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Published on October 18, 2023

Comeback Cameron

A devastating crash and a resilient spirit

After a remarkable recovery, Cameron Senna participated in the Gaylord Gauntlet this June, assisted by Gaylord Hospital therapists. Photos courtesy of Gaylord Hospital

After a remarkable recovery, Cameron Senna participated in the Gaylord Gauntlet this June, assisted by Gaylord Hospital therapists. Photo courtesy of Gaylord Hospital 

Cameron Senna was riding his motorcycle on the evening of Oct. 11, 2021, when his life changed forever. At the time he was a junior at Eastern studying computer science, out for an autumn ride on Route 6 in Andover. He’d driven this road many times during his commutes to and from campus, but on this evening around 6 p.m., a car in the oncoming lane suddenly veered in front of him.  

In an instant, Cameron was ejected from the motorcycle at 50 miles per hour.  

Paramedics rushed to the scene as he lay barely conscious on the pavement. A helicopter swiftly airlifted him to the hospital, where he would spend the next three and a half months. First at Hartford Hospital, then at Gaylord Hospital, his days were an agonizing whirlwind of surgeries and intensive rehabilitation.  

“That first week was touch-and-go; they didn’t know if I was going to survive,” said Cameron. “It was a really bad accident. I don’t remember anything from that day, which is fortunate — I’d rather not.”  

His injuries were grave and extensive, despite wearing a helmet and other protective gear. Cameron suffered a broken pelvis, back, right arm and left tibia. His left foot was paralyzed and his sacrum was displaced. He also experienced nerve damage, a brain bleed, a concussion and life-threatening internal bleeding and blood loss.  

You never know when your last day is going to be, so make the most of it and let people know they’re important to you.

Cameron Senna

Despite making great progress during his months at Gaylord Hospital, he spent much of the following year intermittently using a wheelchair. After his discharge from Gaylord, the specter of hospitals would remain familiar, returning many times with infection and sepsis due to numerous surgeries. Even now, two years after the accident, he still deals with chronic pain and uses walking sticks to help with his gait.  

Another devastating setback struck Cameron four months after leaving Gaylord. The insurance company dropped his physical therapy coverage, deeming his recovery finished. At this time, Cameron could walk only short distances and needed double crutches to keep weight off his left leg.  

Daily physical therapy — in-home and outpatient — had become his primary occupation and the key to regaining his life. “I stopped believing in myself when I found out about the insurance,” he said. “Why would I not believe them?” 

Running the Gauntlet alongside Cameron were friends Ben Combs, Daz Pagdiwala, Sam Guiguere and Andrew Doucette, as well as mother Donna Senna and sister Evelyn Senna ’21.

Donna (mother), Cameron and Evelyn Senna (sister)

Cameron’s family, unwavering throughout the ordeal, did not accept this verdict. Already on a reduced income due to his mother, Donna, cutting back her hours to become his caregiver, the Sennas paid for physical therapy out-of-pocket. Finally, a glimmer of hope emerged when Donna found a program at the University of Connecticut that gives uninsured people free care in exchange for serving as patients for physical therapy graduate students.  

“I’ve made so much progress since then,” said Cameron. “If my mom didn’t push for me to be in that program … if I had taken what (the insurance company) said, I would not be where I am today. This highlights how important it is to have people around you who believe in you.”  

While his physical injuries were debilitating, Cameron says the mental obstacles were just as difficult.  

Cameron competes in the Gaylord Gauntlet.

“A lot of recovery is mental; it’s the mindset you have,” he said. “You can recover. You have to keep working at it and maintain a positive attitude. There are going to be times when you’re frustrated, not making a lot of progress. You have to keep going.”

Cameron’s incredible recovery was typified this summer when he participated in the Gaylord Gauntlet, a 5K trail run/obstacle course and fundraiser for the hospital’s adaptive sports program. The arduous course — not designed for athletes with disabilities — featured two dozen rock walls, rope bridges, mud crawls and other obstacles. To make things more challenging, it rained heavily all day.  

Cameron’s steadfast family, best friends and even his former nurses were with him every step, assisting him through the muddy course and cheering along the sidelines as the deluge continued.  

“That day felt like the culmination of my entire experience,” he said. “It was emotional. I felt super happy, elated that I’d done it. With all my friends and family by my side … I don’t know how I could have done it without them. The course was symbolic of the journey I’ve had.”  

After all he’s been through, Cameron now sees the world in a different light. He has less anxiety, he can better relate with people, and he’s grateful for every day.  

“My perspective’s changed a lot since the accident,” he said. “I’ve become a nicer person. Having an experience like this, I feel like I can empathize with people who are struggling.”  

Perhaps his greatest takeaway, however, is the poignant realization of the significance of loved ones and the fragility of life.  

“Sometimes we’re stuck in a rut, or we forget to lift our heads up and think about those around us … You never know when your last day is going to be, so make the most of it and let people know they’re important to you.”  

Cameron looks forward to completing his computer science degree at Eastern when his recovery permits and aspires to become a software developer.  

I’m so thankful every day that I get to have my best friend still in my life. Cam’s resilience is amazing … I’m so grateful that he’s here and that we can still enjoy life together.

Evelyn Senna ’21, Cameron’s sister

Written by Michael Rouleau