There were a lot of winners at this year’s Charity Challenge event, including SCI BC! Thanks to our dedicated and generous SCI BC Charity Challenge teammates, SCI BC won first place in the category for highest fundraising amount per participant. To celebrate this we’re profiling our top fundraiser, Andy Caswell!
Andy always liked to stay active in his life — from mountain biking to skiing, he does it all! He was recently injured in 2021, just 10 days shy of his 62nd birthday. We know that didn’t stop him as he conquered this year’s Charity Challenge! Below, you can read more about his journey from newly injured to our top fundraiser superstar.
During a camping trip with family and friends on July 23rd of 2021, I was rushed to the Merritt, BC emergency ward with severe lumbar back pain. I shortly lost the use of my left leg and was transferred by ambulance to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. The next morning, I could not move or feel anything below my waist. On July 24th, I had an emergency laminectomy surgery and was in Kamloops until I was transferred to Lions Gate Hospital on August 4th. On September 2nd I was moved again, this time to GF Strong. It was at GF Strong where I first heard of SCI BC.
During my stay at GF Strong I met SCI BC’s Peer Coordinator, Ryan Clarkson, who introduced me to the programs and services that SCI BC provides for people with spinal cord injuries. I had no idea what mobility I would be able to gain back with time. Ryan had just returned from a camping trip in the Yukon so I was hopeful that I would be able to do some of the things I enjoyed doing before.
My physiotherapist at GF Strong introduced me to ProActive SCI and asked me if I was interested in working with a fitness coach who would coach me on staying physically active after my spinal cord injury. It was in this program where I met, via Zoom, my fitness coach and SCI BC’s Peer Coordinator, Rod Bitz. I had a monthly Zoom call with Rod to review what I did for physical fitness activities during the month. These meetings were extremely important to me both mentally and physically as I was coming to terms with both limitations and possibilities.
As an outpatient I worked on gaining mobility with the Lions Gate Rehab Team until the end of May 2022. I spent hours in my garage working on exercises to gain functional leg strength, upper body strength, core strength, stretching exercises, went to the community pool for aquacise classes and pedalled a recumbent exercise bike (purchased for this goal) to improve my cardio strength. Recently, I returned to a private gym, something I have always thoroughly enjoyed.
Rod was a great resource on weight training, work out schedules and the importance of planning rest days. I am happy to say that a little over a year from my surgery date I am seeing marked gains in mobility. I am grateful for Rod for mentoring and coaching me through a very difficult time. His support has been invaluable to my recovery.
In April I was sent information on the Charity Challenge 5km race from SCI BC. I signed up and set a 5 km walk target – something at the time seemed a very lofty goal. I relayed the donation information with a link and description of what I wanted to accomplish to my network of friends and family. It was incredible to see the donations come in and see the support I received. As I walked the course, I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear, plus I got a kick out of the fact that they were picking up the pylons behind me! I never thought I would be so happy to finish last in a 5km!
This summer I have got back on my mountain bike and my wife and I have purchased ebikes. I have increased my walking distance and started to walk our dog Lucy again without any mobility aids. My next challenge is to get back on my stand-up paddle board. It has been difficult, but I have managed to paddle short distances standing up on the board and yes, have gotten wet falling off.
It was my pleasure to raise funds during the Charity Challenge for SCI BC. The organization is great for people who are living with a spinal cord injury and helps them to deal with the mental and physical challenges. I appreciated the mentoring and opportunities to meet with others living with similar circumstances to gain knowledge and understanding of what can be done and what can’t be done.