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Going from surviving to engaging in life again after a spinal cord injury

For many people with a spinal cord injury, their lives were changed suddenly, and without warning.

Jason edit WEB SIZE.jpgFor Jason, the day was December 13th, 2018.  

“I always thought that if I was going to get injured, it was going to be on my mountain bike or my snowboard,” he says with a small laugh.

“It was kind of a freak accident … It was a cold, rainy night. I was down in Victoria and I was running across the street and I tripped over a curb. I had my hands in my pockets, and basically I did a faceplant. Ended up hyperextending my neck, damaging my spinal cord, knocking out seven teeth, smashing my nose, splitting my lip. So yeah, it was just, kind of, that quick.”

He spent six months in the hospital, recovering and learning how to move again – trying to figure out what his life would be like. But doctors, nurses and physiotherapists could only teach him so much, he says.

“When you have this type of injury, you go to the hospital and they teach you how to survive. But SCI BC (Spinal Cord Injury BC) gives you resources where you can actually, truly live,” says Jason.

United Way British Columbia is proud to fund that effort.

It started in hospital, says Jason. An SCI BC peer would visit every couple weeks, and Jason would get a clearer picture of what life would be like from someone who had been through this before. His questions were sometimes small things: when you get in from the rain in your wheelchair, what do you do with the wet wheels? How do you go up and down steep hills, or mount curbs?

Having someone you can ask questions and talk to is a major part of SCI BC’s Peer Program, which United Way British Columbia funds in the central and northern Vancouver Island region. Another big part of the program is getting peers active and out in the community again.

After leaving the hospital, SCI BC invited Jason to attend their annual Whistler Adrenaline weekend to meet more peers and try adaptive activities.

“My wife was keen to attend the event,” says Jason. “I wasn’t as keen.” Still just getting comfortable with life again, Jason says he didn’t want to go outside the comfortable bubble he had created for himself.

But they went. “It was a great experience.”  

Not only did Jason experience what travel would be like with his injury, he go to try mountain biking again, and yoga and kayak, discovering that adaptations to these activities meant he could do them again.

Local events and programs have continued to expand Jason's horizons, even during the pandemic.

Adaptive boxing classes done online during the pandemic have been a hit with Jason. The classes have helped him regain mobility, and introduced him to a hobby he may never have tried otherwise.

Through the classes, he also learned about his boxing coach’s inspiring story of taking on the Grouse Grind last fall.

“He’s paralyzed from the waist down. So he did the Grouse Grind just on his hands, and he had a friend hold him up. So hearing things like that really inspire me to push myself and see what else I can do.”

Jason has also become an inspiration for others whether they have a spinal cord injury or not. By sharing his own adventures, his work to stay fit and mobile, and his progress at regaining some of his mobility, he is energizing others push ahead.

“You can’t change what’s happened – it's happened, right? All you can do is just move forward.”

SCI BC’s Peer Program does so much to improve the lives of people with a life-changing spinal cord injury. But the program does even more than that, says the manager of Nanaimo’s BC Spinal Cord Injury Centre, Jocelyn Maffin. It’s working to make our communities more accessible. To learn more about that, read part two on SCI BC Peer Program in an upcoming blog post.

United Way British Columbia is proud to fund the amazing work of SCI BC. And that funding comes from people like you. To keep programs like this one possible, please consider donating to United Way British Columbia today. If you need help, please call 2-1-1, and a bc211 Navigator will direct you to supports near you.