Trevor Wakely can’t speak clearly. However, he can think and he communicates with his family through sign language.
He also has a story he recently shared about bullying and how it can change a person’s life.
Using sign language and his mother as an interpreter, he recalled the frustration of being a target of bullies and how that led to an incident that affected him and his family forever.
Trevor didn’t fit the stereotype of a typical target for bullies.
The 17-year-old was athletic, had a girlfriend, was a top-ranking army cadet and was a good high school student. He had been accepted to do an underwater welding program after graduation.
One day in 2006, everything changed. Trevor reached a breaking point and lashed out at a fellow student who, he says, had been verbally abusing him. He hit the other teenager, and that landed him in trouble.
Trevor was suspended from school, banned from Army Cadets and was facing criminal charges.
Eventually he was allowed to return to school, but not without an escort who was with him throughout the day, even in the cafeteria and the washroom. Trevor wasn’t allowed to socialize with his high school friends.
Trevor’s parents, Neil and Connie Wakely, say they didn’t know back then that their son was being bullied.
“He kept it bottled up,” said Neil.
They were surprised by their son’s violent outburst, not realizing the frustration that had been mounting because of the verbal bullying.
“He learned respect and discipline through cadets,” Neil said. “Trevor never got into a fight or caused trouble.”
Trevor said he had a lot of emotions then. He tried to stand up for himself only to land in hot water.
On Oct. 7, 2006, his family found themselves in the middle of a nightmare.
It was three weeks after Trevor had thrown that fateful punch. After being dropped off at home by his girlfriend and her father, Trevor got into his grandmother’s vehicle and drove off into the night without telling anyone where he was going.
He didn’t have a driver’s licence at the time, only a learner’s permit.
He left Brookfield and drove towards Lumsden. It was on a straight stretch of road between Newtown branch and Cape Freels that Trevor’s life took a drastic turn. Speeding along at an estimated 160 kilometres per hour, the vehicle left the road and flipped. He was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected.
Trevor was unconscious, face down in a bog. A woman on her way home from work that night discovered the wreck. Rescuers were called in but they couldn’t find anyone in or around the vehicle. Everyone stayed quiet so rescuers could listen for any sound. That’s when they heard the gurgling coming from Trevor. He had spent nearly two hours in the bog.
Trevor was transported to Brookfield Hospital; his lungs had collapsed, he had substantial facial injuries with both cheeks crushed, as well as damage to his spine and a brain injury. It’s believed Trevor hit a tree when he was ejected from the vehicle. The outlook was not good.
Trevor was transferred to the hospital in Gander and his family was called. Eventually he was transported to St. John’s.
Neil said doctors in St. John’s didn’t hold out much hope for his son and had initially advised against sending him there, insisting there wasn’t much they could do for him.
“I told them they’ve got to try something,” Neil said.
It was touch and go just to get Trevor stabilized enough to airlift him to St. John’s. He was stabilized but on life support.
“We couldn’t recognize him,” Connie said. “Between the injuries to his face and the air escaping from his body (from his collapsed lungs).”
Eventually, he was stable enough for doctors to perform facial surgery. It took four plates on one side to fix Trevor’s crushed cheek.
Trevor was in a coma. His brain had shifted and doctors told the family it needed time to heal. He remained in the intensive care unit for more than a month, all the while with his parents at his side.
His comatose state was agonizing for the family. They didn’t know if or when he would recover and, if he did, would he be the same Trevor?
Neil said they would talk to him, play music and decorate his room for different holidays. It was seven months and three days before he came out of the coma.
The first thing Trevor can recall upon regaining consciousness is seeing his mother and father.
The positive attitude of his parents was key to his recovery, which included learning sign language. His ability to speak was affected by the tracheotomy procedure.
Trevor has had physical therapy and is continuing it at home in Grand Falls-Windsor. While he uses a wheelchair, he is able to stand and is working on walking more and more each day. He has endured a number of surgeries since his accident, but is taking it all in stride.
Trevor and his family credit the staff at the medical facilities where he received initial treatment and the followup care that continued for quite some time during his recovery.
While Trevor never thought this would be his future, he is embracing the opportunities before him. He is taking adult basic education classes and is involved with Special Olympics.
The time leading up to the accident and the accident itself are still a bit of a blur to Trevor, but his parents are certain that the bullying and how he was treated after he struck the other teen played a role in his decisions on the night of the accident.
They believe the way the situation was handled, and how Trevor was seen as the aggressor, was too much for him to handle and that he wanted to find a way out of the situation.
“This could have been prevented,” said Connie.
The Wakelys say they hope, through their son’s story, that anyone who is bullying or tormenting anyone else will realize how their actions can affect the other person.
Trevor hopes young people who are being bullied will read his story and realize the possible consequences. He tells those being bullied to “get help and never give up.”
He also shares his motto, which is printed on the bracelet he wears: “Love life, live strong.”