Help Us Celebrate Our 75th Anniversary... After All, Your Stories are a Big Part of It

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Submitted by Thomson Rogers on December 9, 2010

In this, our 75th anniversary year, we have much to be thankful for. A law firm, any firm, doesn’t achieve a significant milestone without loyal clients, associates and referral partners.

All too often your stories go unrecognized. But this year, we want to change all that. In addition to telling our stories, we want to tell yours too.

By sharing your stories as part of our 75th anniversary celebrations, it’s our sincere hope that others will be comforted and inspired by what they read.

Inspiring Stories Are Everywhere

Whether you are a past or present client or a health care worker, we would ask you to tell us your story about how you have coped with an injury or loss of a loved one; the difficult and sometimes treacherous path of recovery; or importantly someone special who inspired or provided you with comfort, love and understanding to allow you to deal with adversity.  Everybody has a story about an everyday hero or an extraordinary act of caring. We want to provide you with a place to tell these stories and share them with others.

Monthly Winning Stories Will Be Rewarded

Good deeds and the compassion they inspire deserve to be recognized, celebrated and rewarded. So starting in February and continuing monthly through 2011, we will choose one special story for a special inspirational award. In particular, the selected entrant will choose a charity from the following list to which a charitable donation will be made in their name:

  • Canadian Paraplegic Association of Ontario
  • Ontario Brain Injury Association or a satellite Head Injury Association
  • Community Head Injury Resource Service (CHIRS)
  • MukiBaum Treatment Centres
  • Hospitals:
    • The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)
    • St. John’s Rehab Hospital
    • Bridgepoint Health
    • Toronto Rehab
    • Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital

Let’s Get Started

When you are ready to share your story, please submit it in the comments section below. Should you like to include video and/or photographs with your story or if you would like to upload a story you already have, please contact Jenny Guest at jguest@thomsonrogers.com (416-868-3166).

We shall select a number of stories for our 75th Anniversary Commemorative book that we intend to share with others so they too can find courage and strength in your stories.

Be sure to follow the stories on twitter at www.twitter.com/thomsonrogers or if you would like to receive updates on your cell phone via SMS, text follow thomsonrogers to 21212.


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Comments [20]

Ed the Sock

Having worked at hospitals as a social worker for many years, there are many cases that stay with me for various reasons. One of them in particular is still vivid in my memory after close to 20 years because of an outside assistance I received from in helping a patient.

At the time I was assigned to a neuro-intensive care unit in a downtown hospital. A patient was admitted to the unit paralyzed from the neck down and respirator-dependent. She was conscious and aware of her surroundings and was competent to make her own personal care decisions.

However, she was not receptive to treatments offered to her and seemed destined to remain in her physical state even though there was some room for improvement. All the staff involved in her care seemed to be making little progress with her. Her family did not get anywhere either.

The patient only wished to stay in bed and watch television. One of the programs she watched was “Ed the Sock”. It turned out that she was a huge fan of the program. So, one day I asked her if she was interested in meeting “Ed the Sock” and she answered with enthusiastic yes – her eyes lit up.

I phoned the television station and was able to speak to Mr. Steven Kerzner, the man behind “Ed the Sock”. I explained to him about the situation and, to my delight, he was prepared to assist in any way possible. The neuro-intensive care was receptive after discussions with the patient, hospital staff and Mr. Kerzner.

The day the visit took place, I briefed Mr. Kerzner surrounding the circumstances that brought the patient to the hospital. We were able to arrange the meeting in the unit with a fair degree of privacy.

“Ed the Sock” talked to the patient about a parallel between him and her in that he too was dependent on others for him to function. He spent about half an hour with the patient and performed an amazing intervention in having the patient to agree to have her picture taken with him.

Mr. Kerzner sent a signed picture of the visit to the patient and it was the first time she was willing to take a look at herself since her accident. She had been hesitant even to see herself in a mirror until then.

The patient continued to watch television but also became receptive to treatments. She was eventually transferred to a respiratory-rehabilitation hospital with the ultimate goal of being discharged to her home town where she lived before the accident.

The Different Faces of Brain Injury

My name is Darren Berehowsky and I am 41 years old. I was at a cottage with some friends for a weekend 3 years ago. I have been told that I fell off of a deck, over a low railing, and I dropped 17 feet onto a rock cliff. I have no memory of the accident. I have learned that I beat death, but I also learned how my life was about to change forever. I learned that I will never be a firefighter again; I learned how you can dance one minute in your life and laugh and how that can change in 3 seconds. This is my journey of many faces that I would never imagine would touch me or my family. 

HERE IS MY STORY...

Before my accident, life as I knew it was great. I have an older sister Danielle and a younger brother Drake. I am in the middle – like a sandwich, I am the good stuff in between. At the age of 27, I became a firefighter. I worked for the City; to protect people. I gave a lot of people second chances and this gave me confidence and meaning in my life. I began to feel like I had a mission and a purpose in my life. I moved to Ireland for a year and experienced life in a different way. I learned about different cultures, different people and grew up. I also continued to fire fight in Dublin – it was a swap – an Irish man took my job in Toronto and I took his job in Dublin. It was an amazing experience. I learned a lot about me, people; culture and that I can survive on my own.

There were a lot of changes happening in my life. My parents were getting divorced after 30 odd years of marriage. My brother was the 10th overall selection in the NHL for the Toronto Maple Leafs back in the 90’s. My sister was the smart one who was trying to figure herself out. She also helped me finish high school and colleg. I got my first aid, CPR, scuba-diving license, D-Z Licence and took night school to help me become a firefighter. I believe I was a good soldier. I had good guidance from my parents. My father was a school teacher until he had to stop working after a heart attack and my mother was a home maker and managed everything in my family. I learned from both and developed traits of both my parents.

I knew that I was the kind of guy who enjoyed life, ladies, partying, hard work, and was stubborn, but I was open for discussion. My brother got married in his early 30’s and was at the beginning of starting his large family. He was also on the road to becoming a famous NHL hockey player. My sister has a brilliant mind and both have big hearts. I was enjoying my firework, renovating houses part-time, travelling and just living well. Life was great the way I knew it.

One day after work, I remember going up to my brother’s cottage. I stopped first on the way to buy some running shoes and stuff for my brother’s kids. I remember getting to his cottage and showing everyone what I purchased, then, my next memory is waking up 3 weeks later in a hospital. I was put into an induced coma for my first week. When I opened my eyes, I remember seeing my mother and my sister. I was there and not there. I apparently had conversation with my family and friends, but do not recall any of them. For me, I died during those 3 weeks. There will always be a 3 week period of my life that I don’t remember. It is like the TV is on but you have no picture. My mother watched her son being re-born for a second time.

I had a severe brain injury, which people call catastrophic. I call it my new “monkey brain” as things don’t always make sense to me. I had a lot of rehab and 3 years later, I am still getting rehab in the community. My brain still doesn’t always think right; I have trouble saying what I want to say sometimes; I can’t find my words; my views are strong now (as I see things differently) and my words don’t always come out right so I can easily offend people, but I don’t mean too. I often feel like people don’t get me or understand what I am saying. I find this frustrating. It is like yelling in the mountains and hearing your own echo, but no one responds back. The rehab journey is a hard one as your therapists will push you hard, like mine and I got angry with them. Some of my best therapists were the ones that were not afraid of me and made me work hard. I knew that I needed that push, someone to motivate me and push me to be better. I am an alpha male and I was feeling like I was fighting with my therapists to get the person back in me.

The part of my life now that brings me the most challenge after my brain injury is accepting that I will never be a firefighter again the way I knew it. To be a firefighter, you have to have good judgement, work shifts; think fast, work with speed, see many problems at once, have good memory, talk well, organize things in your head and have good planning. All of these areas are hard for me now with my “monkey brain.” I miss this part of my life as I miss the high of firefighting. I miss the camaraderie of the boys; I miss that my job saved lives and I could be useful; I miss that it was always exciting and no fire was the same and no job was the same. I was able to see what regular people don’t see and I felt the rush – just like a hockey player when he steps on the ice and the music comes on.

It is hard for a man not to work. Not that it is not hard for women, but men see work as part of them being a man to support their family. What does a man do when he cannot work? Who is he? How does he define himself now? How do you have a career and then suddenly life tells you that you cannot do this anymore? There are times when I am managing through this; then there are times when I feel really sad, lost and angry. 

Returning to work after a brain injury is hard because I don’t have much control. My team has to have a lot of meetings with my work; write reports and we wait. I have to rely on others to keep this process moving or I will get lost. I also don’t have a lot of choices. I certainly don’t have the choice I want which is to get back on the truck.

I have tried to do modelling, but it is never a "real" job for me. To work as I was is a deep loss for me because my passion has been poisoned in some way. It is like finishing high school and going back to kindergarten and starting all over again. For a person – this can be hard to face. I am not sure where life is going to take me now in terms of my work, but I am trying so hard to work through it. I don’t want to give up because I know there is something out there for me; it is just trying to make the right match now. Here is where I think my patience is tested the most, but I continue to be a soldier.

WHAT HELPS? AND WHAT IS THE MESSAGE TO OTHERS WHO HAVE A BRAIN INJURY OR A LOVED ONE WITH A BRAIN INJURY:

- Be patient with your loved one because their brain is re-booting itself like a computer and the screening is not there all of the time. If they say something to hurt you, it is not on purpose. A lot of time, people with brain injury are angry, even if they say they are not. Their life changed 180 degrees – how can they not be angry? They see elements of their old self and fight the new person they are becoming. Sometimes they like who they are becoming and sometimes they hate who they are.

- You need to be self-driven to repair yourself because at the end of the day, no matter how much help is around you – you are the one who has to do all of the work and fight for yourself. Your family and friends will be your support, love, encouragement and your tool box. Listen to them because these are people you trust. They see your change when you cannot. I know it is really hard because sometimes we don’t know the face in the mirror anymore. Listen to your therapists and find ones that love their job because they will fight for you too! Find therapists that work hard for you; are strong, compassionate, smart and they need to know about brain injury.

