An Ottawa area man who nearly lost his life to infection has found healing, not only for his body, but also, his soul.  The 44-year-old triple amputee, with a passion for drums, is grateful that specialists at the Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre have returned music to his life.    Dean Laponsee lost both legs and all the fingers on one hand because of septic shock.  But he didn't lose hope.  Tonight, the former military lineman and drummer is back on his throne making music.

Dean Laponsee's life changed in early June of last year on a fishing trip up north with his buddies. Days into the trip, he wasn't feeling well and started vomiting.

“Throwing up blood,” Laponsee recalls, as he sits on his bed at the Ottawa Rehab Centre,
“and whatever was left in my stomach.”  The 10-hour drive to the Winchester Hospital was the longest drive of Laponsee’s life.  He was sick the entire way and passed out shortly after arriving.  The 44-year-old father of two woke up six weeks later with a massive infection ravaging his body.

“The fingers on my left hand were black,” he recalls, “and all the fingernails on my right had were black.”  He couldn’t feel his legs at all. Laponsee learned he had contracted double pneumonia.

“Through vomiting, I tore my esophagus and when that happened, I had blood into my stomach and acid in my stomach into my blood.  Sepsis spread through my body.”

The former member of the Canadian Signal Corps had to have both legs removed, all the fingers on his left hand.  He also lost the sight in his left eye. 

“You know I knew I couldn't do my job anymore because I didn't have my legs and I was missing fingers on my hand.”

He couldn't work anymore but could he still drum; a part of his life since he was 13.  Dean's band “North of 40” were already asking when their lead drummer was coming back.

“Drums are my main thing,” says Dean, “and when I lost my feet I thought, Jesus what's going to happen?”  

That's where experts at Ottawa's Rehab Centre came in; a professional engineer to design a product to help Dean play.

 "You know it's always about how can we best help people achieve the best quality of life with what they have and what they can support,” says Ottawa rehab engineer Louis Goudreau.

And a machinist to build it.

"We'd love to see him play again,” says Tony Zanbelt, a mechanical technologist with the Ottawa Rehabilitation Centre, “and I'd be proud to say I had a small part in his recovery.”

The two came up with a special holder for Dean's drum sticks and special feet for the pedals.  Long and McQuade sent along an electriconic drum kit. There are still some quirks to work out but for Dean it's magic.

“It's awesome,” says Laponsee, as he wails away at the drums, “When you're playing music and you're in the zone, there's nothing like it.” 

Laponsee already has another request in to Zanbelt and Goudreau; to help him regain his other passions for snowmobiling and hunting.  They’re working on it.