FOR WORKERS WITH SEVERE INJURIES
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 WorkSafeBC.com. 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
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
Do yo have questions about your benefits, pension, or other services?
Drop us a line at email@example.com,
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.
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
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
4 the Journey
Rich Green, gold medalist, Darryl Neighbour
2010 Canadian Wheelchair
Photo by CPC/HC/Matthew Manor
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.
“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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
be confirmed over the summer.) If you’re
8 the Journey