- Your family can push you to do your therapy on days when you don’t feel like it anymore. Let them help you and try not to fight everyone even if it is what you want to do. Remember that when you feel angry, you may want to fight about things that don’t need fighting; you just want to let it out somehow. Work that anger out – go to the gym; play music; do yoga; do your therapy; breathe; talk to someone; say you need a time out; or just close your eyes and remember something good.

- Try to give the person with a brain injury space when they need it and don’t take it personal. Life is different for them through their eyes now. They don’t see the world the same way you do. We just need to slow down and let us go at our own pace. We will get there, but not on your terms.

- If you can’t go back to work again or do the things that you could do before your injury; then take this as an opportunity to change your life. Remember you did not die for a reason and there are reasons you are still here –make a new life, even if it means starting over again. Learn to do something different. Care for yourself now as you were given a second chance –take care of your body. Your brain is on a reserve battery now as the original one is not working as good. Exercise; learn about brain injury; get power; don’t be hard on yourself and if you expect others to be patient with you, than you must be patient with them. Use your humour on yourself when you make mistakes and mistakes are part of change. Do something with your life that you always wanted to do, but never made the time for – now is the time if you can.

- Remember that your loved ones are hurting too. They see your changes and they remember everything about your injury and hospitalization that you don’t. Their pain is different from yours so be patient with them too. They need help too, not just you.

- Accept your differences now and that you are still okay. We should not be all the same anyway as this is what makes us so unique and diverse – Life would be boring if we were all the same. Let your insecurities go. You are alive!!. Take all of the time you need to heal as this is your time and healing is not on anyone else’s time or terms but your own.

Live your life, have faith in your process and live it as well as you can with what you have...Also, learn to be grateful that you are still here and that you are here to make change...

Thank you for listening!

Darren Berehowsky; Toronto, Ontario

The Different Faces of Brain Injury

Darren,
I am very sorry to read about your experience. I worked with you for a few years at Keating. I often think of those days and remember what fun it was, in fact, the most fun I've had at any job to this day.

You were a real pleasure to work with as you brought a unique energy and a love for life. Most people get wrapped up in day to day stresses but you always seemed to put things in perspective knowing something more exciting and liberating was in your future. I always admired that quality in you.

As you have proved, life is full of opportunity and I know that you will find the right fit for you soon. Congratulations on your progress and
best wishes for a bright and happy future. I will be thinking of you.

-Joanne

in the same boat and your story touched me

I am also a professional who had an accident - and I love your term monkey brain. I am no longer able to work at this time - and have the same issues you described - I have even developed a stutter which I never had before. I can't get words out - I can't think fast or process information fast. Like you, I am in a profession that requires quick judgement - fast reactions and on call. In addition my shoulder injury has left me unable to drive for 11 months now. I am not sure where my life will go but I do know that I can relate to everything you said. Thank you and some day when I am feeling better and have this behind me perhaps I can share my story too.

My Story and Video

My story is about my struggle with Parkinson’s disease and the horrible side effect of my medication, as my daughter sees it…

“Since my dad has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, my entire life has changed. My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at an unusually young age which is typical of the disease. Not having ever heard of Parkinson’s disease, my mother and I did some research and were optimistic about the future and how to maintain our quality of life as a family.

Not long after, my dad developed an addiction to gambling which was caused by his Parkinson’s disease medications. This was especially hard on us as my father was the one who oversaw all the family finances. My father was always responsible with money and prided himself on our family’s good credit history. Sadly, the gambling inevitably tore the family apart. It all started with him frequenting the bingo hall close to home. It wasn’t unusual for him to call to have someone drop off his medication or drive him home from the bingo hall because his medication had worn off. At that time, it didn’t occur to me that he had a problem, after all I was just happy that he had found something that he enjoyed and occupied his time. Next my father discovered online gambling. This was appealing as it is more convenient than going to the bingo hall and could be accessed in the comfort of his home at any time of the day or night. Soon my dad’s financial debt grew and arguments between my parents started.

My dad would go on gambling marathons that would keep him out all night. One year he left my mother and me on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve to go to the casino. My mother and I drove to the casino in an attempt to show him that we loved him and wanted him home. After we watched my dad spend his last $20, we took him to the emergency department at our local hospital desperately seeking some help. The hospital could do little as my father was not at risk of harming himself or others. We were sent home with little advice on what to do.

My dad’s gambling addiction became so severe that he physically assaulted my mom on more than one occasion when she refused to give him money or the keys to the car. This eventually led to a criminal charge which was diverted in court due to my dad’s mental state. Out of desperation, I attempted to have my father banned from the casino, only to be told that I did not have any rights to do this and that he had to initiate this request himself. My dad agreed to join the casino’s self exclusion program, but this too was useless as he returned to the casino repeatedly without consequence.

After many ineffective attempts at office based counseling, inpatient treatment and a family intervention, my dad agreed to undergo electro convulsive therapy (ECT) as recommended by his psychiatrist at the time. Unfortunately this too was ineffective as it wasn’t long after the treatment that my dad started to gamble again. The treatment took an emotional toll on my family. We experienced feelings of guilt, anger and sadness all at same time.

This all eventually led to my parent’s legal separation and my dad being placed in a nursing home. The year following that, my father was evicted from 2 homes due to falling behind on his rent. Because of his addiction, no family member was willing to take him in as was severely addicted at that point, no one could tolerate his non-compliance manipulation.

Needless to say, it’s taken me a long to realize that my dad is a gambling addict who will likely never be able to overcome his compulsion. At this time my dad’s gambling is somewhat contained as his physical state is slowly deteriorating. However, it is heartbreaking to see him struggle with his walker to get to the corner store to buy a scratch and win ticket, or have him call to tell me about how he doesn’t have enough money to pay his rent. My dad is financially secure and has enough income to support his self. However, it is his addiction that prevents him from paying his bills on time causing him to have constant threat of being evicted from his home. I still maintain a relationship with my father, yet I choose not to discuss his finances or his gambling during my visit with him. Nevertheless, I am fully aware that the person he is now is not the father I know or who raised me. I can honestly say that he would still be married to my mother if it wasn’t for his gambling. I also believe that with assistance, my mother and I could support and care for his physical needs, however because of my dad’s addiction, this is not possible.”

www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/WFive/20090327/WFIVE_gambling_090328/

Dopamine agonists and compulsive behavior

I have Restless Leg Syndrome and Periodic Movement Disorder. I too suffered these side effects, and many more. I lost everything, my marriage, home, relationships, my career, health, dignity and self respect.
I was a medical professional and I still see doubt in medical professionals that these side effects are real and NOT a multitude of other diagnoses. I complained about these effects for years. I was told "That is not possible." and a miriad of other excuses. I had attempted suicide several times. I could no longer stand the person I had become and was unable to tolerate the pain my behavior was causing me, and everyone around me.
On April 24, 2010 I was watching W5 and there I saw my experiences being described by others. My heart was hurt when I heard your stories because I know the pain.
All of you who have shared your stories publicly have literally saved my life! You gave me HOPE, something I did not have for many years. It will be a long road to my recovery and cleaning up the destruction in my life, but I am again determined, hopeful and full of gratitude to all of you and Thomson Rogers. My messege to all families who suffered with loved ones and were destroyed by these medications, please know that your courage to share your pain with the world saved at least one life, mine.

My Story - Car accident survivor

I was starting my third year of university. My roommate and I had decided to go up north to Midland, Ontario to visit a friend of my roommate’s at his island cottage. We had a fun weekend of barbequing, four-wheeling and camp fires. On the last day of our stay, Sunday September 21, 2003, we were heading back to the cottage from town. I was in the back of a pick-up truck, seated on a half bench while my roommate and friend were in the front seat. It was the one time in my life I didn’t have my seatbelt on as I was holding a box of left over pizza and was struggling to get my belt on, as the system had locked. The driver, my roommate’s friend, was going faster than he should have been on a gravel road, lost control and went up an incline. Frankly, he was driving dangerously. We hit a tree and rolled, causing the driver to be thrown out through the passenger window and I was thrown into the front –middle of the truck. My roommate pulled me out of the truck quickly, as she recalls smoke coming from the car and was concerned about our safety. I don’t recall much except for fishtailing and then being pulled from the wreckage. I do remember an ambulance pulling up, loading me onto a board and putting me into a helicopter. I was then airlifted to Heronia District Hospital in Midland where my parents were notified and I was admitted. I spent 2 days in the hospital, my father by my side while my mom stayed at home with my brother who was quite young at the time, providing her updates.

I was then ambulanced to St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto where I would spend the next 3 weeks. The doctor’s determined I had a broken collarbone, cracked rib and a burst fracture of the T4, T5, L1 and L2 vertebrates in my spine. I required surgery and a back brace to be worn for 3 months following surgery.

It was a tough recovery, with a lot of sleepless nights (my parents as well, who were my primary care-givers), intense requiring strong pain medication and a huge change to my life, which had been quite independent previously. I had been away at school, enjoying what were supposed to be the best years of my life. I missed an entire semester at school, working from home 2 hours away proving to be futile. I also lost an extreme amount of weight, dropping down to 90 ponds.

I did eventually recover enough to return to school January 2004. However I had missed so much that I was delayed a semester graduating and in turn being delayed 1 year into my post-grad program of choice in the Human Resources profession. I also had found out that I had an infection in my blood. My body had rejected the metal that was fused to repair my spine. I had to have this removed and spent about 3 months following on IV and then oral antibiotics.

Following my second surgery, my parents and I decided to seek legal advice and connected with Thomson Rogers. Our lawyer agreed that we did in fact have a case against the driver and after 2 years, I was awarded a settlement and finally some closure to this horrible chapter in my life.

Since then, I have since bought my first condo in Toronto, have a great job in the Human Resources field and will be getting married May 2011. While it sounds cliché, I have learned not to take life for granted. I have learned that while accidents do happen, it is so important to wear your seatbelt and to not drive recklessly and endanger those around you. I also learned that I have an extremely wonderful family and friends who were an amazing support system. I still have back pain every day but overcome this by remembering how lucky I am to be alive.

