I was born and raised in St. Marys Ontario, I was a typical teenager; I liked sports, I did ok in school and had a part-time job at a local grocery store but on June 15, 1996 my life changed forever, on that day I was on my way home from a party and lost control on a gravel road flipping my parents car. I was taken to the local hospital but was then rushed to Victoria Hospital in London to be treated, it was there it was determined that I had broken my neck causing me to be a C4 Quadriplegic, having no movement from my neck down and had to have surgery on my neck. After a successful operation I ended up getting pneumonia, needed a tracheotomy and was sent to the ICU where I stayed for 6 weeks not being able to move but was never alone because of the support of my family. After being released from Victoria Hospital I was sent to Parkwood Hospital in London to begin the therapy I would need to get my life back on track, I spent my days in physiotherapy trying to get more upper body movement and over time was able to begin moving my shoulders and eventually my biceps. In occupational therapy, I learned how to do the little things like eating, writing, typing and other fine motor skills I would need once I was healthy enough to go home. During my time at Parkwood Hospital my High School, St. Michael’s Secondary School in Stratford arranged to send a teacher to London so that I could continue my schooling, the teacher would come down once a week and we would work on my Grade 12 English, this not only gave me the opportunity to work on my speaking, writing and typing but also the realization that I could continue my schooling.
On Saturday February 15, 1997 and 6 ½ months at Parkwood I was sent home to begin my new life, I started back to school the following Monday and from there continued my schooling until I graduated from St. Michaels. After graduating from High School I went onto continue my education at the University of Western Ontario where I studied Civil Engineering. I was told by others that for me to be able to complete this degree it would take me 6 years because of my limitations but I did not let my disability hold me back, after 4 years of long days and a lot of hard work I graduated with the class of 2003. I owe all my success to my hard work and determination but also to the Services for Students with Disabilities at Western for helping me arrange my classes and providing me with the services I needed to accomplish my goal of graduating.
Once school was all done it was now time for me to enter the working world, this was a huge wake up call for me because even though I had the education that best fit the job description my wheelchair and disability was a barrier for me to do some of the task of the job. After months of looking and let downs I was able to get a contract job with the City of Stratford as an Accessibility Advisor to inspect all City owned facilities, to grade them on their accessibility and report what was wrong and needed to be addressed. After my contract was completed I moved into London with my brother into my newly build wheelchair accessible condo that I help design. I moved to London to work for the Ontario March of Dimes Home and Vehicle Modification Program where I used my experience and knowledge to help other people with disabilities get funding to make their homes and vehicles more accessible. In 2005, and after an amazing year of working for Ontario March of Dimes I received an opportunity to move onto a position at 3M Canada where I continue to work as a Project Engineer in their Division Engineering Department.
I have never let my disability stop me from moving forward with my life, I have done everything an able bodied person would do from the ages of 16 to 34, I was able to finish high school, go on to get a University degree, get a great job, buy a house, got a vehicle modified to be able to drive independently and I have also traveled throughout the United States and Australia. I was very happy with my life and the accomplishments I have made but I never gave up on my goal of one day walking again.
In 2010, I first heard about a center in California that was specializing in Spinal Cord Injury Recovery, I discussed the idea of going to this center with my boss and HR at 3M and they were very understanding and supportive of me wanting to move forward and accomplish my goals. In January 2011, my brother Ryan, our friend Kyle and I loaded up the van and trailer and headed to California, a 3 day road trip we will never forget. I was very excited but also very nervous about this experience because it had been 15 years since I had been injured and wasn’t sure what they could do to help me, I went into every training session with a positive attitude and the mindset that as long as I gave 110% of my mind and body anything was possible. I was originally only suppose to stay for 6 weeks but I ended up staying there for 4 months, during this time I was able to learn more about my nervous system and how to control it, increased my upper body and core strength and was able to stand in a standing frame. This experience changed my life by allowed me to refocus my life back to my recovery and continue to work towards achieving my dream of walking. After returning home in May I returned to work at 3M and continued to train my nervous system with personal trainer Bailey Hart of Bailey Fitness Training. With her assistance we pushed to accomplish my next goal of standing up in my sister Jamie’s wedding and in August 2011 with the assistance of my new standing chair this goal was achieved.
After months of successful training at home and the continuing support of 3M I decided to head back down to California, this was put on hold as a blood test in January 2012 revealed that I had Chronic Myloid Leukemia and needed to start chemotherapy. This was one of the most difficult things I have had to hear because just when things were going so well now this became another challenge in my life to overcome but I was very fortunate that this type of leukemia could be treated with a daily pill. With the guidance of the doctor at the London Regional Cancer Center I continued to take my medication and my blood work began to improve over the months and I was given the OK to go back to California to continue my journey and the next challenge, to stand as the best man at my Brother Ryan’s wedding.
In October 2012, I headed back to California where I continued to learn how to understand and control my nervous system and I set a goal to begin learning to free stand with the assistance of a trainer. This trip was different then my first because I knew the program and what the trainers expected from me but there was that fear and nervousness of taking that next big step in my recovery. After about a month and a half of consistent training I was able to stand on my own two feet with my trainer there assisting me and helping overcome my fear of falling, this was truly one of the best days of my life. When my family came to visit in February 2013 I was able to stand with them for the first time in almost 17 years and they were able to witness me taking steps on the treadmill, my hard work and determination had paid off and they were so proud of me. While there it was a goal to be able to complete the Carlsbad 5000, I trained for months at the local beach board walk to do this and after 90 minutes of pushing I completed the 5 KM course in my manual chair with his Mom and friend Joy walking along side cheering me on. After 8 months of training mentally and physically I again returned home to work, continued training with Bailey and on August 3, 2013 was able to accomplish my next big goal by stand in my standing chair at my brother’s wedding.
With the support of my family and friends I have always been able to overcome the challenges of living with a spinal cord injury and accomplish my goals by putting everything I have mentally and physically into it. My next goal is to bring what I have learned throughout my life and in California to Southwestern Ontario to help others with spinal cord injuries and other neurological disabilities. I want to help others set goals like I did to be able to feed and dress themselves, roll over independently, standing and walking, or even hold a loved one. The first step of this goal is opening MOVING FORWARD Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in London Ontario, I realize that there are a lot of people in the same situation as myself so I made the decision to open the facility to accommodate and assist as many people as possible with their rehabilitation and teach them that recovery is going to be long path but consistency is going to be the key to improvement and that anything is possible.