Brodie Osborne-Campbell

November 5, 1991 – April 24, 2007

THE MEANING OF UNBEARABLE
By Myles Murchison
Reprinted from INFOCUS.
Summer, 2009

Five days before his death, 15-year-old Brodie Osborne-Campbell played lacrosse, the first game of the season. He had a good night: scored two goals, was chosen one of the three stars. He was a big kid. Big enough in the last year to step in and stop the older Grade 12 boys at his high school from bullying the younger Grade 10s. Big enough to wear pink. He liked pink. His lacrosse stick was pink; he had his cast dyed pink when he had knee surgery three years before. His father, Colin Campbell, doesn’t know where his son’s fondness for pink originated any more than he knows where his son’s fascination with the number 13 came from. Brodie wore 13 on whatever team would let him; he incorporated 13 into his mail address and his screen names for Xbox.About pink, his father says, “He was fully aware of the connation that color has – but he didn’t care. He wore a T-shirt he’d bought with his own money. It said ‘Tough Guys Wear Pink’.”And tought he was: he played a full season of lacrosse the year before – lacrosse is a rugged game – with zero penalty minutes. “He knew that if he were in the penalty box, he wasn’t helping his team,” explains his dad. “He was smart about that.” He was smart enough to help his technology-challenged father with computer spread sheets. Smart enough to make the school honor role without studying hard. He was, by all accounts, quick-witted, happy-go-lucky, gentle and well loved. On YouTube, there is a memorial for him: black background and, of course, pink letters. “One of the best friends a guy could ever wish for.”At his funeral, many mourners chose to wear pink to honor him.Four days before his death, Brodie played rugby for his high school, Charles Best. He played the prop position, where the strongest and heaviest boys formed the scrum. “I wouldn’t describe him as fleet-of-foot,” says his father, “but he played with passion. He wasn’t afraid of body contact.”Brodie had come late in his father’s life. Colin was 43 when his son was born. So emotional at becoming a father, when Colin telephoned his mother to tell her all went well with the birth, he couldn’t speak for the tears of joy. His mother, alarmed, feared something was wrong. His wife, Judith, stepped in with calm assurances.Colin was always the emotional one.That night at the rugby pitch, when Colin inquired about one of boys who was absent – Raz, the team captain and one of the best players on the team – he was told by the coach that Raz was sick with the flu. ”Ah, ”thought Colin, “now that’s probably going to go through the team.”

Two days before his death, a Sunday, Brodie woke feeling unwell but determined to play lacrosse that afternoon: the squad had new players, new coaches, and Brodie felt he had to be there for the team. At the Coquitlam Arena, he got into his gear, completed the warm-up, was set to go – then came off the floor and slumped onto a bench alone. When his concerned father sat beside him, Brodie took off his helmet and said, “Dad, I’m going to be sick.” He found a garbage bin in the hallway and vomited into it. His parents took him home where he moped around the rest of the day. His father remembers thinking it was just the flu going around.On the day he died, Brodie didn’t go to school. His father, a professor of criminology at the David Lam Campus of Douglas College in Coquitlam, wasn’t teaching that day. He worked on his computer downstairs while Brodie played Xbox and watched television in his room upstairs. About 3 p.m., Brodie came down, made himself a sandwich, and asked his dad if he could watch a pay-per-view movie. “We joked about Ferris Beuller’s Day Off,” Colin remembers. “Okay,” he said, “but school tomorrow.”

His mother, Judith, vice-president of legal affairs at Simon Fraser University, came home and prepared dinner, and the evening unfolded like many others – the parents downstairs, finishing work, dad watching some television; Brodie upstairs, watching television and Xboxing.

At 10 p.m., Judith and Colin noticed something unusual: Brodie was getting ready for bed. “Usually at 10 it took a lot of arm-twisting and cajoling” to get his son to bed “but here he was getting ready under his own initiative. That was a clue that he was still under the weather,” Colin says, still believing that night that his son had the flu.

At 11 p.m., Brodie began to vomit severely. For a couple of hours, Judith and Colin took turns lying on the bed beside Brodie, trying to comfort him. Finally, Judith stayed with him while Colin went to bed. At 2 a.m., Judith woke him. “I don’t think this is getting any better,” she told her husband. “We should go to the hospital.”

There was no discussion, Colin remembers. “I said, ‘Let’s go.’ ” But Colin was surprised – alarmed – at how quickly his son had deteriorated in the last hour. He had become incoherent. Disoriented. “I had his arm over my shoulder bringing him down the stairs. I was afraid he was going to fall,” Colin says. His son weighed over 102 kilograms. “If he had fallen, I wouldn’t have been able to hold him.”

