Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming swimming swimming

Swimming is a part of my weekly physio routine. Once a week, Elaine and I make the trek to the North Huron Wescast Community Complex in Wingham where, we meet Tammy. She is the aqua therapist who has been working with me since November. Every time I see Tammy she has a new idea: "I just want you to give this a try and see what happens". Which, of course, I will do because I want to see what happens too! This week was no exception.

Because the Wingham pool seems to vary in both air and water temperature (even though the life guards always say is is 84 degrees), what exercises I accomplish each week also varies. The colder the water the more lengths I have to swim - just to keep warm. Last week was one of the coldest in a while - as a result I think I swam more than a dozen lengths - the most yet. Completing a length is easy(ish), starting one is the tricky part. In my pre-collision days as a swimmer I would power off the wall with a flip-turn after every length - something I learned to do way back when I was 12 and on the Orangeville Otters swim team.

Now, pushing off the wall is completely different. Pushing with one's arms lacks the large muscle groups of the quads and hams, so I just skip that push altogether. I have been "flip-rolling" from front to back instead, one length front crawl, then flip-roll to my back to swim back crawl. It is certainly not graceful (especially starting on my back), but it gets my legs in a position where they "cooperate" and don't end up crossed at the ankles.

Even in the water, my leg muscles will spasm - that is why ankle crossing is bad. This sends not just my legs, but also my core into spasm which makes swimming difficult. My best position allows my legs to be flexed at the hips and knees, but not too flexed because that creates drag - which of course slows me down. It's already hard enough to do all my swimming "arms only".

Aside from swimming, we do core and arm exercises. Now when I say "we" that is mostly true. I do my best to try and bully Elaine and Tammy, who don't want to get their hair wet, into doing the exercises. Come swim with me, I will bully you too. We balance on pool noodles (hard to do with no core) doing various things with our arms, legs and arms with paddles; we lift ourselves out of the pool on the edge just using arms, we tricep-dip on the stairs, and we "suntan-superman" and pendulum swing. The pendulum is one of my favourite things to do because it make me feel like my core is really working.

When I first started in the pool in November I wanted to try visualizing my legs moving in the water. This was difficult, both mentally and physically. Mentally because I was trying so desperately to make it happen, and physically because I was trying to use every working muscle to make it happen - even my face. So we gave that a break for a while, in favour of spending the time standing in the shallow end. The Wingham pool has a half wall down the middle with a bar along the top. I position my feet at the base of the wall, knees in line and pull myself to standing, pressing my hips into the wall and pulling back my shoulder blades for good posture. I love doing this, it makes me feel tall. I am sure people who see me doing this, and don't know me, wonder what on Earth I am doing.

Today, I went back to visualizing my legs moving in the water. This is something that can not be accomplished on land. Gravity is a bitch, and the weight of my legs and the friction of a surface makes this type of visualization-into-action next to impossible. That is why I love water - buoyancy is wonderful. We did things a little bit differently today and, it may appear that, I was able to move my legs.

We started with a "kicking the soccer ball" motion with about the same success as before - sure that any motion was more from my core than my legs. Then we tried adduction and abduction - opening and closing my legs, again no success. This lead to trying one at a time, with Tammy guiding my leg so that as I am thinking of the action, she makes my leg do the action. I was watching her face as we did this and I could see in her expression that something was different. She said she was going to let go and see what happened, and what happened was my leg kept doing the in-out motion. We tried the other leg, with the same result.