Laura Robinson

My Story - Lynda Hiles

On October 24, 1996, I was involved in a horrific car accident on my way home from work. By the time my husband Michael was notified, I was already on my way to Brampton Hospital by ambulance, where they stabilized me and sent me quickly to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. When my husband finally caught up with me in Sunnybrook, the trauma team was already working on me. I was in pretty rough shape, having broken almost 80% of my body. The trauma team wasn’t sure I was going to make it, but Michael was. He never left my side until they took me to intensive care. I learned later that he slept in the hospital for two weeks, leaving me only long enough to eat. He made himself available at any time to sign the required papers for my many, many operations. He only left me to go home to his two teenage daughters when he was sure I was completely out of danger. He spent the next few weeks running back and forth every day.

It was five weeks before I woke up and learned what had happed to me. I had a halo contraption on my head and it was attached to a vest so I couldn’t move my head. I had broken my neck and this was necessary so I could heal. I couldn’t talk either as I had a tube inserted in my throat, but I could still write my many questions down. Michael filled me in and I was amazed I was still alive after all I had gone through. He told me about the work performed on me by some of the country’s greatest doctors, the great nurses in ICU, and the many more wonderful nurses in Ward B5 where they had taken me when I came out of ICU.

Eventually I recovered enough for the doctor to remove the tube in my throat thus ending my forced silence. What a relief! Over the next three months, I received a lot of therapy, making it possible for me to sit and move around in a wheelchair at the hospital.

When my injuries were mostly healed, the hospital transferred me to St. John’s Rehab. That was a great place to recuperate, I must say. Everyone there was super, I mean totally super. I spent the next three months learning how to walk again, and through physical therapy I gained my strength back in my legs and arms. I didn’t know the games they had me play were for that reason. Who knew bean bag toss would give me strong arms? And putting pegs in a board high above my head would give me balance and leg strength? The first time I stood up in the parallel bars, I was overjoyed. Of course, to keep from crying I had to make light of it when I looked in the mirror at the end of the bars and saw myself. I had on a baggy shirt and shorts much too big and my hair was a mess. I said, “Who the heck let you out looking like that?” It made everyone’s day.

When I came home finally Michael showed me the room he had built just for me on the main floor of the house. Our old bedroom was up 12 steps, and there was no way I could climb them. It was beautiful…..just what I needed. I was still in a wheelchair for a while, but eventually graduated to a pair of crutches and finally to a cane. An electric scooter was provided for me to go shopping with, and I sometimes used a walker. Michael was always near me to take care of all my needs.

Over the years, Michael has stood by me….through the problems we had with the insurance company paying out expenses and through all the doctors and physiotherapy appointments he had to take me to. It seems we had so little time to ourselves and I could see it was hard on Michael. But he never complained. He was always there, whether going to Toronto, or Owen Sound, or Shelburne, or….. My knight in shining armour!

Thirteen years passed, with many changes in case workers provided by the insurance company, making it hard to keep track of all the rules they wanted me to follow. Assessment after assessment was really beginning to wear us down, but Michael refused to give in. I had asked several times over those years to put an end to my claim, but to no avail. Finally the insurance company decided they wanted to write me off.

On a referral from my last case worker, I contacted David Payne of Thomson Rogers who agreed to take on my extensive file. He went to work on my behalf and, lo and behold, obtained a great settlement for me. Because of his excellent work I have always recommended him to others.

The settlement made it possible for Michael and I to purchase a beautiful one-storey home in the friendly little hamlet of Shallow Lake just north of Owen Sound. Everything we need for comfort is here, with all amenities on one floor except the rec room. Even so, we are in the process of buying a chair lift for the basement stairs so I will be able to enjoy that room too.

I was never able to go back to work. My injuries were so massive that I am in constant pain even now. But with Michael’s help and our independence money-wise I am living a great life.

As a result of my experiences I would urge anyone involved in an accident to contact a top line personal injury lawyer AT ONCE; do not trust anyone sent by your insurance company. Remember, they are paid by and working for the best interests of their employer, not you.

Frank Bruno Canada

I graduated from Durham College in 1983 in Sports Administration. I was awarded the honour of being named Male Athlete of the Year. This included winning the Provincial Basketball Championships in O.C.A.A. Tier 2; being named to the Championship Tournament All Star team; and capturing a bronze medal at the Provincial Touch Football Championship Tournament.

Immediately following graduation I was employed at a popular Racquet and Fitness Centre in Mississauga as the Racquet Sports Director.

On June 25, 1986, while at work, I fell twenty feet and fractured both sides of my skull and was in a coma for three weeks. According to the doctors there was little hope for recovery. I was given less than a 2% chance of making it out of the operating room, never mind ever walking or talking again.

Upon awakening I was placed into a rehabilitation program where I received speech, occupational and physiotherapy. My first recollection of being awake was I could only turn my head to the left. The rest of my body was totally paralysed. I had to be lifted in and out of my bed and wheelchair, as I could not do it myself. After several weeks of therapy I was able to walk under my own power, much to the surprise of the doctors and therapists. They could not believe I had progressed to this point so quickly.

In 1987, a fellow classmate who worked at the office of Sport for Disabled Ontario asked if I was interested in taking part in sports again. I had a tough enough time trying to walk so I declined. In 1988 I decided to give it a try with the hopes of improving my coordination and increasing my stamina.

In case you are wondering, Sport for Disabled is different from the Special Olympics. The Special Olympics are for people who are mentally challenged. Sport for Disabled is for athletes who have a physical disability. There are four major disability groups:

  1. wheelchair
  2. amputee
  3. blind/visually impaired
  4. cerebral palsy

After a medical evaluation I was placed into the cerebral palsy division at level 8. Within this division there are eight separate classes; levels one to four are in wheelchairs, and levels five to eight are ambulatory. Level one being the most affected by cerebral palsy where as level eight has the least visible disability. I have never had cerebral palsy but because of my brain injury I have the same neurological symptoms as someone born with cerebral palsy.

In 1988 I began to compete in Sport for the Disabled and at the Provincial Championships I finished second in both the 100m and 200m races in the CP8 class.

In Ottawa for the 1989 Provincial Championships I won both the 100m, 200m, plus the long jump and shot put events. These were all Canadian Records. This earned me a place on the Provincial Team, which competed in the Foresters' Games (National Championships) in Richmond, BC. At these Games I won the same four events plus the 4 x 100m relay. This was the first time a Canadian Cerebral Palsy relay team ever finished in less than one minute.

This qualified me to be named to the Canadian Team that would compete in the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS AND GAMES FOR THE DISABLED, which were held in Assen, The Netherlands. I was entered into five sprint races plus shot put and long jump. By the end of the Games I had won FIVE GOLD MEDALS and TWO SILVER MEDALS. Included were setting THREE WORLD RECORDS and SIX CANADIAN RECORDS.

The Ministry of Tourism and Recreation Ontario awarded myself as ONTARIO'S 1990 DISABLED ATHLETE OF THE YEAR.

In 1991 the Barcelona Paralympic Organizing Committee invited me to take part in their "TEST MEET" in Barcelona, Spain. I ran in the 200m and 400m events winning Gold in both and lowering my WORLD RECORD in 400m. The Paralympics are the Olympics for the Physically Disabled. They occur every four years in the same city as the Olympics. We use the same venues, eating facilities and dormitories as the Olympics. The Paralympics are usually held two weeks after the Summer/Winter Olympics are completed.

At the 1992 IX SUMMER PARALYMPICS I competed in three sprint events: 100m, 200m and 400m. I won THREE GOLD MEDALS plus set TWO NEW WORLD and PARALYMPIC RECORDS and a CANADIAN RECORD.

In 1993 at the Robin Hood Games (World Championships for Cerebral Palsy) which were held in Nottingham, England I competed in the 100m and 200m sprint events in which I won GOLD MEDALS in both.

The 1994 World Disabled Athletics Championships were held in Berlin, Germany. This World Championships were not as fruitful for I was unable to attend any of the practice sessions as my back flared up as it did not adjust properly to the mattress I was sleeping on. After many physiotherapy and acupuncture treatments it responded well enough to allow me to compete in the 100m semi-final. I was happy just to be able to compete in the event and finished second with a time of 12:23 seconds. The next day featured the 100m final race. I had a fairly good start, at about the midway point I felt a sharp pain in my right hamstring and as I continued to push towards the finish line I tore my hamstring and was out of competition. In that race I finished 7th with a time of 12:70 seconds.

For the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics I participated in only one event, shot put. My hamstring did not heal to the point where I could train as hard as I wished. Then on May 13 I suffered a tonic-clonic seizure and this really made a mess my training. I learned to throw the shot put in just under four weeks and placed fourth at the Paralympics and threw a personal best of 11.07 meters. I have held the World Record in the 200m for eight years and the Paralympic Record for three Games. I also held the World Record in 400m for five years and the Paralympic Record for four years and two Paralympic Games.

On November 17, 1998 I was inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame (Now called the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame).

September 1999 saw I came out of retirement, again. The Czech Republic Cerebral Palsy Sports Association invited me to take part in the opening of a brand new athletic centre in Turnov, Czech Republic. I was asked to be part of the Field throwing triathlon. I was required to throw the shot put, discus and javelin. At first I declined but after speaking with the organizing committee they still wanted me to compete. I told them the last time I threw the shot put was in the Atlanta Paralympics in 1996, the last time I threw the javelin was in 1989 and I never threw the discus. I went to the Czech Republic with less than three weeks of practice. Not much was expected due to the lack of practice time and the rest of the throwing field had been training for the past three years. I finished fourth in shot put, seventh in javelin and eighth in discus.

In August of 2004, I was asked to come out of retirement, yet again, to help build the soccer program for the Canadian Cerebral Palsy Sports with the goal of qualifying for the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, China.

On February 5, 2010 I was awarded the KING CLANCY AWARD.

On March 10, 2011 I was inducted into the Durham College Sports Hall of Fame.

