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Where's Trent? After strokes, our photographer is on the mend

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Posted on May 23, 2019 |
By John Flowers



Trent Campbell on the job by Mark Bouvier_6725a (Large).jpg
STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER TRENT Campbell, shown here on the job several years ago, has been recovering from a series of strokes. He is making steady progress in his effort to return to his home and his rightful spot behind a camera. A Gofundme campaign has been started on his behalf. Photo by Mark Bouvier

COLCHESTER — For two decades, Addison Independent photographer Trent Campbell has captured the beauty, personality and excitement of Addison County’s people, places and things.

He’s won so many statewide and regional awards for his work that he keeps them stacked near his desk; the wall in his section of the production department is insufficient to display them all.

And if there were an award for perseverance and courage in the face of adversity, Campbell and his wife, Nikki Juvan, would be odds-on favorites.

As many folks already know, Campbell is recovering from the second of two major strokes he’s experienced during the past six months. He’s spent a lot of that time at the University of Vermont Medical Center and at its Fanny Allen Campus, healing and rehabbing from health setbacks that have sapped his strength and mobility, but not his mind or his will.

No Addison Independent employee goes a week without someone asking him or her, “How’s Trent?” or, “We sure miss Trent’s photos.” So we decided to sit down with “the Maestro,” as he is affectionately sometimes called, to get his thoughts on his recovery during what has been a long ordeal.

I’ve conducted thousands of interviews during my 34 years as a professional scribe, but this one was especially difficult, while also part sublime and surreal.

Tough seeing my longtime journalism teammate confined to a bed.

Crestfallen seeing a devoted foodie having to take most of his nourishment — a non-descript viscous ooze — through a tube leading directly into his stomach.

Sad he didn’t have that familiar black camera bag draped around his shoulder.

But tremendously grateful he was not one of the 140,000 Americans claimed by strokes each year. Ecstatic he’s making progress — so much so that his medical team has extended his rehab stay for another two weeks so that Trent can capitalize on the mobility gains he’s recently been making.

Glad to just be with him.

Truth be told, Trent has experienced more strokes than his physicians can even count. He received that news following the battery of tests — including CAT scans and MRIs — after his first major stroke last October. Trent offers his own account of that first stroke in a sidebar to this article.

After scaling a metaphorical mountain to get to a point where he had shed his walker for a cane, Trent experienced his second major stroke at his home on March 19.

“I woke up that morning, grabbed my cane and took a step toward the bathroom, and my leg completely gave out under me, and I fell back onto the bed,” Trent said.

It wasn’t just an issue with his leg; he felt generally numb and weak on the left side of his body. And that’s when he feared he’d likely suffered another stroke.

With help from Nikki, Trent made it down the stairs. He called his physician, who advised him to get to the Porter Hospital Emergency Department, which he did. There, he met one of his favorite people — Dr. Mike Kiernan, who had been on duty for Trent’s first stroke. Tests didn’t indicate a new stroke, but he spent that night under observation at Porter.

He woke the following morning unable to stand at all.

“It had gotten worse,” he said.

That’s when Trent was transferred to UVM Medical Center for additional tests and care.

“They confirmed I had had a stroke and didn’t know why,” Trent said.

TRENT CAMPBELL CAPTURES images of the raising of the roof of the new town office building in Middlebury several years ago.

Courtesy of Nick Artim

Not knowing the cause of his strokes has been very frustrating for Trent and Nikki. How can you tailor your diet, exercise and medication to your recovery if you don’t know the root of the health problem? He’s never smoked and hardly ever consumes alcohol.

Trent said his physicians had attributed his first stroke to diabetes and high blood pressure, issues that he had since brought under control.

It appears his health mystery has now finally been solved.

Doctors at UVM installed a “loop recorder” in his chest to monitor his heart rhythm. Measurements from that tiny device have led physicians to identify atrial fibrillation, or “AFib,” as a major contributing factor to his strokes, according to Trent.