It could have been any number of things making my leg move, so I am not getting too excited about it, but nevertheless, they moved. Which just goes to show you have to keep trying, even when nothing seems to work.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

A day out to share the road

Today, Theo and I spent the day somewhere other than at home or physio. We were with 30+ like-minded Huron County residents and employees at the Share the Road Cycling Coalition Workshop sponsored by Huron County (thanks Susanna!). What a day! Here's why:

One - This was the first day I have spent doing something that actually required more brainpower than doing paperwork and answering e-mails. We worked in small groups brainstorming how we can improve cycling safety and the number of people on bikes around the county. We worked in small groups to look at the 5 Es - let's see if I can remember them. Education, Engineering, Encouragement, Enforcement, Evaluation & Planning. We were looking at what we needed, how soon did it should be done and who would potentially do it. Using examples from the US and Canada, we saw areas just like ours - the difference being that they have become bike friendly and improved the overall safety of road transportation. These "same" small towns surviving on agriculture and tourism made two-lane, bike lane, single turning lane roads out of four-lane thoroughfares. Doing so increased safety for bikes and cars and moved more vehicles during peak traffic times. Why can't we do a super easy thing like this? It's just paint!

Two - Justin  did a fabulous job walking us through in Huron County. He travelled Seaforth to Walton to Blyth to Goderich to Clinton the day before looking at our towns, trails and roadways. He helped us see through a tourists lense how beautiful our small towns were. I love how he subtly (and sometimes not so subtly *ahem Clinton*) called out the features of our townscapes that need improvement for safe cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. Who knew that trees slowed down traffic? There you go Rachel - it all connects to trees! We also saw the great examples of our bike friendly features, not so friendly sections of trails (deep puddles and exposed railway tracks) and roadways with safe cycling potential. We learned how paving shoulders can work and saw projects or endeavours that we could easily transfer to our community - how about a bike valet at the Celtic Festival, bike for breakfast and streets closed regularly to traffic?

Three - I also wrapped my head around Active Transportation, well I think so anyway. Did you know that 4 out of 5 trips in cars do not involve travelling to work and school? Who knew? I guess we think about commuting driving more often because maybe that is the driving that we resent doing most? Active transportation can happen to work and school, but it is easiest put into our recreation and leisure time. All of the biking within town can be done in 15 minutes or less in all the towns in Huron County. So everything you do in town can be done in 15 minutes bursts of getting fit. Going to hockey/lacrosse/swimming/karate/dance walk or bike and do it with your family - that way it is not just your kid that gets something out of it, you do too. Ride to the store or to market - get a basket for your bike! If you had a cup holder on your bike maybe you could go through the drive-thru? jk.

Four - Theo and I got to talk to other adults - other than each other, that is. Engaging in meaningful conversations about topics we are passionate about - what a treat! Not that we don't speak to each other - because we do, most of the time anyway - but we get so caught up in the here and now - what appointments do I have today, where do the kids need to be tonight, what's for dinner (all the same as everyone) that we don't take the time to be contemplative. It was like a date-day. I love it when we get time to do this with friends so it was also fun to do it with strangers. I asked Theo what his "take home" was - he sees the groundswell of cycling activity going on in the County and hopes the committee struck by Huron County can capture the strings and allow initiatives to grow. My biggest fear is that the good ideas will get lost in red tape. That "rules" will need to be followed and something that will benefit everyone in a small community will get needlessly shelved.

Five - I also was reminded that I enjoy that kind of a day, being given a chance to be creative and challenged to think outside of the box and stay on topic (the Gold in me coming to the surface again). I realized that sometime thinking creatively does take you off the path and leads to something unexpected. I miss being at work - the impromptu science meetings that lead to productive discussion around issues (read: student) of classroom management and ideas for curriculum (read: what am I going to teach today). More brains are better than one and today we proved that.

Six - I had a chance to ask who was the County person that I should speak to about accessibility. Turns out he was right at my table! I was looking for the person to talk to about accessibility in County buildings. It was funny, and I guess the result of the how I ask my questions, I got the same answer as about the School Board - people assume I am asking about the process and the committee. When I give more details I finally get to the root - the person who makes things happen! I want to know who to talk to about getting through the bathroom door and safely using a bathroom stall. For the second time in six days I had to use washrooms that in no way could I manage on my own. Handrail placement on the wall beside the toilet is critical to my success right now. I need it for balance while pulling up my pants (I almost said I need it to pull up my pants - see the difference? :) and for transfers to and from the toilet (especially from). Both the Blyth and Holmesville Community Centres have serious flaws in their (Women's) accessible bathrooms. How many more are out there? I sense another need for a report card.