Frank Bruno

~ See more photos of Frank's achievements

Tony Nandkumar's Story

My name is Tony Nandkumar and my story starts back to April 30 2006. A few close friends and I decided to have a night out seeing that it has been a while since we all have gotten together. We decided to go to a place called crystal vibes night club, as we arrived there around 10:30pm everything was going well with everyone. We had a few drinks and danced with each other, everything was still going smoothly as more people arrived too the club. It was about 12:30am when a random guy came up to my older brother's wife and asked her to dance, she said no to him. The same person came back 2 more times to ask her to dance, that’s when my brother and I told him that she is married and that she does not want to dance with him. We thought that was the end with him, but later that night, about 1:30 am, we were getting ready to leave. We made our way to the exit door (we were parked next to the exit door) there was a group of 25 guys outside. As we started to get everyone in to the car (7 of us) my brother and I were attacked by the group of 25 guys.

I remembered waking up a few day later at Sunnybrook Hospital in the intensive care unit not knowing what had happened to me. I later found out that I had been shot in the head by one of the guys at the club. After getting released from the hospital, I was referred to Toronto Rehab. I had to re-learn everything (walking, talking, memory and reading). At this point my disability insurance was giving me a hard time with my claim and I had nowhere to go for legal help. I was referred to Thomson Rogers lawyers where Stacey Stevens took on my case. Thomson Rogers guided me through all the legal processes, taking the time to explain everything in detail. They dealt with my disability insurance company and got results fast. They also represented me with the Criminal Injury Compensation Board and also got great results. Thomson Rogers was by my side for 3 years helping and guiding me through this hard time in my life. I have recommended them to my family, friends and any one that needs help. I will always use Thomson Rogers for any future legal issues. Since my accident I have returned to my career as an electrician and living life to the fullest. I truly believe that if it was not for the help of Sunnybrook hospital, Toronto Rehab and Thomson Rogers, I would not have been able to be where I am today. I am now 27 years old, married and loving every minute of it.

talking the talk after having walked the walk

My senior year of secondary school was plagued with intense, incapacitating migraines. I didn’t think much of them as I experienced migraines like this when I was 12 years old and that turned out to be caused by sleeping with too many pillows. However, when I started experiencing dizzy spells for no apparent reason, I sought medical attention. My doctor advised me to take the nasal spray Immitrex to ease the pain of the migraines and he said that my dizzy spells were nothing more than panic attacks like my mother gets. Firstly, my mother has never had a panic attack in her life and secondly if she did, my doctor just broke the main tenet of the Hippocratic Oath: doctor-patient confidentiality! Thankfully, my mother knew that there was a reason behind my migraines and dizzy spells so she urged for a neurological consult. After having my sight and hearing tested as is normal for any neurological issue, the neurologist ordered me a CT scan just to be certain. What the CT scan showed was a golf ball-sized abnormality in the temporal and occipital lobes of my brain, which was initially referred to as a cyst and an emergency MRI was ordered. Soon the neurologist had me go to University Hospital to see what renowned neurosurgeon; Dr. Stephen Lownie wanted to do about this cyst that was still problematic. When I met with Dr. Lownie, he looked at my scans and heard me describe my symptoms. As it turned out, the cyst was actually a tumour, so I was admitted immediately to have the surgery to remove it by the end of the week. On November 30, 1998, the same night as my high school football team’s end of the season banquet, I was wheeled into surgery to have my first brain surgery that was cut short at 13.5 hours. The doctors had to cut the operation short because the tumour was so heavily fed by blood vessels that I began to severely hemorrhage. I was placed in the ICU for 2 days and when I was moved back to my semi-private room, I crashed with bacterial meningitis which I contracted while in the ICU. I was sent back to the ICU where I was intubated and was given propophol, which more than a decade later would be the cause of Michael Jackson’s death, to induce me into a coma so my body could fight off the infection. I remained in the ICU, was given massive doses of antibiotics and remained on life support for 6 weeks. Once I was deemed strong enough to undergo another surgery to remove the remaining tumour, I was wheeled into surgery once again, but this time the surgery was uneventful. After the entire tumour was removed, I became hydrocephalic, so a third surgery to insert an external shunt was performed. The external shunt proved unsuccessful, so it was decided to insert an internal shunt. On January 13, 1999 I was taken into the operating room for the fourth time. This time the surgery went well without any hiccups and I was transferred to Parkwood Hospital’s Acquired Brain Injury Rehabilitation program on January 21, 1999. While there, I had many therapies to get me walking and talking again, like physio therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. I couldn’t speak in much more than a whisper because the breathing tube that I relied on for so long, damaged my vocal cords and I couldn’t walk because the hemorrhage of my first surgery resulted in a condition known as siderosis, where the blood travelled down my spinal column and pooled at the base of my spine, damaging most of the nerves to my legs. It was also discovered that I now had left homonymous hemianopia, which means I have no left field of vision in either eye. I was discharged home on April 1, 1999 walking and talking, eager to resume my life.

That summer, I was tutored by my favourite English teacher to keep my 88% mark in OAC Canadian literature and in September I returned for a sixth year of high school to complete my required OAC credits for entry into university. I ended up graduating my OAC year (version 2.0) with a total of 8 OAC credits and an A average. I was also granted an entrance scholarship to King’s University College at the University of Western Ontario, my mother’s alma mater.

I entered King’s University College in September 2000 as a part-time student and in December of that year, my shunt stopped working, so I had a ventricularostomy to make an incision in one of the ventricles where the blockage was and apparently they didn’t make the hole big enough so I had another one performed in December of the same year. After taking courses in the summers between years to make up for my diminished course load, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Combined Honours Film Studies and English on October 29, 2004.

One year later I was living with my father in Oakville, taking a screenwriting course at Humber College when I was invited to the Toronto chapter of my fraternity for a Halloween party. I went with my brother, Mike, and my London fraternity brother, Marc, who lives in Oakville. At the end of the night while trying to deter a fight happening between my brother, and who I now refer to as “the thug”, I was savagely assaulted. The constant blows to the right side of my head, which incidentally was where all of my surgeries had been, caused a subarachnoid hemorrhage which is basically like having a stroke. All the gains I had made from my previous brain trauma were obliterated in one single act of senseless violence. Before that night, I could do anything physically but drive due to my vision, and now I am unable to run, jump, walk with a proper gait, or ascend and descend stairs without some support. I was soon transferred back to Parkwood Hospital’s ABI program and began seeking legal advice. My lawyer suggested I see a neurologist to assess my condition and another CT scan was ordered to rule out that hydrocephaly wasn’t causing my lack of balance and improper gait. The good news was that I wasn’t hydrocephalic, but the bad news was that my tumour had made a rather unwelcome encore appearance. Because I know I don’t handle brain surgery without some complications. For example, I contracted chemical aseptic meningitis after my fifth trip to the operating room; I opted to take part in an innovative research study on a new form of radiation that has the ability to pinpoint the radiation beam directly on target called Tomotherapy. Six weeks of radiation treatments later, the tumour cells were slowly being killed off, but the cyst that was associated with the tumour grew, necessitating a third craniotomy bringing my total number of brain surgeries to 7. Because I caught an unknown virus while in hospital, my walking deteriorated so to access Parkwood’s physio therapy I was admitted for a third time. (I now refer to myself as a “threepeater of the ABI program”). During what was believed to be my final surgery, the doctors noticed that there was a lot of excessive cerebrospinal fluid present and they assumed it would dissipate in time, but that wasn’t the case. In March 2010, I went under the knife for the eighth time to have a digital shunt inserted and this shunt remains today.

I am extremely grateful for all the support I have received and continue to receive from my family and friends. I also know with my condition I am immensely fortunate considering the trauma my brain has received. That is why I give back to brain injury survivors and their loved ones by devoting my life to philanthropic endeavours that advocate on behalf of the many difficulties brain injury causes. I am a board member of my local brain injury association, The Brain Injury Association of London & Region & I sit on the editorial committee for The Monarch, The Brain Injury Association of London & Region’s quarterly publication. Initially I was a peer mentor to another young man who was injured in an automobile accident and I am now the Peer Support Coordinator for London and the five counties our association serves. I am the London survivor representative for the Ontario Brain Injury Association’s Advisory Council (OAC) and since the summer of my third craniotomy, I’m also a board member of OBIA. All this humanitarian work has inspired me to shift my future aspirations. I am currently in pursuit of my Bachelor of Social Work so that I may have a career counselling people with brain injuries or other brain trauma. I’ve walked the walk; now it’s time to talk the talk!

My Sloan Mandel Story

Thomson Rogers Lawyers. Congratulations on your 75th Anniversary Year. I am thankful for Sloan Mandel.

It was a beautiful late summer day and we were on our way to a restaurant to celebrate my 64th birthday when the accident happened. We parked in the parking lot of the restaurant and started to walk toward the entrance. My immediate attention was taken to the bizarre actions of a car in the parking lot ahead of me. I quickly stepped in between a parked truck and car; out of the direct path of the rampaging car. But that was not a safe place. The out of control car hit the truck on my right side and pinned me in between it and the car on my left. Five men did the impossible. They lifted the truck by the rear bumper and moved it sideways, freeing me to slip to the ground.

The x rays showed six fractures of my pelvis. Yes, I could wiggle my toes. Therapists, hospitals, doctors, nurses, and a very worried family, are all a blur now. I am a woman of serious Faith in Jesus Christ. I personally know His attention and Love throughout this ordeal. My wonderful husband literally laid down his life for me. During a hospital visit a friend suggested that we might be wise to talk to a lawyer. The thought had not crossed our minds. We were so involved in finding out if I would ever walk again.

Into our lives came Sloan Mandel from Thomson Rogers Lawyers; a kind, soft spoken, gentle, brilliant man who knew what to do and how to help me to the very best of his ability. He arranged for an Occupational Therapist to visit me and set the wheels in motion for layers upon layers of much needed help for my recovery. Mr. Mandel spoke with our Auto Insurance people, who then co-operated to the fullest in paying for all the bills. Every call to him was answered immediately and with his best attention. The time came for us to decide on settlement issues. Mr. Mandel advised me to go to mediation. This was also a very scary time for me. The process was completely foreign to me. But I trusted my lawyer. Mr. Mandel assured me that the end result was very much in my favour and I should agree to the terms. The accident caused such great physical and emotional pain which I cannot describe on paper, but Sloan Mandel took care of me so that all I was left to do was to heal. Of course his intervention on my behalf was a great deal more than what I have shared here. And healing has come. I have some reoccurring pain and handicap from this accident. My doctors and health care attendants were great. But because of the work of my brilliant lawyer, my future physical and financial needs are covered and I am seriously grateful to him.