Into the car, onto the streets, 20 minutes later, the parents had Brodie in Emergency at Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody where – as Colin vividly remembers – his son had the immediate and undivided attention of the hospital staff. Brodie began to convulse. His parents watched as nurses struggled to harness their son to a bed and strapped him down at his ankles and wrists. Quickly, nurses administered an antibiotic IV. Another sedated him. The doctor on duty took the parents aside and spoke with urgent directness: “I’m going to ask you two questions. Does your son do drugs?”

“Unequivocally not,” Colin answered. “Has your boy been vaccinated for meningitis?” the doctor’s second question. No hesitation, Judith said, “Yes.” Then the doctor explained, “I’m going to do a lumbar probe. I won’t know until I do that but right now my best guess is that this is either meningitis or encephalitis.” “Meningitis,” Colin said. “He’s been vaccinated for meningitis. How could this be meningitis?”

What the doctor said next was entirely new information to Colin – an otherwise intelligent, informed man, a college professor and a doting father. “Well,” the doctor said, “there are other strains.”  

Someone draped a gown around Colin, tied a mask to his face, capped him, and he watched as the Emergency Room physician drained fluid from his son’s spinal cord and carefully filled two small vials. The doctor gestured for Colin to follow him to a work table where he labeled them. “Look,” he said, “this is not good news. In a healthy patient, these fluids are clear. Your son’s fluids are cloudy. Until I get the lab results I won’t know definitively but I’m almost certain your son has meningitis.”

Paramedics stood by to rush Brodie to Fraser Health’s tertiary centre, Royal Columbian Hospital, but there was some delay now. Royal Columbian, they were told, wasn’t accepting patients due to lack of inpatient beds. The parents grew increasingly anxious. “Everything we’re doing for him here is what they’d be doing for him there,” a nurse tried to assure them. The hands on the clock would not seem to move. Seconds passed as slowly as minutes, minutes as hours. Finally, an ambulance, the gurney rolling from Emergency, their son wrapped in blankets – Judith wanted to ride with him but the nurses said no. They’d need the respiratory technologist, a nurse and the paramedics with him, they said. The parents were to follow in the car – but the ambulance didn’t leave. Why? What was happening? The parents watched from the car as a nurse hurried back into the hospital and rushed back out with the doctor. Then she fled back into the hospital, re-emerging with another nurse. By this time, the parents were out, standing on the pavement.

It was 40 minutes before they left , Campbell says, but he can’t be sure – he was too distressed, events were too out of his control. He remembers the waiting room at Royal Columbian, the doctor from Eagle Ridge who had accompanied Brodie in the ambulance coming toward them down the hall, his words, “Something terrible happened” and at that instant he knew his son was dead.

“His heart has stopped,” the doctor explained. “We tried to revive him but I don’t think we can. Please come with me.”

In the trauma room, doctors and nurses stood around his son. The room was bright with overhead lights. The parents approached, nurses moving beside them in case they fainted. The medical team turned to them, faces masked, caps over their hair, only their eyes visible. “I could see the futility and hopelessness,” he remembers. “I’ll remember that always – their eyes between the caps and the masks.”

Colin Campbell was 43 years old when his son, Brodie, was born. “I knew on the day he was born what ‘precious’ meant,” he says. “That day in the Emergency Room at Royal Columbian, I learned what ‘unbearable’ means.”

XXXXX

CBCNEWS – British Columbia (Apr. 27, 2007)
VANCOUVER SUN NEWS (Apr. 26, 2007)
Canada.com – Fatal meningitis strain very rare (Apr. 27, 2007)
Canada.com – Meningitis Kills B.C. Teen (Apr. 27, 2007)
CBCNEWS – British Columbia (Aug. 10, 2008)
Father Advocates no sharing of water bottles after son died of meningitis
Canada.com – Father presses for better, broader protection
Front Line Medicine (Mar. 10, 2010)
Advanced vaccine guards against lethal meningitis
BIO – MEDICINE
VIAHA.org. – May 22, 2009
Coquitlam Minor Lacrosse Association
Canada Free Press – Nov. 27, 2009
Douglas College – In Memory of Brodie Osborne-Campbell
Douglas College – Ciminology Department – Brodie Osborne-Campbell Scholarship
InsideDouglas. ca – Brodie Osborne – Campbell Memorial Scholarship
Inside Douglas College – May 2008