Seven - I may need to become a professional volunteer. For cycling safety and accessibility (now on top of all things environmental, fitness and local food) there is a whole lot of educating that needs to be done. Not that I need to do it all, but I do enjoy talking. Although I miss Madill, I have been realizing I needed a break. Not only from work, but from having my head always "on" work. Volunteering you kind of get to call the shots about how much time you have to commit. I like the time I am able to have with Theo and the kids. So if we were all riding our bikes on our accessible and safe paths on our way to the local farmers market burning nothing but our own body fat...well then, my work is done.

Eight - Once again this week I got to see some old friends (lots of hugs - thanks Con) and meet new ones too. I like hearing that people are reading my blog, but I am not expecting it. Well, I do expect my friends to read (selfish, I know) but I find it odd, strange, surprising (what words combines these three?) when complete strangers tell me they read. Some media folks (CKNX and CTV - thanks Scott!) were there today too, nice to see cycling safety in the news and not because of an accident.

Which brings me to number Nine - I have a new way of looking at what started this all. We spoke to Justin over lunch for a few minutes. Theo wanted to know if they heard from people like us often and he said that they heard from way more people than they would like. Too many stories of bike vs. car. But what stuck was that Share the Road calls what happened to me a collision. Well of course it was a collision, but what they mean by that is that it was not an accident. So from now on, when I speak of what happened on July 29th, I will call it my collision.  "When my collision happened", "after my collision" and "as a result of my collision". Let's call a spade a spade.

So it was a great day because I learned about what potential we have as communities and that we as citizens need to encourage our politicians to support the initiatives that will make getting around safer and easier for all. Boy I am sounding like I am on a bit of a soap box. I guess that's where I go every time I open my chromebook, gives me a reason to write. That was a lot of writing for just one day - and I didn't even make it to the end of the workshop. I started to fade around lunch and we left with just about an hour to go. I didn't think I could last the whole day, and I wanted to make it to bed without tears!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Two more firsts

This week accounts for two more firsts, both of which I had not been looking forward to. Sunday morning 9am (despite the snow) was the start of the summer racing season for most athletes in Huron County. The Dave Mounsey Memorial Fund annual Run-Around-the Square was one that I had competed in three or four times before and I wanted to keep that tradition going. I love to support local, and that goes not just for food. It was Selena who got me to even think about it because she was using it as a goal for her training. So I thought, sure, I will use it as a goal too...except training was not likely going to happen. Ella said she would do it with me, and Melissa, Hannah and Oliver too. Theo surprised me when he said I should sign him up (being that he is older than me, he has knee trouble). So I ended up with a whole crew to run with while I rolled.

If I had all my peeps to run with me, why was I not looking forward to it? It's all a mind game. Last year I clocked my best 5km run, ever. This year would be different - as I have mentioned before, firsts are hard. We started at the back of the pack, and pretty much stayed there. I remembered the course being really flat, and it was if you were running, but once you get on wheels you feel how it is not. I had my free-wheel on front and lots of air in my spinergy wheels - I planned on being fast. Did you watch the Boston marathon this year? Those wheelchair racers - they were incredibly fast. I thought I would be at least sort of fast...

Do I look fast?

There were lots of people there that I used to train and race with and some old friends that I had not seen since my accident. Everyone I who I spoke to thought it was great that I was there - and don't get me wrong, I am glad that I was - but because I didn't do it all myself, I didn't think it was so great. I wanted to do it all on my own. Theo was more than my pit crew pumping up my pre-race tires, he (and the kids) pushed me for a lot of the race.  He pushed me even when I said I'm fine. Because anything greater than horizontal was not easy. He didn't want me to overdo it because I would end up paying for it (and therefore so would he). It was also hard to see all my old friends and remember what life used to be.