My car accident injury and recovery

My name is Rufo Geroche, and I am 69 years old.  Twelve years ago, I was diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol for which I was given medication and I was advised to exercise regularly and to maintain a well balanced diet.  As a husband, father and grandfather, I was responsible for many different tasks including taking out the garbage, mowing the grass, shoveling the snow, cleaning the gutter, as well as painting and repairing faucets or anything around the house that was broken. On top of these everyday tasks, I also took care of my grandchildren on a regular basis which was possible for me to do at my age.  In November 2005, I was involved in a car accident where my right foot heel bone was fractured and dislocated.  According to the orthopedic surgeon, it was not possible to correct it by surgery because it could cause more complications later on. I was advised to continue with rehabilitation, which helped to subside the swelling although the pain on my right foot could be permanent.

The accident changed my life instantly, not just for my self but for my whole family as well.  The doctor in the hospital put a cast on my foot and I attended physiotherapy for a few months until the cast was removed, and was then given a cane to aid my walking. My wife helped me get dressed, take a bath, and prepare my meals. For the next few months,  my son did the mowing, shoveling, took out the garbage and drove me everywhere, while my daughters helped buy the groceries, cooked and cleaned the house. I had difficulties doing everyday things that I used to do because my mobility was impaired.  Sometimes just thinking of the accident and the fact that I am diabetic made me lose hope of becoming normal again. The whole experience made me so sad that it made me cry most of the time.  Whenever I saw the doctor for my regular check-ups, my sugar levels would rise above the normal reading; therefore, my medication would increase because I was unable to exercise the way I normally did. This was all due to the stress, the impaired mobility, and the pain of my right foot.  I have never been involved in a car accident before.  A senior like me should be spending my remaining days of life enjoying and relaxing with peace of mind not suffering from pain or being idle most of the time.  Lying in bed or sitting down on a chair and being fed by someone everyday is quite depressing.

For a few months, my family helped me greatly with walking, bathing, preparing food and doing all the household chores.  This is when I realized that they care for me very much which gave me the motivation to push myself to get better.  I realized that I have to do things to be independent.  The first thing I did was to pray to God for help.  Every morning I tried to go down the bed by myself and walk slowly to the bathroom.  I then learned to sit on a chair inside the bath tub to take a shower. Doing this every morning got easier and easier until I was able to do it again on a regular basis. The next step was to go down the stairs with somebody holding me while using the cane which took me a while to go down the first floor. While downstairs, I prepared my meals until I was able to do everything by myself.  The next step was to learn to walk without the cane. It was very difficult for the first time because I still felt the pain on my right foot and trying to balance my body was not easy.  Practice made things more comfortable for me.  I was determined to put my life back to normal and I never lost hope. The positive attitude from my wife and children gave me hope to walk again. After 5 years of the accident, I can manage to walk on my own and do some household chores independently. I try to be careful with climbing the ladder, walking far distances, walking on uneven surfaces, lifting heavy objects, slipping in the bathtub, and I also try to be very careful going down the stairs.  Everything that I do now is manageable but I take extra caution in executing it. I thank God for everything, including my wife and children and to everyone else who helped me along the way.

The Life of Ryan

In the beginning, the Birmingham family consisted of father Wayne and mother Carol.  In 1979 they were blessed with a wonderful baby boy… me!  After me came two younger sisters: Meridith then Stephanie. With three years between each child, this loving family had it all. The parents provided everything for their children without spoiling them.  Growing up, my sisters and I were heavily involved in our sports.  While being successful in all of these sports, my parents still thought our education was more important and pushed us to achieve. This worked out well for us because Stephanie is now a teacher and Meridith is an Immigration Officer. However, what happened in The Life of Ryan affected not only me, but my entire family.  This is my story.

As a boy, I was only worried about sports. As a teenager, I was only worried about girls.  As I grew older, I started to worry about success. In my late teens, after working part time at Canadian Tire and realizing that I needed to continue with my education, I applied to Brock University.

With the realization that I needed to earn more money to afford Brock, and with my friend having been hired on at Willodell golf course, I myself applied, as I thought it would be a great experience with better pay.  I started in July 1998 under the direction of the superintendent Angelo Toto and spent my summer as a labourer until my first semester at Brock University began.

My goal at Brock was to become a Phys Ed teacher.  After a semester or two of learning about Rudolph Laban’s theory of dance – which was the philosophy behind Brock’s physical education teachings – I realized that perhaps this wasn’t the best choice for me. 
I also began to realize that in this day and age, a successful and stable area of expertise would involve servicing the baby boomers who would be retiring and participating in leisure activities. I then proceeded to change schools and ended up at Niagara College in the Recreation and Leisure department. While in school, I continued to work at Willodell, loving every minute of it.  After a year of study, I realized that recreation and leisure didn’t appeal to me and I found myself asking what I should do instead. One night in the middle of summer 1999, as I was thinking about my future, confused, I asked for a sign: “can someone please tell me what I should be doing?!” Two days after asking this question, I was touring the golf course with my boss Angelo and he turned to me and told me that I would make a great superintendent.  Realizing this was “the sign”, I said “okay!” with certainty.  To this day, I’ve never regretted that decision.

From that time on, I placed all my focus on turfgrass management and strived to be one of the best turf managers in my field.  Angelo made me his assistant and I quickly realized that I was going to need some more education. I decided not to continue at Niagara College and instead worked towards obtaining my pesticide spraying license. In the summer of that year, I found the University of Guelph at Ridgetown College. They had what I needed to fulfill my education to obtain a diploma in Horticulture, so I enrolled to start classes in the fall.  I spent two years there and ended up with an education and a fiancée.  Shortly after that I got my Integrated Pest Management (IPM) certificate and continued working at Willodell. All friends and family involved, hoped that I would take over Angelo’s position when he retired, including Angelo. However…

At Christmas 2003, I became engaged with the hope of being married in 2005.  In the fall of 2004, my fiancée became pregnant and I realized that I truly was taking the next big step in life.  I realized that Willodell, while providing me a great future, was not where I wanted to be.  Therefore, it was the time for me to leave.

My fiancée and I decided to move to the Sarnia area so she could be close to her family.  I did this without a job, but with confidence.  That winter of 2005, I was hired on to my first job at Brights Grove golf course as superintendent.  This was a 9 hole facility that Mike Weir played at when he was young. While I was learning a lot and gaining skills, I continued to strive for a better job. In June, I was married and my daughter was born that July.

The following year, I was hired on as superintendent at Black Creek Golf Course, a better 9 hole golf facility, that was closer to my home in Petrolia.  This course allowed me to better myself as a superintendent thanks to its bigger and better land and equipment, which allowed me to try harder and learn more.
I enjoyed my job at Black Creek, but I knew I needed something to do over the winter. 

I was then hired to work using my own shop at Black Creek, sharpening and fixing any equipment that Tom McLean of Complete Turf Equipment needed.  In the spring of 2007, I was hired on as a consultant to guide the new superintendant at Bright’s Grove as he learned the course.  By summer 2007, I had 2 golf courses, a sharpening job and the family’s farm to worry about. AKA: I had spread myself too thin.

Growing up I had a good family structure and picked wonderful friends, this allowed me to be confident. With this, in my twenties I became a person who always went out and worked for what I wanted. With each challenge I faced, my confidence grew higher and higher. For instance, being engaged with a baby on the way, I felt confident enough to move my fiancée and I home to her family, with a plan to find a bigger and better job, and I did! At this time things were going great, and with the purchase of a new home in a short period of time major life changes were happening that felt successful; however, looking back I now realize this was too fast. 

Being a Jack of all trades I was doing well with many things, but I was not able to master my marriage or help fix what was wrong.  I was also overwhelmed by the crazy work schedule that I thought I could handle.  I became fatigued.  After confirming a proper watering schedule at Bright’s Grove, and assisted by a few extra bottles of beer, I was in a serious car accident on July 6, 2007.

At the scene of the accident, my Glasgow Coma Scale rating, which measures level of consciousness was 3/15, meaning I was deeply unconscious.  This led to the diagnosis of a severe catastrophic brain injury. I also broke my C2, dislocated my right collar bone, and had a laceration on my right forehead.  Scans of my brain showed a small hemorrhage on my left temporal lobe, which is the part of the brain that controls language and memory.  My right eye was also blurry.

After many long hours of testing, I was diagnosed with deficits in the areas of verbal learning and memory, expressive vocabulary, communications, reading, writing, conducting numerical operations, confrontational naming and verbal fluency.  I was also in emotional distress because of a) the dissolution of my marriage and b) the outcome of my accident.  In short, I messed up.

My accident put me in the hospital in London until August 13, at which point I was asked by my wife to go home with my parents because she was filing for divorce. At the time I needed someone the most, she wasn’t there. Apparently, the “in sickness and in health, till death do us part” vow did not apply to my wife.  At that time, my family rose to the occasion to make sure I knew I was not alone, and my original family unit became stronger.  We all realized how lucky we were to have each other and understood the need to help each other during our tough times.

I was told that when I awoke from my coma I could not speak, but eventually began to speak French to communicate. Over time, I relearned enough English to get by day-to-day.  At that time all I had was memories of being a superintendent in charge of golf courses and running a family, but at the same time I had a hard time labeling a picture of a cat.  This sparked a very stressful time that was spiraling down further each time I realized that this was something I could do easily before. I was depressed beyond words and thought of giving it all up, but there was one thing that kept me going, and that was my daughter Grace. My sense of identity and push came from family and friends standing beside me to help me not forget who I was before the accident. When even the push was hard to handle, after a three week interval I was able to see Grace again and this allowed me to stop and re-realize that it was all worth it.  So I moved on. After all I did still have responsibilities as father.  Having these family members, friends and a big duty as a father pushed me to go a lot further than ever predicted.  I was coupled with a drive for success and a want to prove everyone wrong, which stimulated me and kept me moving to see how far I could go.

