Many fans of the popular Acadian musician thought he had made a miraculous recovery when he returned home after spending two months at the Halifax infirmary last fall.
Surette damaged his spinal cord while performing a flip that went terribly wrong on the family trampoline.
“Everyone thought I was well, because I was walking, but no, no, I was an extremely sick person. It wasn’t a graceful walk. I was like a Japanese robot. I was still on heavy medication.”
Surette’s memories of the accident are still vivid. When his feet caught the side-mesh of the trampoline preventing the flip’s completion, he landed on his head. He heard a snap but felt no pain. He told his 11-year-old son Jacques to call 911, then everything went to monochrome.
The paramedics arrived and prepared him for transport.
“They shot me up. They asked me how much I weighed and I told them 450 pounds, stupid stuff like that,” said Surette.
“Deep down I was terrified that I was going to be a quad for the rest of my life. I was like that for three days until I saw my right toe answer the call. It was only a millimeter, but I knew I wasn’t going to be a quad.”
Five weeks later he took his first step.
Meanwhile, a Facebook fan page grew 10-fold to almost 400 after the accident. Four benefits were held, raising $7,000. The funds were “just enough” to keep the family going.
But the bad year wasn’t over for Surette.
During his hospitalization, a 40-foot trailer on his property went up in flames. His studio, musical equipment, everything associated with his musical career over the past 40 years, was lost.
The trailer was insured, but he says it never even came close to covering what was destroyed.
“I lost everything except my guitars, my harmonicas and my song book,” he said.
Several other personal issues interfered with physiotherapy when he arrived home. And just after Christmas he began spitting up blood. He was diagnosed with acute pulmonary embolism.
Surette was well known for performing as a one-man band. The unit he relied on for this was lost in the fire, but he plans on performing again in the future.
Music was my life. It’s a give and take form of energy. You receive when you give. - Eric Surette
The accident didn’t affect his voice. He can still play the harmonica and do percussion with his hands. He provided a 45-minute concert to others in the hospital during his recovery.
He cannot chord or strum his guitar, but says he’s going to try to play again.
“I’ll never realistically ever come close to where I was but I’m too notorious now to give it up,” he laughs.
He plans on releasing a DVD of his musical career later this year that will include images, songs and a 22-minute video.
“Music was my life. It’s a give and take form of energy. You receive when you give.
“When I do my first gig, I plan to have that for sale. I’m going to do something, even if it’s just acapella.”