But it was great to finish.

The other first that I was not looking forward to, but knew would eventually come, was falling out of my chair. It happened, today. To make a longer story short, I went out (read: Theo pushed me to the clothesline) to hang some laundry; Theo was also going to be outside, or so I thought. When I was ready to go back in, he was not around, so I gave it a try on my own. Now our lawn is not exactly rolling hills, but there is the occasional slope and the unevenness of the yet-to-be-rolled lawn did not help. As I headed toward the "slope" I looked back to see if my anti-tippers were in the down or up position. As I expected, they were up because they otherwise they get caught in the lawn. Knowing this, I planned in my head for the event of tipping backwards. I thought "tuck and roll". And just like I jinxed it, it happened. I tipped backwards, landed with chair back on the grass and rolled one quarter turn. I stayed in my chair until I did that quarter turn then I just landed on the lawn, hip jammed into the armrest. I did not hit my head (or get hurt in any other way).  I can hear my mother now: you really should wear a helmet when you are out on the lawn. 

Many, many people have said to me "always have your cell phone with you". But not for the reasons in evidence below. The cell phone is not for your husband to take pictures of you while you are sprawled out on the grass. But indeed, that is what he did. (Sorry, been watching a lot of The Good Wife). I had called out to him a few times, but hearing nothing decided to phone him and said "can you come and help me for a minute?" He came out the back of the garage, yup, laughing. Later he explains himself by saying that there were no tears and no blood, so he figured I was FINE. So, what do you do in that situation? You take pictures, of course.
Here we are sorting out what is the best way to get me back into my chair.

And this is what we decided would work best - get me in, then tip me up. 

So what did I learn? First - training does make a difference, I would highly recommend not just going out and doing a 5k run (or roll) - even a tiny bit of running will make a difference. Even "going fast" was hard on my hands, gripping the push rims was tricky -  glad I had mitts on. This was surprising to me - demonstrating the need for yet another specialized wheelchair to be added to my wish list.

Second, trust your gut. We had another "incident" that landed me on my back in my chair, no harm done, but I made me develop a new gut reaction.

I also was reminded of how lovely it is to lay in the grass. I miss that.

There was a third first this weekend - a gull trying to eat my post-race breakfast through the windshield of my car!

Friday, 13 May 2016

Rock star

Yesterday was a Parkwood day. Even after recovering Theo’s lost blackberry we made it in good time for me to be up on the ekso before 11:15. I always feel pressure on Thursday mornings because I have from 11 to 12 to “walk” and if I am late, that is my loss; time and money. So this week we did well. And for good reason, I wanted to achieve a personal best and beat my previous top count; 2000 was my goal. Last week I had been feeling super tired and just could not find my stride. This week - I nailed it.
This is the screen from the ekso. "Walk time" means time that I am actually moving, "up time" is the total time from standing to sitting and steps is, well, number of steps. Barry called me a rock star, high praise from that man! As it turns out, that was not only my pb, but also a Parkwood pb. Longest time up and longest time walking - and it put me at the top of the leader board. Of course it doesn’t really mean anything, other than to me, to know that I am getting stronger and able to tolerate being upright for that long. My blood pressure only starts to become an issue if I stop walking.

I walked right into lunch time, so not often will I be able to reach the 2000 mark. I guess I will have to find a new goal.