I want to encourage survivors to realize that they don’t always have to listen to what is foretold to them by specialists or doctors about their condition. I want to challenge survivors to beat their odds and stand up taller.

Once out of the hospital and back at mom and dad’s, I began participating in multidisciplinary rehab in an effort to get back to work and life and my daughter. This was a hard time for me because the golf course used to provide me with a means for escape during my troubled times and I treated it like my little baby.  Now that I was in my most troubled time, I couldn’t get to my best escape and needed to face reality. I needed to relearn how to speak, read and write, all while having to manage my depression.  I also had balance issues.  After the accident, I lost about 50 pounds but a lot of this was due to lost muscle mass.  Once my balance improved and my spinal injury had healed, I turned to running as a means to escape and get my endorphins running.  After many months of training and feeling better, I focused on challenging myself again in an effort to move forward.  At this time, I was allowed to take an online course through Guelph University.  The success from this course pushes me to take more to finish off my Maintaining Golf Courses certificate.

Finally, after less that one year (which I’m told by my rehab team is remarkable) I was allowed to look at volunteering at a golf course. My first choice was to go back to Willodell to work with my old boss Angelo. During my time away, Angelo had retired and was now there as a worker and therefore didn’t have any more pull.  Unfortunately, because of the golf course’s insurance policies, I wasn’t allowed to volunteer there.  However, Angelo guided me by talking to the superintendant at the Legends on the Niagara Golf Course, Tom Newton. Tom was the assistant at Willodell back when I first started there. 

I went for an interview with Tom in June 2008 and asked him if there was anything that I could do at his golf course.  He said that while my resume spoke for itself, because of their insurance policies volunteering wouldn’t be possible there either.  It was at this time that I realized if a golf course run by the provincial government couldn’t allow me to volunteer, then no one probably could, therefore, I put my foot down and talked to my rehab team about allowing me to be hired on as a part time employee in September. Understanding my drive and enthusiasm, coupled with my history of determination and success, they agreed that I could handle it as long as I went slow at the start and listened to recommendations made by my occupational therapist and superintendent.

 I called Tom, who was excited about having me become part of his team.  Although the original plan was for me to start in September, he asked if I was available to start at the beginning of July. With my team’s support, I agreed and was able to start work on July 2, 2008, just less than one year after my accident.  Coming from a small 9 hole facility, and knowing how it works I had a lot of excitement to have the opportunity to work at Legends, because it allowed me to see how a large operation with 45 holes and a practice facility  is run with a large number of employees. 

Part time status only allowed me to work 24 hours per week.  When I first started, this was split into three 8 hour days with my rehabilitation appointments on opposite days.  While we wanted to figure out if I still had the ability to do my job, it was decided that I should start off slow, doing simple tasks like raking the sand traps.  At Legends, however, there are so many sand traps that this was an all day event.

After a month or so, I was asked to cut tee decks. Toward the end of the fall, I was asked to stay on and worked every morning for 4 hours. When I helped them aerate the greens of all 45 holes, the length of my shift increased to 8 to 10 hours.  All the while, I was keeping track of my fatigue levels and realizing that I could still handle the work provided I got myself to sleep at a decent hour.  By then end of the season, after a successful several months, I decided that I was ready for a full time position in the spring. With that, the team and I decided that it was time for a reassessment.

I first started with my speech-language reassessment, which looked at how I was doing in the areas of word finding, verbal expression, reading, writing, attention, memory, problem solving and social language.  I had improved dramatically in all areas but still had some mild difficulty with word finding. Over time, I had learned to compensate for these word finding troubles so the average stranger would not know I had an issue.  My neuropsychologist’s report showed that all of my skills had improved to a normal to above average level, except for my fine motor skills in both hands.  His recommendation for my move forward plan was to go slowly, ask for feedback and stick to a routine. I felt I could do all of this while working full time.

I was hired on full time in the spring of 2009 and prepared for the year by moving close to the golf course.  This made my life easier because it cut out my commute and allowed me to regain my independence.  Up until the move, I had been living with my parents since my accident.  The plan was to start work at the beginning of April, so moving in February gave me the time to make a slow transition without becoming overwhelmed.

After a year full of new surprises and learning situations, I am driven to continue to learn more about theories and practices in managing a golf course in the here and now, with ideas that will lead to success in the future. With a successful year under my belt, I am also focusing on other factors in my life which I want to re-establish. The primary focus is with my girlfriend of 2 years, Melissa. She has been beside me through all the good times and bad, and is very quick to remind me how far I’ve come.  With her support, I have been able to allow myself the comfort to accept the distance between my daughter and I. She has been wonderful at helping with the driving and has allowed my parents to have a break. Also, I am driven to learn more and keep up to date with my education after being a part of and viewing the new concepts and strategies in golf course management at Legends. I continue to take on-line courses throughout the year at the University of Guelph.

Since the accident, one thing that has helped me to move forward has been proving the professionals wrong, and I have gained self-worth in providing people with something to inspire them. I am proof of the fact that things will get better and I believe that you’re never given anything that you can’t handle. It is this knowledge and wisdom that allows me to discover life in every way now. From this accident I’ve learned to look at things in all perspectives instead of the blind light. Melissa, who is very intelligent, believes that everything happens for a reason, even though it’s not always there for you to understand right away.

I’ve realized that every day is a new learning experience.  I am getting back what I had before the accident, with better things than I could ever imagine.  Now, I get a huge satisfaction in life by paying it forward.  I know the importance of helping friends, and I am speaking and writing for brain injury associations.

I am not done!  I can improve everyday!    The success I’ve had often pushes me to look into the future to prepare for and conquer the next challenge.  This does not allow me to be happy with today and is similar to the way I was living before the accident. My ongoing personal challenge is to be happy with today instead of always looking at the future.  Now that I realize this, although it took a while, makes the most sense and gives me a calm feeling.  My rehab team tells me that I have made a quick and impressive recovery.  No matter how much you plan ahead, life can completely change in an instant. Just as soon as you figure life out and you feel you are on the right path, things seem to change for better or for worse and make you realize that you still have more to learn. Never stop learning. The key thing to my sanity since the accident has been looking at the positive in this experience and making the best of the situation.  I challenge you to be better than you were because we are given every available tool you need to get better.  Never be too proud to ask for help. Use absolutely every resource that is available to you and your team, and try to have fun doing it because it makes rehab a lot easier.

 

Car Accident Survivor - My Story

Mary Masi
Car Accident Survivor – My Story

On November 5, 2007, I came down the stairs of my sister Emily’s house as my husband, Carmine and I had done for many years. They were having breakfast and watching the weather on TV. The weather was important to Emily because of the Pumpkin Patch they ran on weekends on her farm in Fenwick, Ontario. If it rained, the attendance was poor. Carmine and I spent many vacations at Emily’s house. We love Niagara Falls and the casinos there. Carmine and I were planning on going home in a few days. Since it was a nice day, Emily and I decided to take some wreaths to the family cemetery before the winter started. Little did we know of the tragedy we would encounter that would affect us the rest of our lives. When we finished laying the wreaths and saying our prayers, we got back into the car and started to leave. That is all I remember until December 24, 2007.

A city truck and trailer filled with salt hit our car. Neither of us saw the truck coming. The firemen from Thorold were called to the accident. They used the jaws of life to get us out of the car. An air ambulance took me to the Hamilton Health Science Centre. Emily was taken to the Welland General Hospital where she was stabilized and later transferred to the Hamilton hospital. We were both in critical condition. They put me in an induced coma for 7 weeks. I sustained severe catastrophic injuries to my head, my brain, multiple facial and cervical spine fractures. I had a broken neck, cheek bones, jaw and paralyzed vocal cord. I had broken ribs, collapsed lung and internal bleeding. Both arms and shoulders were injured and both ankles broken. The muscle in my right shoulder is torn and the rotator cuff is injured.

I had surgery on my spine to fuse a bone in my neck. The bone was taken from my hip. The doctors had hoped it would heal with a neck brace, but it didn’t. The surgery was necessary to remove the risk of paralyses. This surgery took 8 hours. I have a strip of titanium about 10” long from the back of my head down to my neck. Both my legs have 8” strips of titanium with 4 prongs inserted in my ankles. I have metal in my forehead, around my eyes, nose and mouth with staples, to keep my face together. I have metal and screws in both cheek bones and under my jaw. My mouth was wired shut and a tracheostomy in my throat to help me breath. I had a feeding tube inserted on my side to my stomach to feed me. I can’t lift my arm above my shoulder and can only move my head at a 45 degree angle. If at any time I look up, I get extremely dizzy. Sometimes the dizziness lasts for days.

My children came from Montreal to see me. My daughter did not recognize me. My face was swollen like a balloon and I had 2 black eyes. She saw recognition in my hands. She came every 2 weeks to help her father cope with the situation. He was 80 years old and in poor health himself. He drove 80 km. every day for 5 weeks from Fenwick to Hamilton to be with me. He would hold my hand and talk to me, make me comfortable, hoping I’d open my eyes. He would loosen the boots on my feet because I kept on trying to kick them off. The doctors told Carmine they put me back together with God’s help. My brother Mike, said that half of Welland was praying for me and my sister-in-law, Lina, said half of Montreal was praying, too. The doctor’s in Hamilton are miracle workers. If not for them, I would have been paralysed, a vegetable or not here at all. They are my hero’s and I hope someday I can meet the doctors that saved me. The nurses in the ICU were super. They would dance with Carmine to cheer him up when he was down. I also had many hallucinations and nightmares. I dreamt often that I was hungry and thirsty and no one would help me.

On December 13, 2007, I was transported by an air ambulance with a doctor and nurse to Pearson airport. We were all put on a jet and flew to Trudeau airport in Montreal, where I live. An ambulance then transported me from the airport to the Montreal General Hospital. I spent 2 weeks in ICU, still in a coma. When I was finally put in a room, I saw my husband Carmine, for the first time since November 5, 2007. I saw my daughter Patricia and granddaughter, Alana, too. She asked me if I remember going to the cemetery with Aunty Emily. I said yes, but no memory of anything else after that. She said I was in a terrible car accident.

