SPARC offers benefit performance of ‘A New Brain’ to support Jason Campbell’s recovery
Jason Campbell and his partner, Brian Baez will never forget March 19, 2014 at 2:19 p.m. They were acting together in Swift Creek Mill Theater’s production of Life Could Be a Dream. Brian fed Jason a line, then another. With no response.
Sometimes life’s a nightmare.
The next words out of Jason’s mouth were “gibberish.” Brian led Jason to a chair. The cast launched into the next song. Brian noticed Jason slumped in the chair, his body turned to “Jello.” Brian says, “He looked like a drunken uncle trying to dance at a wedding.”
Instinct kicked in and Brian carried his love off stage. Within minutes, EMT arrived.
Jason had suffered a stroke. To this day, no one knows why. After six weeks, Jason was still unable to speak. The “doctor who shall not be named” told the couple that he was “as good as he’s going to get,” and “even custodial jobs take communication skills.”
Jason thought that was bullshit. So did Brian and everyone else who knows Jason’s indomitable spirit.
In June 2014, Jason spent six weeks at The Aphasia Center at Steps Forward in St. Petersburg, Florida. He learned to make basic sounds then progressed to sound combinations. Next came words and short phrases. He made good progress. But he has much more to go, and the will and determination to match.
Jason dreams of returning to the Center, but cost is prohibitive. $16,000 for four life-changing weeks.
With the great strides he’s made on his own, Jason knows that he can make even further progress with the proper therapy.
When I sat with the couple in their home, I was touched and humbled by their strength and commitment. They recently celebrated their tenth anniversary, and were officially married on October 31, 2014. Using the signed alphabet, some guessing, hand gestures and Brian’s innate sense of understanding what his partner’s trying to say, Jason is able to communicate volumes.
The two are no strangers to adversity…in 2011 Jason spent six months by Brian’s hospital side as he fought lymphoma.
What could be more fitting for Valentine’s Weekend then a labor of love by an all-star cross section of Richmond’s theater community performing a benefit concert to send Jason back to The Aphasia Center at Steps Forward.
On February 15, 2015, SPARC’s Sara Belle November Theatre (2106A Hamilton Street) will host two concert performances (2pm & 8pm) of William Finn’s A New Brain.
Based on Finn’s own medical emergency (arteriovenous malformation), main character Gordon (long Jason’s dream role) – a composer – collapses into his lunch and awakens in a hospital. Gordon’s condition is more operable than originally thought and he recovers, “grateful for a chance to compose the songs he yearns to produce.”
It is my dream to someday see Jason in that role.
For those unable to attend these performances, contributions in Jason’s name can be made directly to The Aphasia Center at Step Forward, 6830 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, Florida 33707. Just put “Jason Campbell” in the memo line of your check. Any donation helps.
Julie Harthill Clayton is an out and proud bisexual with a passion for reading, writing . . . and NOT arithmetic. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Internet Review of Books, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary and more. She is working on her first novel - Two Tickets to Freedom - a semi-autobiographical queer coming-of-age tale. A paralegal by day, Julie spends her free time knitting, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Richmond with her partner, local artist David Turner, and their mischievous and loving hunting dog, Max.
Perhaps the usher should have handed out boxes of tissue along with the friendly reminder to use the restroom before the show.February 21, 2017
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