Parkwood days are always so informative for me (and those who bring me). I learn new things most days - yesterday my questions focused around house plans (and costs) and shower routines (everyone does it a little bit differently). What was new yesterday was that I helped someone else learn new things. A fellow FES biker and an SCI patient friends (just a few months "younger" than me) was telling me about his "lead" legs and some unusual bladder incontinence. Which just so happen to be the same symptoms I get when I have a UTI. So I shared my solution (UTI drops by Prefered Nutrition) and he was off to go buy some. He called me Doctor - how do you like that Erin! We all talked about how we have become such "experts" about the crazy things our bodies do, the things you never knew you needed to know. *Disclaimer - always check with your real doctor*

Something else that I have been paying attention to more recently is water. When you use an intermittent catheter to empty your bladder you are constantly thinking about when and where that next catheter will happen. At least I do. And not just any old bathroom will do. Some have toilet seats too low and no grab bars, others have doorways too narrow or bathrooms too small to even get in and close the door. One school has a bathroom where there is a stall that is accessible for someone who uses a chair, but the door to the bathroom is too big and heavy and there is no "button" to open it with.

What does this have to do with water? Well, the more you drink the more you pee. And when your bladder will only hold 250 to 300 ml before it spasms, every drop counts. I have seriously (sort of) thought about giving up coffee, but instead I have just reduced. The mistake I have been making is also reducing the amount of water that I drink. 

Dehydration is a bad state of affairs when you don't have an SCI, when you do, symptoms are amplified. Recently, in conversations with more experienced SCI people, dehydration and how it affects energy levels and pain has become a hot topic. So I have been keeping track these last few days, about how I feel and how much water I have been drinking. It's too soon to say for sure, but I may be starting to see a pattern.

Which may be why I had such a good day yesterday; and not because I was drinking rockstar. :)

Sunday, 1 May 2016

First Speech

I have had several request from people who were not able to attend last night's Gala to share my speech. It was an amazing evening with $32,000 plus dollars raised for the sports fields and track at Madill. 
We got to dress up...

I spoke to more than 300 people (using my hands, of course).

And shared the stage with these two amazing guys.

And here is what I had to say - more or less. I did not have it memorized, but that turned out okay in the end - what an amazing community we have!

I would like to thank David and Dave for being here tonight. They give have given us different yet very important perspectives - David Greig having worked with so many amazing athletes and giving me such hope just after coming home from Parkwood. Dave Willse - I’ll tell you about how I first met him. I was at Parkwood, up in my room, and one of the nurses came in to say that I had a visitor. I had not been expecting anyone, so this was a surprize. Dave introduced himself to me and said “I was the famous Julie”. I had no idea who he was, which was ironic, because after our amazing visit (we talked about everything) and I looked him up and realized that he was famous!

Nine months ago (yesterday) I was out on a training ride from my house in Blyth to Goderich and back, a total of 60km. At 9am on the home stretch on county road 25 I was hit by a car from behind. There were no cars in the on-coming traffic lane, the weather and visibility were both excellent. The driver claims to not have seen me. I have been told that the driver stopped and prevented me from trying to get up. I remember him saying to me “Oh my God, I am so sorry, I didn’t see you”. That is the only thing that I really remember; thank goodness the human brain has the ability to block out traumatic events. My injuries were: torn trachea, fractured occipital lobe, shattered nose, two broken front teeth, lacerations to my forehead and chin, several broken ribs and two fractured vertebrae. The burst of my T4 vertebrae sent a bone fragment into my spinal cord and this caused paralysis. I was airlifted to Victoria Hospital in London where surgeons removed the bone fragment and put my vertebrae back together with plates and screws. There was nothing they could do to repair the damage to the spinal cord.

This leads me to an analogy - any of my former students would tell you that I love to teach with a story. In late June 2014, on my way to school, I came across a snapping turtle just on the edge of the bridge south of town. Once I safely pulled over I saw that she was badly injured, but still alive. I moved her off the road and went up to school to call my friend Jory - the herpetologist - who said she would come. Evan Skinn and I went back to get pick her up - she was so big she filled the blue box from my classroom. When Jory examined her, she showed no response to pain in her hind legs - she was paralyzed. Jory also showed us that she had eggs that were ready to be laid. That was what she was doing on the road - trying to find suitable nesting site for her eggs. The mother turtle couldn’t be saved, but Jory extracted the eggs and put them in her turtle egg incubator. That fall, 22 hatchings, the cutest baby snappers, were released to the Mighty Maitland by my grade 9 science class. Best teaching day, ever.