At the Montreal General hospital, Carmine came everyday to be with me. He fed me, put the bed pan under me and left after I had dinner. When I saw him coming in the morning, I was very happy. I knew I’d be taken care of. I needed special glasses because of my vision, my dentures didn’t fit any longer because of my broken jaw and I needed a haircut. Carmine took care of all this. It took a while, but I eventually got what I needed. I had a lot of visitors, but I don’t remember anyone. My grandson Daniel had taken a wooden pop-sicle stick with a sponge attached to the end and dipped it in cold water and then put it in my mouth. I couldn’t drink because of the tracheostomy. Carmine spent Christmas with me and the children came the day after. They brought gifts and a small Christmas tree that I light up every Christmas since. Carmine Jr., Tina and the grand children would come every Saturday night. Tina would make a home cooked meal that was soft enough for me to chew. The grandchildren told me that I had to get better quick and come home because they missed me. I had great support from my family.

On January 13, 2008, I was transported to IRM Rehabilitation Centre on Darlington St. When I arrived at the rehab, the staff came to see me. They were very friendly and helpful. The next day I met my physiotherapist, Maude. I had a one hour session with her everyday. She worked on my legs and arms and in no time, I was eating by myself with my left hand. What a great place to recuperate. In one month, she had me in a wheelchair, in two months, I walked with a walker and in three months, I walked with a cane. After four months, I was climbing stairs. She is a super patient and caring therapist. She used me for her demonstrations with students. She is another one of my heros.

I met my doctor Jehan Dagher who took great care of me the rehab centre. She would come in to see me, sit and talk with me. When I had a problem she would send me to see doctors at the Montreal General hospital where they kept my file from Hamilton. She was surprised that I was improving so quickly. I told her that I was a healthy person who was never sick a day in my life. Dr. Dagher is also a hero to me.

I woke up one morning in April and noticed a lump under my right ear. The ENT doctor took a biopsy and it was benign. In September, I had a parotid mass surgery. After the surgery, the right side of my face was numb for months. I couldn’t close my right eye and to this day, my right ear is still numb! I also had some hardware removed from my right cheek and my ears had been drained several time. In May 2008, I enter Lucie Bruneau Rehabilitation Centre as an outpatient. I had physio three times a week for one year.

I still have a long way to go. I have difficulty breathing, and speaking. My one good vocal cord is getting weak and I hope I don’t lose it. My throat is sore, hoarse and congested. I can’t lift my arms above my shoulders, so my daughter, Patricia has to cut, dye and perm my hair. I get headaches often and my ankles swell often. We don’t go out much because I get tired quickly and my husband isn’t well. I thank God everyday that I’m alive and can keep Carmine company. He is my knight in shining armor. I am so lucky to have him. I know I couldn’t have made it without him. We never know what God has planned for us. We have to accept it and go on with our lives and everyday that comes, has new challenges for me. I’m ready for them, with God’s help and my husband’s …..

In late June of 1998, our nightmare began.

The day before Canada Day, my little brother, my father and I were in a devastating car accident. I was eight and a half months pregnant, my little brother Emil was only 15 years old, my father was in the passenger seat.

We had the green; we proceeded through the intersection like millions of drivers do every day of their lives. In the other direction, a distracted driver didn’t notice the red light.

I recall the deafening crush of metal as her car rammed into the passenger side of our vehicle and threw us to the other side of the road. Within seconds, we were trapped in the tangled wreckage of metal, glass and fuel. I remember the excruciating pain in my abdomen and looking to see if my father and brother were alive. The only door in the vehicle that opened was my brother’s door. It is ironic that my brother who suffered the most serious injury initially seemed just fine. But head injuries are like that. We were relieved when Emil stepped out of the car with nothing more than a cut on his forehead. I couldn’t have imagined what would take place in the next few hours.

We went in separate ambulances and later I learn’t that the situation had turned grave. At Credit Valley Hospital my parent’s had to choose who they were going to stay with, me and my unborn child or my brother who was being transferred to Sick Kids in a coma.

The events that took place on that day changed the lives in our family forever.

Head injuries are insidious. The effects of Emil’s injury have been physical and psychological. A bright and engaging young man before the accident, Emil now has trouble communicating and connecting with people. He thinks differently; perception and impulsive control seem like such small things but when they don’t function properly it causes huge problems. This bright young man was robbed of an equally bright future with the impact of that crash and since, our family struggles to cope with Emil’s special needs.

Most people forget about the accident or discount Emil’s challenges because they can’t see an injury. Merely a scar and indentation on his forehead. But the injuries inside his head are profound.

This was understood best by Thomson Rogers. It is because of the hard work of the associates and partners at Thomson Rogers who worked on our case that Emil is able to support himself and contribute to our community and our family to the extent he does. The fact is that Emil will never live completely unassisted, but thanks to Thomson Rogers, his needs are covered and our family functions better as a result.

It’s been more than twelve years since the accident; my baby survived, Max is now 12 years old. But our experience with Sick Kids didn’t end there.

In 2007, I was eight months pregnant with my third son Oliver when we ended up in the corridors of Sick Kids again. Our middle child, Felix, at three years old, was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia. Once again, Sick Kids built a support unit around my family and helped us cope with Felix’s diagnosis and treatment.

Looking at my son in his hospital bed during treatment was reminiscent of watching Emil recovering at Sick Kids 12 years ago. At first we couldn’t believe that we were back there, in another life threatening situation, making those dreaded phone calls to friends and family. Not a situation anyone would like to be in but our experience with the medical community and hospital’s in dealing with the car accident and Emil’s situation was a pre-cursor to Felix’s trials and tribulations. Felix recently finished his treatment and is being monitored for relapse or other complications. His prognosis is strong.

People often comment how “lucky” we are that things happened a certain way and I inwardly cringe when I hear it. Even now I have trouble thinking that we’ve been ‘lucky’ when I consider the heartache, the stress and the struggle. But there are two areas that I DO consider myself and my family very lucky indeed. 1. We are lucky that we had Sick Kids to treat us. 2. We are lucky that we had Thomson Rogers to help us get the support we needed to cope with our challenges.

Well, we move forward and onward in life with hopes for the future. Being immersed at Sick Kids again has shown us the importance of sharing ones struggles with others in devastating circumstances and creating opportunities to remember and thank the ones who have helped us in the past. We wish to pass on the hope and encouragement to Thomson Rogers’ present, past and future clients with our story.

Thank you.

Family Brozic & Moore

Brozic & Moore Family

My piece

Liz approached me today and asked if I would be interested in writing a piece to offer some inspiration to someone and I said that I would, without fully thinking it through. What could I possibly write that would, or even could inspire someone? On my way home I gave this some serious thought, which left me with only one option. I would write about an inspirational person to me—my mother. I have lived a very unique life and some may think my stories are exaggerated, but unless you can look into my eyes while I am telling my story, you will never know whether or not I am honest. In my belief, the eyes are the window to one's soul, and you can always tell a person’s honesty based on that. You may never know whether I am a good story teller, or if I am honest and true, but I am hoping it is the latter. It has been said that I have very nice eyes, whether that is true or not I cannot say as I am biased, I love myself. My story to some may seem tragic, but it is the cards I got dealt and I am a firm believer that you can spend your time dwelling on the negative, or you can just say the hell with it and push through your hardships and come out of it smelling like a rose. It is my goal to allow you to use my mother as your source of inspiration.

I am a single guy, maybe not the best looking so I have one strike against me in the pursuit of happiness of finding love or that elusive 'special' someone. Strike 2 , I was involved in a car accident back when I was 31years old and the accident left me with brain damage and an uncanny sense of life. My accident enabled me to appreciate the things in life that some may take for granted, for example making someone smile. For most people to make someone smile is a weak expression, if it happens it happens. But for me, making someone smile is a key factor to lighting up the window to one's soul. And since one's eyes are important to me, hence so is making them smile. After my accident when I was visited by friends and family following my 13 day coma, seeing my visitors arrive and the smile on their faces light up the room really made me realize how I am lucky to be alive. These people could help my mom endure the pain of witnessing her first born being hooked up to countless machines, and help keep the glimmer of hope she would have in the fact she would not out live him. This could have been the very moment when I developed my passion for a person eyes, and I hope and pray that one day that is how my eyes are perceived by others.

Unfortunately, my eyes have an ominous look to them which I feel reflects the life that I have lived. Believe me when I tell you that I like to think of myself as a happy-go-lucky guy and I have done in my opinion a pretty good job at convincing myself of that. My life began back in '75, so yes as you have already guessed I am old. Well older anyways. Which, thankfully my moms earlier pregnancy was not carried to term. By 1980 I was 5, and my mom had blessed me with a younger brother who would be turning 3 that year. My mom and dad decided that moving across Canada from their hometown in Stouffville to British Columbia was a path that was for them. My dad struggled with drugs and difficulty in raising a family on his own with no help from his own family now over 3000 kilometers away. Apparently this took it’s toll and he had decided that the cowardly way to deal with the cards he was dealt was to abandon his wife and 2 young boys by sticking a vacuum cleaner hose on his tail pipe and going to sleep to never wake again. My mom began a new relationship with a gentleman named Dennis after some time elapsed while she dealt with the funeral arrangements, and the difficulty of being over 3000 kilometers from any support, and 2 boys who were now fatherless. Dennis was responsible for sticking dynamite in a hole deep in the Rockies where bridges needed to be built for logging trucks. After my mom had taken the time to put my dad’s suicide behind her, she started once again rebuilding a life with her 2 boys. It was almost a full week before my sixth birthday when an explosion went wrong at work and Dennis was blown clear off the side of the Rockies, where he plummeted to his death. My mom being surrounded by death of the men in her life began to cry. Raising 2 boys on her own and being this wounded she had decided to send her boys to live with her parents for the spring and summer. The pain she must have felt coming to pick up her 2 boys who by then didn’t recognize her anymore must have been a feat in itself.

