the Journey by dfgh4bnmu


									                                                                                                SUMMER 2010



Coma survivor
awakens ‘a
better person’                                           Above, Michael Coss works on his recovery with therapist
                                                               Pauline Martin from Neuro Motion Physiotherapy.

W      hen he wakes up each
       morning, Michael Coss
imagines walking alongside his two
                                       an embankment. His wife and kids
                                       recovered from their injuries.
                                       Michael wasn’t so lucky.
                                                                             “I’m not going to give up fighting,”
                                                                             he says. “My ultimate goal is to walk
                                                                             hand in hand with my children to
children on their way to pre-school.                                         the park down the street, to see
That vision has been his lifeline —
and fuel for his spirit — ever since
he awoke from a six-month coma.
                                           “ When I woke up from
                                          the coma, I was in a fetal
                                                                             them enjoy themselves and play
                                                                             on the swing sets.”

                                         position; I think it’s because      That Michael has come as far as he
Michael went into a coma four
years ago after sustaining a severe
brain injury. The injury took place
                                          I was reborn that day.
                                                 —Brain injury survivor
                                                                             has is nothing short of miraculous
                                                                             to those who’ve helped in his
                                                                             recovery. And it’s a testament to his
on a spring day — May 18, 2006.                           Michael Coss       unshakable resolve. In the hospital,
The former marketing coordinator                                             doctors told his family there was
for Molson Canada, his wife, and       Following the incident, his speech    nothing they could do for him. But
their six-month old twins were on      and mobility were severely            Michael proved them wrong.
their way to a work function when      impaired. He uses a wheelchair —      Today, he can walk 30 minutes
the van Michael was driving            for now, he says — and has had        while being supported by a
swerved off the road. He can’t         to relearn the simplest tasks, from   walking belt — an amazing feat,
recall the details of the accident,    eating to going to the washroom.      says his case manager Renee
but thinks he was trying to avoid      And as he explains, while parts       Leung.
hitting an animal. His van rolled      of his body are still dormant, he’s
over twice before ending up in         determined to walk again.                         Continued on page 3
We’d love to hear                         Brain injuries offer
from you
If you have suggestions for future
                                          food for thought
articles, or would like to tell
your story to our readers, please
call Special Care Services at
                                          I magine waking from a coma
                                            and not recognizing your
                                          children’s faces. For some 350
604 231-8888, toll-free at                B.C. workers who’ve suffered
1 888 967-5377, or send an e-mail         traumatic brain injuries, that
to             gut-wrenching scenario is all
                                          too familiar. They’ve suffered
The Journey is published twice a          head injuries so severe, their
year by WorkSafeBC’s Special Care         most precious memories have
Services in collaboration with            been stripped away, along with,
Communications Services. This             often, their ability to walk,
newsletter is also available              communicate, or make decisions
electronically on the WorkSafeBC          about their future — devastating      a common trait: at one point
web site at               not only those individuals, but       in their recovery, most yearn for
                                          their loved ones as well.             a new purpose in life.
PO Box 5350 Stn Terminal                  Brain injuries occur suddenly; in     Through this publication,
Vancouver BC V6B 5L5                      an instant, life changes. Things      we hope to share stories of
                                          are never the same, for the           inspiration and courage, and
                                          survivor and for the survivor’s       to support your purpose —
                                          family. For some, life comes to       for many, like Michael, it’s
                                          a standstill. But for others, like    volunteer work or fundraising
                                          Michael Coss — who shares his         — or help you move forward
                                          story in this issue — life takes      if you’ve been struggling to find
    Call if you need help                 on a new purpose. Despite             a new path since your injury.
    Our crisis line is staffed by         undergoing a grueling rehab,          Perhaps you’re aiming to escort
    professional counsellors, who         Michael’s recovery has been           your children to school in your
    are available 24 hours a day,         nothing short of miraculous,          wheelchair, learn a new hobby,
    seven days a week. If you’re          and he credits his family for         or return to work. Or, perhaps
                                          helping him through and               you’d like to test your skills in
    dealing with a psychological
                                          allowing him to pursue his new        sports, like Josh Dueck, Darryl
    crisis and need help, they can        passion — giving back to others.
    provide support to you and your                                             Neighbour, and Rich Green,
                                          As an employee of WorkSafeBC,         who are sources of inspiration
    family, refer you to other services
                                          I’m honoured to share stories         for others (see their stories on
    in your community, and alert us                                             pages 4–5).
                                          like Michael’s. These stories are
    so we can follow up with you.
                                          gifts that give true meaning to       Regardless of your goals —
    Call 1 800 624-2928. If you have      our work and personal lives.          short- or long-term, simple
    a medical emergency, call 911         While I don’t pretend to know         or lofty — we look forward
    or go to your nearest hospital.       what it’s like to live with a brain   to helping you achieve them.
                                          injury, I’ve learned that people
                                          who sustain life-altering injuries    Jennifer Leyen
                                          — whether they’re brain or            Director
                                          spinal cord injuries, amputations,    Special Care Services
                                          or severe burns — all share

