic with other complications, Drew has had more challenges than most, to put it mildly, making his way in the world. To make matters worse, his greatest supporter, his mother, died while he was still in hospital.
The thing about Drew is that he is not given to self pity and sees obstacles that need to be surmounted where others might see 100 foot walls.
“About 3 or 4 months after the accident, because of all the health issues it took that long for me to be able to wrap my head around what had happened, I realised that I could be an angry person who does not want to live, or someone who says this has happened to me be but I am still alive. It may take me longer and b a different way, but I would just push forward and any goals that pop up I will find a way to do. But it takes some thinking and organizing,” he said in a telephone interview from his home near Odessa earlier this week.
That was certainly the way with Drew’s goal of leaving the hospital and moving to a newly built family home.
It took a lot of arranging for him to get on the list for an operation in Toronto for a Diaphramatic pacemaker, which would have enabled him to take breaths without using a ventilator system. At the time, it was also the only way for him to leave the hospital and move to his own home.
“But it turned out that my diaphragm had atrophied, and they could not insert the pacemaker,” he said, “which meant I had to stay in hospital.”
Since Drew needed 24 hour a day nursing care there was no way for him to move home, unless he received approval for The Direct Funding program. Instead of covering the cost of caring for Drew, the government pays him directly and he can hire whomever he wants to provide his care. Once that program came through for him, he was able to move back home, which he did in August of 2015, three years ago.
“For me, it is a better arrangement because not only can I live at home, I can hire people who I get a long with, rather than having to live with someone I don’t like, even someone I can’t stand”.
In terms of costs, it also turns out to be a better deal for Ontario. It costs between $180,000 and $200,000 per year to support Drew at home, which is a bargain compared to either the cost of 24/7 nursing ($500,000 per year) or the cost of a nursing home bed ($450,000 per year)
Even while he was in hospital, Drew continued pursuing the studies that he was working towards before his accident, in the hospitality and tourism management program at Guelph. He finished his degree 2 years ago, while still in hospital, and since he has been living at home he has founded a consulting company, called H & D Consulting, the stands for Hospitality and Disability Consulting.
Drew has also become an advocate for disabled members of the LGBT community and has spoken at conferences about body image.
“I myself am gay and so I focus on advocating for the LGBT community when it come to body image and how people perceive each other. Body image is huge., Particularly among gay men. Guys can be all about muscular, perfect bodies which leads to numerous stereotype’s leaving people in a position and part that they do not feel comfortable in.
On May 7, 2011, I was at the Summit of Machu Picchu and made a goal of getting too all of the New7Wonders.
Which has now led him to his current goal of making a documentary film, called Planes, Trains and Wheelchairs, which he has wanted to make for a while now. The documentary will receive some help from a GoFundMe campaign that has been set by his to raise some of the funds to cover some of the expenses. A GoFundMe campaign called “Planes, Trains and Wheelchairs Film” is currently running with hopes to raise $10,000 by January 1, 2019.
“I had just been to Machu Pichu prior to my accident, and I decided right then that I wanted to visit the other six on the list of The New7Wonders of World, and not let my disability stop me” he said.
The list includes the Great Wall of China, Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro, Chichen Itza in Mexico, Taj Mahal in India, Machu Pichu in Peru, and the Roman Colosseum, Rome. Drew has made it to Mexico to see Chichen Itza. He is combining that goal with his advocacy and consulting work on tourism and travel for the disabled community, in planning a trip to Rome to see the Colosseum, with stops in London and Paris. The trip will part of the Planes Trains and Wheelchair business to create this film with the opportunities to receive proper grants, bursaries, and tax credits. The current working title of the film is Planes, Trains and Wheelchairs, a play on the title of the 1987 comedy with John Candy and Steve Martin (Planes, Trains and Automobiles)
Drew is planning to document all aspects of the trip and include interviews with tourism industry executives about what kinds of infrastructural changes are needed for the disabled travel market, which is growing at a rapid rate and is projected to become a $205 billion industry.
The trip and filming costs will be extensive. With a crew of 6, (Drew, 2 caregivers for his daily needs and 3 crew members, (2 for filming, 1 sound))
The GoFundMe campaign had an initial goal of $67,000 but Drew is now hoping for $10,000 by the end of 2018, as he is applying for a number of film grants to make up the rest of the funding for the trip and filming costs.
“We had been planning on an earlier trip, but the goal now is to get funding in place and travel in the spring of 2019,” said Drew.
It’s a tall order to raise the money that is required and to complete the arduous filming and editing process, but it is just another challenge among many for Drew Cumpson.
The film should be released in late 2019 or early in 2020.
For more information about Drew, check his Twitter feed dis(ABLED)Drew or go to gofundme.com/planes-trains-and-wheelchairs-film