You may see the connection? Fast forward one year and I am the one hit by a car, paralyzed just like that turtle. I am sure that the driver who hit that turtle did so by accident, just like I am sure that my accident was unintentional. Of course there are a lot of differences too - like the fact that I survived thanks to science and medicine. That mother turtle left a legacy of 22 hatchings - and I hope to leave a legacy, but of a different kind. One of awareness. I have learned a lot in these past nine months. And tonight I would like to share those learnings with you.

After the accident - right away - the cycling community (of which I had only just started to be a part of) rose up. Many of my fellow triathletes got on their bikes and took to the county roads. But they wanted to do more, so they created the bumper sticker that you now have. Share the road is not new, it is a movement all across Canada started by the wife of an OPP officer who was killed while riding his bike. The Provincial government has helped by instituting new regulations that require drivers to give a one meter distance when passing a cyclist (if possible). This is a start, but it is still not enough.

One of my future plans is to build a simulator that allows a person on a bike to be passed by a car or truck that is going 100 kph so they can feel the rush of wind and the moment of terror as that vehicle flies by. It will be an education tool not for cyclists, but for drivers. Most people on the road do not know what it feels like to be on a bike with super skinny tires and be passed by a vehicle moving that fast. You can’t move over on to the gravel - the bike tires will be caught in the gravel and the speed of the bike will result in injury. In Huron County we need to share the road and not just with bikes. There are horse and buggies, tractors, motorcycles, and pedestrians. And there are turtles.  We have to give them space to allow them to be safe.

It seems so cliche to say that life turns on a dime - when you least expect it. I remember earlier last July walking through the garden thinking how lucky I was to be in such an awesome place in my life - with my family, friends, community, my job and my new sport of triathlon. And then everything changed. So I’ll talk about the most obvious thing that has changed, and that is my body. My paralysis is from just below my shoulders. Every muscle below this point does not work on the command from my brain. My abdominal muscles do not keep my organs in place, my bowels and bladder only function with assistance and most obviously my legs don’t work.

The morning I was hit I was training for the Goderich triathlon.  The desire to do so had started a dozen years ago when I watched my sister-in-law Jane compete in this race. I was inspired. I wondered if I could get my post-baby body in shape enough to do that myself. So I started to train - eventually completing the 2014 Goderich triathlon finishing 3rd in my age group. My boasting about this has a point - I believe that being fit played a huge role in my recovery. My body was ready for the challenge. I was in critical care for only half what Drs had predicted.  And I have continued to impress my Drs and therapists with my return to health. So what can be learned from this? Be as fit and healthy as you can - life takes you around unexpected corners. Honour your body. You will thank yourself later.

Because my definition of fitness and workout has changed, something else I have started to give a lot of thought to are the importance of words. “Suffers from a spinal cord injury”, “confined to a wheelchair”, disabled, paraplegic. These are all words that have been used in reference to me since my accident. Why do we speak this way? I have a friend who has cancer for the second time - and we would never say that he is “cancered”. He has cancer.  I am not paralyzed. I have paralysis.  I am not confined to a wheelchair - I drive a car, sleep in a bed, swim in the pool - this chair with wheels is just my legs, that is all. If anything it provides me with freedom.

We need to put the person first, not the disability. The same goes for all our problems - everyone has shit that they are dealing with. Divorce, cancer, mental illness, poverty, everyone has their struggles. If there is one thing I have learned in these past nine months is that we need to be more compassionate toward each other. We need to look after each other. My issues are obvious - it is impossible for you to not notice that I have a physical disability, but most people have invisible issues. We must choose to be empathetic - recognize the feelings and the needs of another person. I am not disabled - I have a physical disability. I am still the same person that I used to be, but now I use a wheelchair.