2       the Journey
                                                                                  Michael says he starts each
                                                                                  day with a reading of
                                                                                  inspirational messages.
                                                                                  Here’s one of his favourites:
                                                                                  “Whatever you do in this
                                                                                  life, take time to sit quietly
                                                                                  and let the world tell you
                                                                                  what it needs from you.
                                                                                  Take a moment to honestly
                                                                                  understand what your gifts
                                                                                  are — you all have them.
                                                                                  The way you choose to live
                                                                                  your life brings meaning to
Michael enjoys a playful moment with his children,                                your life.”
a powerful source of motivation for his recovery.                                                    ~ Ann Reed

Continued from page 1                  Foundation, which raises money          others. He sees himself as a role
                                       to cover the cost of hyperbaric         model to other brain injury
“His dedication is phenomenal,”        oxygen therapy for other brain          survivors, because of his positive
Renee says. “Other brain injury        injury survivors, an alternative        attitude and because he’s come
survivors would have plateaued         treatment that delivers high            so far in his rehabilitation. Most
by now, but because Michael is so      concentrations of oxygen to the         recently, he joined Stand Up for
positive and motivated — and his       body, and one Michael believes has      Mental Illness, a group of people
family supports him unconditionally    been instrumental to his recovery.      with mental illnesses who do
— he continues to get better.”                                                 stand-up comedy to build their
                                       In spite of Michael’s positive          confidence and fight the stigma
Just as remarkable is Michael’s        attitude, his life is no cakewalk. He   associated with their condition.
determination to give back. Michael    describes his recovery as arduous,      Their shows look at the lighter side
believes he was given a second         and admits it can be frustrating.       of taking meds, seeing counselors,
chance at life, and that he awakened   But he refuses to give up. He           getting diagnosed, and the
as a better person. “When I woke       focuses on his progress instead         complexities of making their
up from the coma, I was in a fetal     of his setbacks. He says he also        way through the medical system.
position,” he says. “I think it’s      misses some of the friends who
because I was reborn that day.”        haven’t kept in touch since his         As he hones his skills on stage,
                                       injury, but bears no grudges —          Michael points out that — for the
In 2008, he enlisted the help of       it just makes him appreciate his        time being — he’s still the group’s
friends, co-workers, and family and    supporters even more.                   sit-down comedian. “But,” he adds,
raised $22,000 for the Rick Hansen                                             “I know I’ll be graduating to stand-
Foundation. He also launched           There’s no doubt Michael is carving     up very soon.”
the Michael Coss Brain Injury          out a better future for himself and

                  you                                                    r
               Do yo have questions about your benefits, pension, or other services?
                              Drop us a line at,
                or call Special Care Services, 604 231-8888, toll-free at 1 888 967-5377.

