Victim of shooting recovers in part thanks to UAlberta speech-language pathology camp

U of A's Alberta Aphasia Camp helps patients living with aphasia and their families enjoy the outdoors, heal and connect

Amy Knezevich - 18 February 2020

Herman wasn't expected to survive his injuries after he was shot in the head last year. But after more than a year in hospital and countless hours of rehabilitation, Herman and his father Simon enjoyed board games, baking and the fall sunshine last September at the Alberta Aphasia Camp. The camp is a partnership between the University of Alberta's Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine and March of Dimes Canada. For Herman who endured a traumatic injury that left him with aphasia, it was one of the first times he got to relax and have fun following his injury-and he hopes others with aphasia will join him at the camp this year.

Herman can sum the camp up in one word: "awesome."

On March 28, 2018, Herman was the victim of a random shooting. While driving home from the gym, he was shot by a man who was in the middle of a violent crime spree. He wasn't expected to survive his injuries-the police had even called in the homicide team.

Herman survived but was left with aphasia, an acquired language disorder that can affect the ability to speak, understand, read and write, as well as some residual right-sided weakness. But that hasn't stopped him from getting back to a new normal: maintaining an active lifestyle with golf, swimming and the gym, a newfound love for baking-and attending Alberta Aphasia Camp with his father.

The camp is a place for people with aphasia and their families and friends to have fun, try new or adapted recreational activities in a supportive environment, and most importantly, to connect with other people living with aphasia. The staff are educated about aphasia and supported communication techniques, and students enrolled in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine studying to become speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists attend as volunteers.

"It gives [people living with aphasia] a chance to get together, work together like a team and sing together, do crafts together, help each other. Some of them are still in the hospital. It gives them a chance to see the sun. I think this is one of the best things," said Simon.

Both father and son are looking forward to attending this year's camp, which will be held September 18 to 20 at the Gull Lake Centre near Lacombe, Alberta.

Herman is also attending the Corbett Hall Speech-Language Pathology Clinic, housed in the U of A's Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, for treatment, and takes part in the Corbett Book Club which meets once a week and gives patients with aphasia a chance to read and discuss different novels.

"Our students learn so much from Herman and other clients at the clinic. We are so thankful for client educators like Herman and Simon who play a vital role in student learning," says Andrea Ruelling, associate lecturer at the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and Alberta Aphasia Camp coordinator.

Returning to Corbett Hall means that Herman and Simon can catch up with the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine students they met in camp. "We see so many students! And people say hi," said Herman.

"We walk through the lunch room and we almost seem to know half the people! So that's really good," said Simon. "I think the people are just really wonderful. And they're very patient! No matter what they're doing, they just smile."

"Everybody says he's a miracle. [It was a] one in a million chance that it happened to us, but it's also a miracle that he recovered so well."

To sign up for Alberta Aphasia Camp 2020, visit: or email Andrea Ruelling at