Which of course, brings up the topic of accessibility. No one gives a lot of thought to accessibility until they, or someone close to them, needs it. Accessibility really means - that all people no matter of their need, can get anywhere with independance. One discussion I had recently made me realize that sometimes those needs can be in conflict with one another. Take for example a sidewalk. In order for me to cross a street I need the sidewalk to slope down to the street at a manageable angle. Someone who has a visual impairment needs that sidewalk to come to an end so they can feel where the street begins.

So we have solutions for that - just like here in Wingham where the construction on the main street allowed for the orange rumple strips at crossings to be installed  - they work for everyone. Of course there are countless examples in town that are the opposite of accessible, but that is why we are here tonight. To improve accessibility everywhere, starting with the track and fields. That is what we need to keep working toward - access for everyone. Ever since I got into a wheelchair I wanted to start handing out letters of complaints to non-accessible locations. I may still do this, maybe I will write a townwide report card...but in the meantime, I am sure to thank those who have made an effort to ensure that access to everyone is possible. True accessibility means independence. That should be our goal, as a community.

And what a wonderful community we have. My family has been totally overwhelmed by the support we have received from the people we know and the people we don’t know. In the 16 years we have lived here I seem to have developed more connections around Huron County than I realized. The letters, cards and emails of support. Food, transportation, offers of lodging in London, financial donations, offers to help build or renovate. Even enough aeroplan miles for the four of us to go on a vacation. Spiritual support. Letters from strangers and from people whom I only met once. And of course I have to thank the people who have been helping with my continued recovery - what a gold mine we have in our caregivers. My Doctor and everyone at Glassier’s Physiotherapy - Bill and Mark see me at this wondrous 3d puzzle that needs to be solved - I love the encouragement and humour that they give me with every visit. We have a tremendous community, think about what part you play, how you can be more involved, what could you do to help someone or something get better. Because community gives back - especially when you need it most.

Many of the people who have been in touch with me during my recovery have told me that I am “so inspiring”. For a while I had trouble coming to terms with what that meant. I don’t really think that I am, I’m just doing what needed to be done to try and get my life back. I think that any of you would do the same. Keep going. What is the alternative anyway? Not get out of bed in the morning? That is NOT an option for me. I have a family - two wonderful children and the most caring and compassionate husband. I can’t give up on me because that would mean giving up on them. Not an option.

And as an educator? I take that role very seriously. Why kind of teacher would I be if I just gave up?  So I keep going. Sometimes it is not easy - the pain overwhelms me or the situation frustrates me so much that I just cry. But it passes and then I carry on. So if you find yourself inspired by me - I am glad, but I want you to mean it. Because inspiration to me means that you have been inspired to change. To do something differently in your life. I know this is happening because people are telling me. They have changed the way they pass cyclists, they look out for accessible parking and they are getting out of bed in the morning and running because they can.

So let me bring this all together. We are going to share the road, be more fit, support accessibility and give to our community, and learn the language that allows a person to be who they are first, not only what their disability is. I am so thankful for having been given this opportunity to speak to you tonight, to thank you as a community and to let you know that I plan on continuing to pay it forward.

Thank you!

The following is what I said (more or less) before I auctioned off two helmets for a total of $2100! Thanks Ben Lobb for the help - numbers never were my strong suit. 

Were it not for my helmet I likely would not be. I may not even be alive. If you read my blog you may recall a guy named Jake. We met at Parkwood, he was on the acquired brain injury side of 4A east. He fell off his bike while riding on the sidewalk. It was hard to talk to Jake because he could not remember a lot of the words that he was trying to say. He had not been wearing a helmet. I would for sure would not be speaking to you here tonight - even with my helmet on I experienced brain trauma - a concussion that took some time to recover from. So that is where I will finish for this evening. I have a new helmet here, one that I hope will never need to hit the pavement, but when it does it will be saving the words and the life for you or someone you love.

If you are moved to donate click here Building Bridges Madill to help. I would love to see the campaign raise enough money to build a rubberized track - accessible to all!