                                                                                                  the Journey      3
Athletes triumph over adversity
C   ongratulations to Josh Dueck, Rich Green,
    and Darryl Neighbour, who, earlier this
year, earned top honours in sit-skiing and
                                                                                all three have overcome what many would
                                                                                consider insurmountable odds. WorkSafeBC
                                                                                salutes each of these athletes for their
wheelchair curling. In their quest for success,                                 outstanding achievement and winning spirit.

                        Josh Dueck,
                        2010 Paralympic silver medalist, slalom sit-skiing

                                                            Josh Dueck is no stranger to           picking up too much speed while
                                                            intense competition. After all, he’s   skiing over a demonstration jump.
                                                            a four-time Canadian ski champion      He overshot the landing hill and
                                                            and a downhill skiing champion         dropped 30 metres to the ground
                                                            for the 2009 IPC World Cup. Yet he     — breaking his back and flipping
                                                            describes his recent performance       his world upside down.
                                                            in the Paralympic Games — one
                                                            that earned him the silver medal       He found a way to overcome
                                                            in men’s slalom sit-skiing — as        the setbacks associated with his
                                                            an experience like no other.           disability, and has since scaled
                                                                                                   his own personal mountain —
                             Photo by Kevin Bogetti-Smith

                                                            “The energy of the crowd was           inspiring many along the way with
                                                            overwhelming,” he says. “There         his determination and upbeat
                                                            was a feeling of collective pride      attitude. In addition to his return
                                                            like I’ve never felt before. The       to competitive skiing, Josh has
                                                            crowd really pulled me down            become a tireless speaker and
                                                            the mountain and helped me             advocate for workplace health
                                                            win that medal.”                       and safety through WorkSafeBC’s
                                                                                                   Paralympic Program.
                                                            Josh began preparing for that
                                                            moment soon after he suffered a        “Anything is possible if you’re
Josh Dueck                                                  devastating workplace injury that      willing to dream,” he says. “Know
                                                            left him paralyzed from the waist      that how you see the world shapes
                                                            down. In 2004, while coaching a        what you can do. Find your passion,
                                                            ski team for the Canadian junior       and dream big.”
                                                            nationals, Josh found himself

                                                                         Rich Green

4    the Journey
Rich Green, gold medalist,                                                                   Darryl Neighbour
2010 Canadian Wheelchair

                                             Photo by CPC/HC/Matthew Manor
Curling Championship
Rich Green had always been athletic
and competitive, so he knew he’d
likely enjoy wheelchair curling when
he decided to throw his first rock in
2006. But he didn’t know his new
hobby would lead to a gold medal
four years later.
Earlier this year, Rich and his team
won the 2010 Canadian Wheelchair
Curling Championship in Kelowna.
                                                                                         Darryl Neighbour,
“When we won, I remember thinking,
‘wow, has this really happened?,’” says                                      2010 Paralympic gold medalist,
Rich, who plays third on his team.                                                       wheelchair curling
Since then, his team has been invited
to a number of ceremonies recognizing       Darryl Neighbour says the “Glowing Hearts” slogan for
B.C.’s top athletes. “We didn’t expect      the Vancouver 2010 Olympics truly captured the public
this kind of attention, so it’s been        sentiment of the Games.
really heartwarming,” he says.
                                            “I’ll never forget the crowd’s support, excitement, and
“Able-bodied curlers, in particular,
                                            encouragement; it was electrifying,” he says. Darryl recalls
have been really supportive. They’ve
                                            riding an emotional high for at least a month after the
embraced us and are fully behind
                                            Games were over. “While winning gold was the icing on
wheelchair curlers.”
                                            the cake, the whole Olympic experience was awesome
Rich suffered a spinal cord injury          — like nothing I’ve experienced before. It was a very
in April 2000, when a large box he          proud moment to represent Canada.”
had been pulling off a trailer slipped
                                            Darryl spent four years preparing for the Paralympics,
and landed directly on his body.
                                            and has now set his sights on the World Championships
“Accepting my injury was key to my
                                            in Prague in 2011, the Paralympic Games in Sochi in 2014,
recovery, as is staying active and
                                            and a multitude of other championships in between.
keeping strong social connections
through activities like curling.”           “Curling is my reason for getting out of bed in the
                                            morning,” says Darryl, who broke his back August 1, 2000
When he’s not winning national
                                            after he fell off a roof on a construction site. He credits
championships, Rich works part-time
                                            Vancouver’s GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre for helping
as a coordinator for recreational
                                            him discover a new life purpose, after staff suggested
programs and as a peer supporter for
                                            he try wheelchair curling.
the Richmond Centre for Disabilities.
He looks forward to trying his hand at      “I had always played sports, so it was a natural fit for me,”
sailing this year, as he takes a break      he says. “I threw my first rock in 2004, and have never
from curling during the off-season.         looked back. Curling took to me like a duck to water.”
“My life isn’t over because of my           To other injured workers, Darryl would say, “After a life-
injury. I try to keep a positive attitude   altering injury, you’ve got to be willing to try new things.
and focus on my abilities. You’ve got       Don’t be afraid to experiment. Who knows? You may even
to make the best of what you’ve got.”       find a new passion — just like I did.”

