Terry LeBlanc

Terry LeBlanc

SCI BC Board member, Peer member, and sailor

“Share the Magic this Holiday Season”

“Do you believe in magic?  I do.  I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

I don’t mean pulling a rabbit out of a hat or some silly card trick. I’m talking about that truly magical moment when someone with a spinal cord injury realizes that life can be full and rich.

This kind of magic doesn’t just happen. It takes a special connection with someone who truly understands what you’re going through . . . someone who has travelled their own journey to accepting life in a wheelchair.

That’s the kind of magic you can share this festive season when you make a gift to Spinal Cord Injury BC today.

It’s no secret that a spinal cord injury is devastating. It impacts every part of daily life, both emotionally and physically. And the holidays can be particularly tough. Many will face loneliness, depression and isolation. Just ask Terry.

It was 37 years ago when Terry’s life changed forever. He was a young man, only 25 years old, starting to make his mark as a surveyor in Calgary. It was fulfilling work, but the long hot summer days wore him down  When a group of friends headed to the Okanagan, Terry jumped at the chance to take a break from his demanding job.

It was a rash decision that Terry now regrets.

A week of water skiing ended tragically when Terry swam out to a raft and dove into the clear waters of Skaha Lake. He hit the bottom hard. Terry will always remember that horrible moment when he couldn’t feel his legs, “My friends tried to reassure me that I would be okay. But I knew in my heart that it was serious.”

Four months later, Terry faced his first Christmas as a quadriplegic. It was the lowest point of his young life. He had just been transferred to a rehabilitation hospital in Vancouver and didn’t know a single soul.

On Christmas morning, most of the other patients left for the day to be with their families. His own parents lived far away in New Brunswick and, sadly, they couldn’t afford to make the long trek.  Sitting in the hospital’s day room, Terry felt utterly alone. He stared at his reflection in the glass door and thought in desperation, “What have I done to myself? How can I live like this?”

For us at Spinal Cord Injury BC, we’ve seen these scared faces all too often.  But, with your donation, we can help people with spinal cord injury adjust, adapt and thrive in their lives, whether they are dealing with a new injury or struggling with the ongoing challenges of living and aging with a physical disability.

Luckily, Terry met Tom, one of our counsellors at the time.  That first encounter made a lasting impression. He vividly recalls the day that Tom came wheeling into his hospital room with a large briefcase thrown across his lap. Terry says, “I was floored. Here was someone just like me, in a wheelchair, but he looked happy and he was actually working. Tom was so confident. It was the first time that I realized I could still do something with my life. It was a magical moment!”

This is the magic of peer support. We know that it takes someone who’s “been there” to truly understand what a person with a spinal cord injury is going through. That’s why our Peer Support Program is so crucial. It’s about being with people who get it.

It can be as simple as dropping in on one of our “Bean There” coffee support groups, or coming out to our numerous peer activities.  There’s something for everyone – holiday dinners, camping adventures, adapted yoga sessions, cooking classes, sports activities and even bungee jumping!

But no matter what form it takes, people come away with increased confidence, new friendships and the realization that life can be full and rich. And it’s your gifts that make the magic happen.

After seeing the possibilities, Terry was determined to get on with his life. With encouragement from Tom and funding arranged through our organization, he returned to school to learn new skills. From there, Terry went on to have a successful career teaching computer-aided design and working in the digital mapping field.

Terry is happy to be retired now and enjoys giving back to the disability community in a big way, including serving on our Board for the past 10 years and meeting with newly injured patients who are struggling with their new life. It’s his way of sharing some of that peer magic. And when Terry isn’t busy volunteering or attending our peer events, he’s on the water competing in disabled sailing. He finds it exhilarating to leave his wheelchair behind and speed through the waves.

This Christmas, Terry will be cooking up a big turkey and celebrating with friends. And two days later, it will be his 63rd birthday. Terry knows that aging with a physical disability brings new challenges.  He’s already faced some setbacks along the way.

Three years ago, Terry developed stenosis at the site of his injury and lost the use of his left arm.  He now relies on a “sip and puff” mechanism to get his wheelchair around. It was another blow that further reinforced the need for our vital services. Terry is proud to volunteer with our 50+ Peer Program that brings peer magic to seniors with spinal cord injury.

From that first lonely Christmas, Terry knows how difficult the holidays can be. That’s why he is asking you to share some magic this season by sending a special gift today.  Check out the difference you can make. Go to SCI BC YouTube channel to hear more amazing stories of peer magic at work. It really warms the heart.

I believe in magic . . . and I hope that you do, too! Please send your holiday donation to Spinal Cord Injury BC today. It’s a gift that will have a lasting impact all year long.”

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