It’s been a few weeks since my last update on Cole’s progress at Sunny Hill Health Centre in Vancouver. Cole has been on a steady rehabilitation program for eight weeks now, following a three-week stay at BC Children’s Hospital after he suffered a life-altering spinal injury on Jan. 3.
We knew the road would be long and although we expected many ups and downs, we did not anticipate some of the challenges that have stood in Cole’s way. One of these challenges has been chronic stomach problems that have made focusing on his therapies very difficult. But I am pleased to report that he is now regaining some control over the hindering condition, and although it is not completely gone, he is able to maintain sufficient food intake and continue his therapies with the energy required.
Over the past two weeks, Cole has pressed forward to surely and steadily climb the mountain that represents his goals. He has learned to transfer himself from bed to chair and back again with very little assistance — a huge accomplishment that indicates he will be able to eventually make more difficult transfers and increase his independence.
Saying goodbye to the mechanical lift that was used daily for transfers was a celebration on March 10. It was a marker for him and increased his motivation tenfold. Without the need for assistance of the lift, the time it takes Cole to get into his chair in the morning was reduced from about 10 minutes to a mere one or two! On March 11, during his session of occupational therapy, he transferred in 59 seconds — I was blown away!
For a while, wheeling himself was difficult for Cole because of the stomach issues and his large bulky chair with smaller wheels. On March 16, Cole received a new chair with a slimmer build and slightly cambered wheels. The initial ‘new chair’ he had received in February didn’t work for him and he quickly reverted to using the chair he had been using used from the beginning. However, this time around, the new chair works for him. He declared after trying it out: “You won’t have to push me anywhere anymore!”
He is back to wheeling independently for most of the day, and now his strength is greater and his speed has increased. Without the constant nagging of stomach discomfort, he has been able to focus more clearly on physical strength building and is motivated to do additional exercises during his ‘off’ time.
On the same day, Cole also received a sports wheelchair which was a very new and exciting experience for him to try out. Two new wheelchairs in one day! It’s all very exciting because the two biggest goals for Cole are transferring and independent wheeling.
Getting out of the hospital for outings is part of Cole’s therapy. Over the couple weeks, we attended a Giants hockey game, which unfortunately, they lost 6-0 to the Prince George Cougars, or as Cole said: “They got schooled!”
He has also been to the movie theatre, a few restaurants, and the mall. Most recently, Cole was able to attend another Canucks game, this time accompanied by his brother, two cousins, his uncle and myself. Continuing these outings gives perspective and experience surrounding mobility issues that Cole will face when he returns home to Castlegar.
One very motivating and exciting outing Cole had last week was out to a wheelchair tennis club, where he played tennis with his new friend who is also paraplegic and 11 years old. Initially, we were just taking him to watch his friend practice, but I watched in awe as he just jumped right in there and worked hard for nearly a whole hour! Cole says he would like to play both tennis AND basketball now.
Cole’s accomplishments bring into focus again that we need to be ready for him at home when he is ready to come home. Currently, I am seeking to purchase the accessible van needed to transport Cole, which thankfully I may receive some funding for, but will still come at a price of about $10,000. Also, we will be moving to a more suitable home for Cole before the end of April, and will be making some modifications to the home for easier access.
I am working now with Cole’s team to set up continued therapies at home, and will be making contact with a few different organizations to see what opportunities for sports may be made available to him after we return home.
I hope that those of you who are sending all your positive energy for Cole have enjoyed hearing about Cole’s remarkable accomplishments.
I write this letter with a light heart and a big smile. I am so proud of my son, and so proud of my community for supporting him. Thank you again to all of you who have been, and continue to be there for him and his family. I know one day Cole is going to show us all a miracle.