                                                                                                 the Journey    5
Your care specialists
A doctor with his own story to tell
D    r. E. Lyle Gross knows what it’s like for someone
     to have his life turned upside down because of an
injury. Not just because he’s a doctor, but because he’s
                                                               treat less visible wounds, in addition to physical ones.
                                                               Lyle is one of 400 Canadian physiatrists who do just
been there. Several years ago, the Richmond-based              that. Prior to coming to WorkSafeBC, he worked as
physiatrist slipped on ice and severely injured his neck.      a clinical leader for a New Zealand health board. He
After receiving emergency neck surgery, he embarked            served as director of the worker injury assessment unit
on a more than three-year recovery off work he calls           and impairment and disability assessment service at
one of the most difficult periods of his life.                 the prestigious Mayo Clinic and he continues to lecture
                                                               on disability and chronic pain in countries spanning
“After my injury, I lost the ability to control my own life    the globe. Through his experiences in Russia, India,
for a while,” he says. “In an instant, I went from being       Europe, and Brazil, he’s seen workers face similar
an independent person to having other people make              challenges no matter where they live. Most recently,
decisions for me.”                                             he and his family temporarily traded their comfortable
                                                               west coast lifestyle to volunteer in a hospital and
Even though the veteran medical doctor knew what               school in Tanzania, working in third-world conditions
to expect during his recovery — after all, he practices        in temperatures higher than 40 degrees Celsius.
rehabilitative medicine — his journey back to normal
life came with a heavy dose of pain and frustration.           Your physiatrist works to identify your
Although Lyle recovered some degree of mobility, he            needs
was left with nerve damage and fused vertebrae in his          As a physiatrist, Lyle specializes in physical and
neck. The chronic pain from his injury was aggravated          rehabilitative medicine. He describes his job as
by a prior injury eight years ago that required spinal         a cross between a physician, mediator, and forensic
fusion in his lower back.                                      investigator. “I’m a bit of a jack-of-all-trades,” he says.
                                                               “Our job as physiatrists is to bring together the worker’s
He now lives with rods in his back and nerve damage            entire clinical team, so we can come up with a
that affects his legs, as well as his arms. But his injuries   treatment plan that addresses the whole person —
serve as a daily reminder of the trials faced by his own       by that, we mean the worker’s entire range of needs,
patients — injured workers — and of the need to                not just the medical ones.”

6     the Journey
  “toEveryone needs todoingaeverythingAndcan to
  is make sure we’re
                       have purpose.
                                         our goal

  help an injured worker achieve it.
                —Dr. E. Lyle Gross, WorkSafeBC physiatrist

The clinical team includes physicians, nurse advisors, case managers,
physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and vocational
counselors. This group works with other specialists — surgeons,
neurologists, psychologists, and social workers — whose shared
goal is to help the injured worker return to a better quality of life
as soon as possible.
“If we don’t intervene early, life can become complicated for
someone who’s had a severe injury,” says Lyle, who works
specifically with patients’ unable return to work within six months
of their injury. “They start facing other problems, like isolation,
depression, or financial difficulties.”
He speaks from experience: “We lose our ability to compete with
fellow workers and our self-esteem goes down. We become
focused on the pain and the losses suffered from being dependent
on others.”

