In News & Blog, Peer Profiles

George feared that something wasn’t quite right. But he never expected that a quick trip to the local emergency department would result in a lengthy hospital stay with a devastating diagnosis. The 52-year-old father of five needed immediate spinal surgery. From that moment on George’s life would never be the same.

It was a difficult time for the family man. George comes from a small First Nations community two hours north of Terrace. He was transferred down to Vancouver for the surgery and the following rehab.  George still finds it all so hard to believe.  “I went to my local emergency room with only the clothes on my back and I didn’t return home for four long months.  It was tough being so far away from the family.”

As one of our most valued supporters, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how devastating a spinal cord injury is. It impacts every aspect of daily life and the lives of loved ones.  But with your generosity, we can turn desperation into hope. Your gift ensures that we are here to help anyone who needs us.

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It was at the rehab facility in Vancouver that George learned of our programs and met our friendly Peer Coordinator, Ryan.  George still remembers the moment when it all came together for him. “Ryan is also in a wheelchair, and he showed me how easily he can get into his car and stow his chair in the back.  When I saw that, I knew that anything was possible.  To me, it meant freedom and a level of independence.  I knew then that I wasn’t going to be confined and stare at the walls in my room.”

A year later, George is back home and continues to make good progress. He now uses a cane to get around the house, but still needs a wheelchair when he is out and about.  George considers himself lucky compared to others.  Yet he knows that having an “incomplete” spinal cord injury comes with many of the same challenges.  He admits he wasn’t totally prepared for all the bowel and bladder problems, the loss of sexual function, and the intense muscle spasms that keep him up most nights.

That’s why George was excited to hear of our first-ever “Ambulatory Retreat” on the beautiful shores of Lake Okanagan.  It was a chance to unwind, try new activities, and connect with others who understand what you are going through.  George says it helps knowing that he is not alone.

“One of the first things we talked about at the retreat was catheters.  Bowel and bladder issues are such a fundamental aspect of a spinal cord injury.  So it’s not surprising that we talk about it often.  Even in public!  And I rode a bike.  I did not know how much I missed going so fast that the wind was whistling past my ears.  I’m still in awe that I rode a bike!  I also tried paddleboarding.  And I learned about adapted yoga.  It was great to do these activities during the day and then sit around a big table and play games with everyone at night.”  

This is the power of peer support!  It’s about being with others who get it because they have travelled a similar path.  People come away with increased confidence, new friendships and the realization that life can be full and rich again. And your gift is what makes all this possible.

After the uncertainty of the last two years with the pandemic, we are excited to be back hosting our in-person peer events across the province. It means even more opportunities for people like George to swap stories, share tips and tricks, laugh together, and learn about life with a spinal cord injury. There is something for everyone – from summer picnics and outdoor recreation activities such as adapted kayaking and fishing, to holiday gatherings and sit skiing on the local mountains, to simply enjoying a cup of coffee and chatting with those who get it. Your donation makes life with a spinal cord injury a little easier.

George hopes that you’ll continue your financial support so that everyone with a spinal cord injury can get the help they need. I’m asking you to send your tax-deductible gift today. It means that people can adjust, adapt and thrive in their new lives. Please don’t delay.

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With thanks,

Ed Milligan
Chair, SCI BC Board of Directors

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