a women with walking stick aids smiles for the camera on a boardwalk in Vancouver

Noreen Segui

Peer Member

“I’m so grateful. SCI BC socially and emotionally impacted my world—it’s given colour to my life.”

As a working mother of three children dedicated to going back to school to advance her education, Noreen Segui didn’t have time to slow down. But early in 2015, she noticed an incessant numbing in her fingers. Nerve testing showed nothing wrong, so an MRI was ordered.

While she waited for her scan, the numbness persisted and started to spread from her fingers to both of her arms. Soon, her left foot was dragging when she walked and her motor skills became affected, resulting in several falls. Finally, after receiving her long-awaited MRI, Noreen’s neurologist expedited her referral to a neurosurgeon because of her severely compressed spinal cord. Almost a year from the onset of her symptoms, Noreen received a diagnosis—ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament of the spine (OPLL), a condition typically presenting in much older people.

Noreen was quickly booked into surgery and underwent a C2-5 laminectomy to release the pressure of her compressed spinal cord, “But instead of getting better, my condition deteriorated,” she says. “They rushed me in for an MRI and discovered a hematoma. It was already scary going in for an operation the first time, and there I was having to go for a second surgery 10 days later.”

Recovery was not easy. Frustrated and depressed, not able to walk, dress or feed herself, Noreen went to GF Strong and worked with a team who supported her rehabilitation. When she returned home her single point of focus was to get better and get back to work. She’d visit the physiotherapist, go to doctor’s appointments, rehab, back home and then repeat, week after week. Once again, Noreen didn’t have time to slow down and life was passing her by. It was her physiotherapist who encouraged her to get involved in an organization that would strengthen her social life to help improve her mental health and self-esteem.

“I took this advice to heart – knowing that my clinical team had been thorough, and now it was my turn to continue living.”

This is when she stumbled upon SCI BC’s website. Noreen’s first point of contact with the organization was one of SCI BC’s most prominent friendly faces, Bert Abbott. “It was amazing how Bert knew what I was going through without my needing to explain my situation,” Noreen says. “I started to look forward to some of the activities the organization offered to peers like me,” she says. That’s when things really began to change. “I joined the South Fraser Active Living Group and met fun people to hang out with who knew what I was going through—I didn’t have to explain anything!”

“When I got involved with SCI BC, my world opened up to a new beginning. I didn’t realize there was life after surgery.”

Through SCI BC, Noreen met people who were doing things that she never thought possible—inspiration that opened her eyes to new possibilities. She saw spirit and determination in her new friends and felt excited about moving forward. Now, Noreen is a staple at SCI BC events like adaptive rock climbing, the annual Scotiabank Charity Challenge race, women’s events and more.

“I’m so grateful. SCI BC socially and emotionally impacted my world—it’s given colour to my life.”

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