“It was good to know a definitive reason,” he said.

AFib occurs when the heartbeat is rapid and irregular and, as a result, doesn’t move blood through the chambers of the heart normally. This causes blood to pool in the atria, the upper chambers of the heart, and form clots. If one of these clots gets pumped out of the heart, it can travel through the bloodstream to the brain, cutting off blood flow and causing a stroke.

With diagnosis in hand, physicians established a recovery plan for Trent that included medication and — again — an aggressive rehab stint at Fanny Allen, where he returned on March 23.

His latest road to recovery has sadly been a bumpy one, at least to start.

The second stroke has affected his left vocal cord and his ability to swallow food and liquids. This led to a coughing fit while at Fanny Allen, which led to his transfer to UVM Medical Center. Turns out he was aspirating and developing pneumonia. He spent two weeks in the hospital, during which he was fitted with a feeding port initially through his nose and then directly into his stomach.

Then another trip to Fanny Allen on April 8.

Two steps forward, one step back.

On April 10, Trent had another aspiration episode that sent him back to the hospital. More treatment for pneumonia.

“He was incredibly weak and had lost a lot of strength,” Nikki recalled tearfully. “There were days he couldn’t hold up his upper body.”

NEITHER SNOW, SLEET nor dark of night keeps Trent Campbell from his appointed rounds. Here he was out in the snow in December 2012 while shooting the Very Merry Middlebury festivities.

Independent photo/John S. McCright

Trent was volleyed back to Fanny Allen on April 16, and has since enjoyed a steady pace of progress. His typical day includes at least three hours of therapy, including work with a speech/language pathologist. He’s using a treadmill (with supports). Occupational therapy is getting his body ready to perform basic household chores — such as doing laundry — for when he returns home.

His speech is becoming better every day, as his left vocal cord is starting to move. His swallowing has improved to the point where he’s being given custard-consistency food by mouth to supplement that which he receives through his feeding tube. He jokes about the faux Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes molded from mush. But he can’t yet risk chewing and swallowing firm food.

“It’s been especially hard, since the only thing I like to watch on TV is the Food Network,” he said with a chuckle.

Trent is back to using a walker, a major stride from the wheelchair. He hopes to soon ditch that for a cane, with the ultimate goal of being able to walk on his own.

While it would easy for Trent to espouse a “woe-is-me” attitude, he’s looking at the bright side — a hallmark of virtually all of his photos.

“I think about all the great things that have happened to me,” he said with a smile.

Among them is Nikki, his rock. She’s been at his side throughout his journey, and keeps a meticulous journal of his health strides and setbacks.

“He has a story to tell,” she said. “I think he can be an inspiration for other people.

“There’s a reason he’s still here.”

Trent had hoped to be back home on Saturday, May 25, in time for the upcoming Middlebury Memorial Day parade.  His goal was to ride in the parade for the first time, after having photographed it for many years. Local resident Churchill Franklin had offered Trent his choice of several sweet rides to cruise in style.

But he received the bittersweet news on Tuesday that he won’t be discharged from Fanny Allen until June 8. Thankfully, it’s because of his improving health, as opposed to another setback.

Perhaps he’ll ride in the July 4 parade, or maybe he’ll wait until next Memorial Day. It’ll be great either way, and Nikki will be there with him.

“I couldn’t have done it without her,” Trent said. “She’s been here every day. She has to do so much; run the house and take care of me, and I’m an hour away.”

Together, they thanked the many nurses, physicians and technicians who have helped Trent along the way.

And he and Nikki could use another helping hand.

The bills have piled up while he’s been out of commission. His family has set up a Gofundme campaign. The goal is to raise $25,000 to cover some of his lost wages, his mounting medical costs, and some photographic equipment that will make it easier for him to continue to be creative behind the camera lens.

As of Wednesday, the campaign had raised $7,705.

Trent is ready for the next stage of his recovery at home.

“It’ll take a while, he said, adding, “I’m super-grateful.”

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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