My mom had gotten herself involved with a biker who had various drug affiliates, and when she had done something to step out of line I can only assume, he became most violent with her. After some time and a different location when my mom had toughened up and he knew he couldn’t hurt her anymore, my brother and I were to be his next victims. Because my mom couldn’t constantly be around my brother and I to protect us, we had to learn how to fight and toughen up ourselves. By the time I was placed in the hospital with 4 broken rips, my mom with a bloody nose and with police intervention, it was time to seek refuge back at her parents in Ontario. With my mom’s stubbornness moving my brother and I was a task she felt the need to do, she did everything on her own with the feeling of being responsible for moving her 2 children which were a part of her into that god awful situation. Since the boyfriend was in jail and his drug buddies would not go long without his business, the move had to be quick. So she took her broken first born and his now shaken and frightened little brother on a greyhound bus destined for Ontario. Me, with my broken ribs and my tears from the pain of being constantly car sick, along with my 10 year old younger brother who was obviously confused about what had transpired in such a short time headed back to Ontario. This would be a task that would make her really curious about whether her now passed husband didn’t have the right idea. This would only be a passing thought, as her boys became a priority, and after what she had been through, her life would now be about protecting and spoiling her two boys for the rest of their lives.

Her first born would trouble her like she could never imagine, with constant fighting and being suspended from school regularly. By the time he had reached his twenties, he had discovered drugs and had gotten himself involved with the law. Luckily for her and her first born, three days in a jail would forever change that rapid decent. The drugs would however take a number of years still to overcome. It would take co-signing a loan so he could retire from his drug dealings. Her first born had become involved with some shady characters who had threatened his life. When he had felt he accomplished all of what he could do in life by the age of 30, he had been clean and clear of drugs for some time. He was working 9-5, five days a week, and still in search of finding that special someone who could live up to the high standards set by his mother. He decided to try his luck out west in British Columbia. He was faced with the possibility of getting a job that would pay 50, 000 more a year than what he was used to making. Her first born would spend his first 6 weeks searching for love and helping his friend’s brother, who he was staying with, fixing up his house. Then came the day he got that elusive job, which would be a financial dream come true. Her first born would spend the day up an old logging road drinking and partying with some fornicating. It was during that moment that he knew he could not get much higher than he already was, when he was quickly thrust downwards. Who was actually driving the vehicle when her first born was forced to realize the safety of wearing a seat-belt remains a mystery to this day. He was thrown clear from the vehicle while it spun out of control. There lay her first born on the road after hitting the ground with enough force that should have killed him on the spot. However, the past beatings would help in his survival, and what the road didn't accomplish, it had successfully caused the vehicle to begin flipping and eventually roll over her first born. After some time had elapsed and her first born had endured 4 more broken rips, a broken hip, a broken leg, a broken collar bone, a shattered ankle to go with his broken leg, collapsed lungs, ribs, and a torn diaphragm, he was rushed to the local hospital. On the way his heart would stop, and for seconds (which could have seemed like an eternity to some) her first born lay there in the stretcher dead. However, with some modern advancements in medicine her first born would retain his life. His stay would not last long though, now at the hospital his heart would stop again, and once again he was only teased with being allowed to depart this world. The local hospital had noticed that with the countless broken bones he had, there were also two lungs that had almost completely collapsed, and he was faced with a medical situation that was far beyond anything that little hospital could handle. Her first born was then air lifted to Vancouver trauma center, where once again he would be tempted with departure. The attendants would not allow her first born to depart on their shift.

A phone call to mom had to be made, so the first born's friend in Ontario who in turn knew his mom could deliver the news a little more gently that her first born was 3000 KM away and hanging on to a thread of dear life. His mom would then call his brother and her work to let them know that she was not going to be there for some time. When my brother had reached my moms house, they wasted no time getting to the airport. Her first born friends would join them out west on the following day. The doctors then informed her that the probability of her first born living out the full week was very low. This was not an option for her, and could very well have been all the inspiration her first born would need to pull through, and fight to live. It is believed my mom's fight for her first born’s survival was heard in the neighbouring provinces.

Louisa's Story

I would like to tell my story from the perspective of the man who loves the one who was injured. First i want to say that unless you have gone through the experience of seeing a loved one sustain a serious brain injury then it may be difficult to understand what both of us went through and still experience every day.

Louisa was driving back to university in Windsor on a Sunday afternoon when her car slid on an icy patch of roadway and spun around hitting a utility pole. The impact crumpled in the passenger side of her car up to her seat.

I got the phone call from the OPP at our home and rushed to the hospital. She remained in a coma for 3 weeks and although she would look at me from her bed she doesn't remember any part of that time. During that period i was encouraged by hospital staff to give as much thought stimulation to her as possible. I brought in family pictures and let her look at her favourite recipe cards to try to jog her memory.

Her accident occurred on Jan 23rd and she came out of the coma on Valentines Day Feb 14th exactly as some doctors had predicted. I was delighted every time she showed some glimmer of attention and single words until on Feb 14th just as I was about to leave the hospital for home she started to talk to me in earnest. The words were mostly unconnected like gibberish but I was excited and only left for home after she got tired that day. After that landmark day her speech and mobility gradually improved. Finally the day came when she could leave the hospital. We came home and I stayed with her until her mother arrived to care for her while I went back to work.

In January the next year she returned to her studies and graduated with a mechanical engineering degree. She was an honours student before and her grades dropped but she still made it through. After that she went to several job interviews without success and tried one year of nursing training until she decided to stay at home.

Today she lives as normal a life as she can cook and garden in the summer. Because of the severity of her injury she has many characteristics that others would find not normal. She has trouble with balance, is quick to anger and often untrusting of others. As her husband I have gotten used to her little excesses that would not be easy for others to understand.

Through it all she received excellent care and attention from so many involved. The staff at Hamilton General hospital took good care of her and there were excellent people to help her after her release from the hospital.

In the beginning, without knowing who to contact I was advised to contact Thomson Rogers about her case and Leonard Kunka became her lawyer. Not only did he work very hard on her behalf all the way but he guided me to the best rehabilitation team she could have hoped for. The whole team including her physiotherapist, occupational therapist and neuropsych and were excellent both when she was still at home and then in Windsor. Through the whole process we couldn't have gotten a better case manager than in Kim Doogan. She worked tirelessly day after day until her final settlement was achieved.

How often Louisa and I have commented since, about the good fortune we had in getting these people to help her. But as much as these people were so good Leonard Kunka was I feel the best lawyer we could have had. He patiently listened to my concerns about Louisa in many meetings and always had a kind word and encouragement. When the final settlement for her was completed it was evident the long hours and effort he had made for us. For this I will be always grateful.

If my story sounds overly grateful then so be it. What was important to me was to have so many skillful people working so hard on Louisa's behalf. I had never experienced a loved one being injured and changed forever like that and I hope those reading don't in future ever have to experience the same.

Curtis Couvillon

 I pondered many times as to what I could say and I decided for Curtis and myself you folks also should be mentioned. You were instrumental in keeping Curtis' dignity intact while working on his case. You kept him in the loop on the progress of his case to the degree that he could understand, never once talking as though he wasn't in the room. Curtis was always a real person with feelings to you folks. You always put things in layman's terms for us and were by our side every inch of the way. I was a legal secretary myself and I have never seen a law firm like yours with so much compassion for your clients. Your lawyers are brilliant negotiations and outstanding in your empathy for others.

My Story - Payne helped with the Pain

They say “among all grey clouds there is a silver lining”….. My grey clouds came in the day my daughter, Carley Ouellette, who was 12 years old at the time, was hit by a vehicle and broke her arm while riding her bike. Just five weeks after that accident we were in another car accident that left my daughter unable to move her left arm. She complained of extreme pain to the point I could not even touch her. After bringing her to several doctors I was then told she had Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or a.k.a Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1. caused by the last accident we were in. I was completely at a loss as to how to get treatment for my daughter because the Insurance Company was not validating her injury or the treatments being prescribed to treat her illness. Just six months after the accidents the Insurance Company was denying to pay for treatment plans for my daughter and forcing me to pay for the treatment plans. 

I remember the day I was first told about David Payne and yes, it was from another satisfied client. This past client of David’s recognized my frustrations and stress of trying to get care for my daughter. He told me, “if this illness is as bad as you are telling me, you need David Payne representing you and your daughter because he would never allow her treatment to stop. He is a Pit Bull, but if he believes you have a case he will never let you down. Go home, look him up on the internet and tell him I told you to call him.” That night I came straight home, Googled the name David Payne and called him right away. I just so happened to catch him just as he was leaving the office, but he took my call and I explained to him what was going on with my daughter. I remember him saying to me “I’ll be honest I don’t know much about RSD, but no child should be denied and have to live in pain so, yes, I will represent you”.

From the day he took us on as his clients, this was the silver lining in our clouds, almost heaven sent…David. He has always had my daughter’s and family’s’ best interest at heart. When the Insurance Company was denying us treatment, it was as though David had a magic wand, he would wave it and her treatments were suddenly approved. David took away all the stress of dealing with the Insurance Company. This allowed me, as Carley’s Mother, to focus on taking care of my child medically, knowing I was in good hands with David legally.

Although, we still have to deal with Carley’s RSD daily, if it were not for David’s compassion, empathy and belief to fight for an otherwise unheard of disorder like Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or a.k.a Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1. I know I would have gone bankrupt trying to manage the necessary daily treatments for Carley. His knowledge and expertise combined with his compassion, empathy and passion to fight for ‘what is right’ is what sets him apart from other personal injury lawyers. I know if I had stayed with the lawyer representing Carley in the very beginning, we would never have seen the type of settlement David was able to win for Carley. David made sure that my daughter will be taken care of financially for life so that she will never have to worry about the financial burden of treatment to manage her pain. David protected my daughter as though she was his own and I am eternally grateful for all that he has done for her.

Yes, being permanently injured in an accident is one of the most horrible and stressful things that can happen to a person, but like I tell my daughter, look at all of the amazing people it has brought into our lives that we otherwise, never would have met such as David Payne.

Thank You David, for being not just a Lawyer, but an Amazing Lawyer!

Kimberly Nelson, Mother of Carley Ouellette