Your team is there to help
While each patient’s needs are unique, Lyle says all of his patients
share one common trait, regardless of gender, age, or cultural
background. “Everyone needs to have a purpose,” he says.
“And our goal is to make sure we’re doing everything we can
to help an injured worker achieve it.”
“As a statutory agency, we have limitations, but we can set up
other community services and resources to help.”
Lyle sees Special Care Services as a source of guidance for injured
workers — and, if possible, their family members, treating clinicians,
and past, present, and prospective employers — throughout the
recovery process. “While injured workers are ultimately responsible
for their own well-being, it is okay to ask questions, and to
communicate regularly about what must be done to return
to the workplace and regular life as soon as possible.”
“That’s what we’re here for.”

                                WorkSafeBC physiatrist Dr. E. Lyle Gross

                                                                           the Journey   7
Powerful tools for holistic healing
In the winter issue of the Journey, we told you about a
seminar for injured workers called Discovering the Power
in Me. Stearns Hodge, who attended with his wife Janice,
weighs in on what he gained from attending.

W     hen Stearns Hodge lost his left arm, right leg,
      part of his left foot, one finger, and two toes, he
knew his road to recovery would be long and arduous.
But he didn’t know it would also be lined with
unconditional love, personal growth, and a strong
desire to help others.
Stearns suffered serious electrical injuries in 1984 while
working as a roofing and siding contractor. He was 34;
and with three children aged 9, 7, and 2, his immediate                                     Stearns and Janice Hodge
concern was how his multiple injuries would affect
his family. Stearns focused on his recovery — physical       the other attendees and hear their stories.” Stearns says
and mental — while Janice took responsibility for their      his personal goal is to help other workers who’ve been
children, the household, and Stearns’ care.                  electrocuted.
But in spite of surviving such challenging years together    Healing injuries
— one only needs to spend a few minutes with the
                                                             Thirteen workers with injuries attended the seminar,
Hodges to feel their deep bond — Stearns believes he
                                                             along with others, including Special Care Services
and Janice will always need extra help to navigate their
                                                             director Jennifer Leyen, who says treatment for the
lifelong emotional hurdles.
                                                             most severely injured must rehabilitate not only their
Discovering the Power in Me                                  bodies, but their minds and spirits as well.
That’s why they attended Discovering the Power               “The seminar was designed to empower injured
in Me, a two-day seminar sponsored by WorkSafeBC,            workers by giving them the tools they need to reach
designed to help people with disabilities cultivate          new personal heights. For some, that may mean having
greater inner strength and resiliency. The seminar,          the courage to leave the house for the first time after
held earlier this year, received favourable reviews from     a severe injury, for others it could mean getting
the Hodges and many others who took part in it.              mentally ready to return to work.”
“It gave me new tools to recognize my own self-doubt         For Stearns, who says he’s at a crossroads in his life, the
and self-limiting behaviours, so I can overcome the          seminar was timely. “As I get older, my needs change.
mental aspect of living with an altered body,” Stearns       I need to recalibrate and set more realistic goals for
says. “I also appreciated being able to talk openly with     myself. The seminar gave me a roadmap to do that.”

                         Given the positive response to last              interested in participating or would like
Sign up                  spring’s seminar, Discovering the Power          more information, contact Special Care
for the next             in Me, WorkSafeBC will be holding                Services at 604 231-8888, toll-free
                         another session, tentatively scheduled           at 1 888 967-5377, or send an e-mail
seminar                  for September 22–23. (The location will          to
                         be confirmed over the summer.) If you’re
8     the Journey

To top