How I Found Success After Almost Losing My Life


As I sit in my office, contemplating what to write for this article, I’m looking directly at my original Personal Belize vision board that I put together in September of 2007 that sits over my filing cabinets. I hear my one year old daughter laughing and playing with my wife behind the closed door as I reflect on my life and thoughts from the time before creating this vision board until now.

Just a couple of years before I made my first Personal Belize vision board I was an active, independent, happy, and healthy 25 year-old guy with an excelling career and nothing but optimism and excitement for the future. I played competitive hockey, softball, waterskied, snowboarded, worked and played just as hard. Everything just went right for me. Life was good.

And then that changed. One day, in late March of 2005, I woke up strapped to a hospital bed with several tubes connected to me and a circle of friends and family around me. I was told that I had incurred a head injury as a result of an altercation on the way home from the bar almost a week before, trying to stop three guys that were going after another guy outside of a bar. I was struck from behind and fell face down hitting my head on the concrete, causing a severe brain hemorrhage. I remember thinking that a concussion was not such a big deal, but could not understand what this had to do with my not being able to move, and just why so many people were here to see me. I soon discovered that this was not quite the typical concussion, but more like the unknown reason that your parents always warned you about when riding your bike without a helmet.

I was completely paralyzed on one side of my body. I failed to recognize anything in my left visual field, could no longer understand most sounds, associations, or other things; I couldn’t walk, stand or even sit up; I couldn’t use my left arm, and I clearly wouldn’t be going back to driving or my engineering job anytime soon. My only routes at this point were pursuing a lawsuit against the 3 men – from the likes of a personal injury attorney Fresno firm – and rehabilitation which I went into as soon as possible.

In one early, impactful, meeting that I recall, in a room filled with several other confused people in wheelchairs, a Neuro Physician explained that we had all suffered very serious brain injuries, and how those injuries would impact our lives. She explained that whatever our optimistic goals and expectations were for the future, they should now be abandoned and replaced with the new realities of life with a brain injury. Things were bad, but “Hey, I thought, at least I have a loving girlfriend, friends, and family by my side.” The people in my life were always the most important thing to me. For a little while, I did consider getting a law firm involved though. I even checked out lamber goodnow and was really close to using them to help me get compensation for my injury. However, I decided not to, as I just wanted to move forward with my life.

After my three-month stint at a rehab center, I moved back in with my parents in Sechelt and continued with rehabilitation. A few months later a close long-time friend of mine was killed in a car accident, the second friend of the year. A few weeks later, after a two-year remission, my mom’s doctor informed us that her cancer had come back and had spread to her lymph system. He said she didn’t have much time. On Boxing Day of this same year, with my dad, brother and I by her side, we watched and listened to my mom take her last breath. Not too soon after that, my girlfriend had left.

At that point, my life felt completely out of my control and I was certain that any other possible negative thing that could happen would, and that every other person that I was close to in my life would be taken away, one way or another, leaving me to watch hopelessly.

All the while I searched for any little nugget of positivity and for a way to somehow redirect my downward spiral and still create the future family and life that I so badly wanted. Being an analytical guy, and clearly seeing my current reality, I wasn’t picking up on anything. This was about the time that I asked the universe for a bit of help.

I was sitting down for my morning coffee when I came across a real estate investment book that had shown up on the coffee table, Real Estate Riches by Dolf de Roos. Not questioning where it came from, I picked it up and read it from cover to cover the same day. I felt hope for the first time in many months and immediately knew that this would be a critical tool to turn the tide for me. I was obsessed, reading every real estate investment and related business or philosophy book that I could get my hands on for the next few months.

A few weeks after reading my first book, wanting to put my new found knowledge to the true test, I was dropped off at the local RBC branch by my occupational therapist. With my briefcase over my shoulder, I wobbled my way, cane in hand, into the commercial loans manager’s office to tell him my life plans and asked him what I would need to do to get my first investment property financed through RBC. Surprisingly, he played along and told me exactly what types of properties that he would finance, along with the terms.

Still jobless, without a driver’s license, and very limited mobility, I utilized equity from a condo that I had bought a few years prior in Surrey and closed on my first investment property on Feb 1 of 2006. It was a 5500 square foot mixed commercial office/retail/warehouse building in Powell River (the cashflow being high enough to even carry the credit line on the condo equity loan).

In 2006, I joined REIN, re-passed the single-handed driver’s test, returned to my engineering job and my home in Surrey. With the support and education from REIN, I utilized my newly found market confidence and used the systems and tactics I was taught for purchasing and managing properties, including utilizing RRSP 2nd mortgages, joint venture partnerships, lease-to-owns, and vendor take back mortgages. I added an additional 12 doors to my property portfolio for a total of 17 doors since my first property purchase in 2003.

Upon returning home to Surrey, I have focused primarily on single family homes and townhouses there and in Edmonton. During this same time period I managed to overcome a lot of obstacles and even live a little – travelling to over 20 countries including five Mediterranean and Caribbean cruises, and several lengthy, adventurous and memorable road trips throughout North America.

Although I see a lot of things on my vision board, I feel the most gratitude, pride, and satisfaction from the development of my new family; marrying my wife Amanda in December of 2012, and the birth of our daughter, Mila, in May of 2013. Now, at 34, I am once again feeling nothing but optimism and excitement for the future, but this time with an even better foundation and many more tools; tools which allow me more aspects of control over my family financial future.

Dave Toynbee is a REIN Ambassador and has been a member since 2006.

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