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Living life to the fullest: Bemidji woman says 2001 incident that paralyzed her doesn’t define her life

Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer Carol Campbell was paralyzed 13 years ago in a stabbing incident, but the soon-to-be 75-year-old said she hasn’t let the event define her life and she strives to remain as active as possible in the community.

BEMIDJI — Thirteen years ago, one moment changed Carol Campbell’s life forever.

But she hasn’t let that moment define who she is or how she lives.

In May 2001, Campbell and her husband, Gene, were involved in a stabbing incident by their foster daughter’s boyfriend that resulted in a severed spinal cord, paraplegia and life in a wheelchair for Carol. Gene was also injured in the incident, but not as severely as his wife.

But that horrific event hasn’t stopped Carol from living her life to the fullest, she says.

“It’s limiting in some areas as to what I can do, but it hasn’t changed drastically,” said Campbell, who is celebrating her 75th birthday this week.

Before the incident, the Campbells had opened their home to some 69 foster children through 17 years, all while raising their three children. At the time, Carol was also working as a special education teacher in the Laporte area, a job she did not return to after the incident.

Campbell also took a break from volunteering with several organizations in the Bemidji community. “I was really weak, it was hard to me to see myself doing the type of work I was doing,” Campbell said.

During her rehabilitation, Campbell learned to increase her strength, while also learning how to live without the use of her legs and remain as independent as she was previously.

Carol and Gene built a new home that was wheelchair accessible — “I can cook, I can roll in my sink and under my stove,” said Campbell.

Gene does most of the hard cleaning around the house now, an activity that the pair used to do together. “I count on my husband a lot, much more than before,” Campbell said.

Campbell still drives with the use of hand controls, but sometimes has problems getting stuck due to ice on her wheelchair wheels or on ramps. “When I go to the grocery store, I’ll ask whoever walks out with me to push me up the ramp,” Campbell.

As she recovered and adapted to her new life, Campbell soon found herself returning to the volunteer world. With The Salvation Army, Campbell serves on the Beltrami County Service Extension Board; “we are responsible to raise money, at Christmas time through bell ringing and then we use it for emergency works and different projects.”

She is also involved with several volunteer activities through Faith Baptist Church, including vacation bible school each summer, a prayer group and coordinating family meals.

Campbell’s most recent job has allowed her to be back in a classroom; she serves as an education assistant at the Bi-County Cap YouthBuild, where youth earn their high school diploma or GED while learning construction skills.

She explained that while her life has taken a different path than what she imagined to where she is today — through all the up and downs — she believes that her life “has not changed at all,” Campbell said.

Out and About is a new Pioneer feature where we will profile everyday people doing everyday things in and around Bemidji. Stories run on Tuesdays. If you know someone you think should be profiled, please email Maggi Stivers at or email

Maggi Stivers

Maggi Stivers is a Multi-Media Journalist at the Bemidji Pioneer. She covers art and entertainment in the Bemidji area. She is a 2013 Bemidji State graduate majoring in mass communications with a minor in sociology. Contact her at (218) 333-9790 or

(218) 333-9790