for workers wITH seVere INJUrIes
injured teen Jessica Kruger with her sister, Leah
and parents, David and Mary.
e ighteen-year-old Jessica
Kruger’s life has been anything
but typical. When she was six, she
stories up a ladder when she
started to feel faint and blacked
out. She fell six metres, and hit the
parents’ reaction — my dad was so
angry and my mom was so upset.”
spent four years sailing around the
world with her parents and her
older sister, Leah. They visited 37
ground hard — she only
remembers the screams of the
other painter who found her lying
“ Everyone experiences
trauma and loss in life, and I
countries and sailed every ocean on there. In the ambulance, she got my share a bit earlier
earth. When they returned home to
Coquitlam, B.C., Jessica settled into
her life as a Canadian kid. She went
realized she couldn’t feel her legs,
and she asked the paramedics if
she would be okay. “When they
than most people.
—worksafeBC young worker
to school, played softball and didn’t answer me I knew that this
basketball, and hung out with her accident might change everything.”
friends. She was happy. Today, three years later, the
Jessica was taken to New situation is crystal clear to Jessica
She had just turned 15 when she Westminster’s Royal Columbian — she knows what the accident
took a summer job painting houses Hospital. After four hours of surgery, means for the rest of her life. She
with her sister’s company. The work she woke up in a morphine-induced has quadriplegia. “When most
was physical and satisfying and fog. She recalls the doctor telling people hear I’m quadriplegic, they
Jessica loved being outside and her she would never walk again. “I assume I can’t move my arms and
working up on the high ladders. couldn’t react. I didn’t know what legs. But that’s not what I have to
to say or what to think. The most live with,” she says. Quadriplegia
Ten days into the job, she was two upsetting part was seeing my Continued on page 3
we’d love to getting the
hear from you support
If you have suggestions for
future articles, or would like to
tell your story to our readers,
please call special Care services
at 604 231-8888, toll-free at
1 888 967-5377, or send an email
I t only takes a few seconds for a
life to change forever. Just ask
anyone who’s suffered a serious
While discussions around this subject
can sometimes be uncomfortable,
we’re committed to exploring new
injury resulting in mobility ideas and new technology, in order
the Journey is published twice a challenges. Before an injury, to provide the best possible quality
year by worksafeBC’s special people may give little thought of life for our clients.
Care services in collaboration to getting up in the morning and
with Communications services. getting dressed, squeezing into Our goal in Special Care Services
This newsletter is also available a packed elevator, or taking the is about more than providing
electronically on the worksafeBC stairs if the elevator is too slow. support to make your new life
website at worksafeBC.com. manageable. We want to help
But after an injury, everything make this part of your journey as
worksafeBC needs to be relearned — eating, rich, full, and rewarding as it can
po Box 5350 stn Terminal bathing, getting in and out of the be — from the early stages of
Vancouver BC V6B 5L5 car — even sleeping. And at first, rehabilitation onward.
it all seems so difficult.
Over the last year, our nurses and
But what we’ve learned from social workers have been meeting
working with people with differing with workers who have been
abilities is that in time, no matter severely injured. Whether you have
how daunting, it’s possible to suffered a spinal cord injury, brain
Call if you need help adapt. But this monumental shift injury, or other catastrophic
our crisis line is staffed by can only take place with a lot of disability, you have welcomed us
professional counsellors, who support. The staff of WorkSafeBC’s into your homes and shared your
are available 24 hours a day, Special Care Services is dedicated stories with us. We have learned
seven days a week. If you’re to providing you with this support a great deal from you, and as a
dealing with a psychological — not just in the initial stages of result, have been able to respond
rehabilitation, but for a lifetime, to your concerns.
crisis and need help, they can
provide support to you and These outreach efforts are ongoing.
your family, refer you to other In this edition of the Journey, you’ll In the months ahead, someone
services in your community, meet Jessica Kruger, who at 15 from our team will be contacting
years old suffered a life-altering you to set up a meeting, and to
and alert us so we can follow up
and catastrophic work injury see how you’re doing and what
with you. Call 1 800 624-2928. (see her story on the cover). Her we can do to make your life better.
If you have a medical adult life will never be what she If you’d like to meet with us
emergency, call 911 or go to expected, but with the right sooner, please email contactscs@
your nearest hospital. support, she’s discovering her life worksafebc.com or call Special
can still be rewarding, and joyful. Care Services at 604 231-8888,
toll-free at 1 888 967-5377.
We’re also breaking the silence
around sexual health for people Jennifer Leyen
who’ve suffered spinal cord injuries. Director, Special Care Services
2 the Journey
Continued from page 1
describes which part of the spine is damaged, rather
than the extent of paralysis. In some ways, Jessica is
fortunate: while she is paralyzed below the armpits,
she has full function in both arms (her left hand works
fine, but her right hand is weaker than before).
The long road to a new life
In the hospital, Jessica’s CAT scan showed her neck and
spine were broken in four places. She was moved to the
spinal cord unit at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH).
After her first surgery, she was in the hospital for three
weeks — not as long as some spinal cord patients, likely
because she was young and healthy. But she didn’t roll
her wheelchair out the hospital door. She was moved
to GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, the largest of its
kind in B.C., where she stayed for five months.
Jessica struggled in rehab; her mother had stayed at
her bedside throughout her time at VGH, but that
wasn’t allowed at GF Strong. She was young, and
afraid, and alone. “I was up all the first night, crying. But
by morning, I’d accepted the new reality…and that
there was no going back to who I once was.”
Healing from the accident didn’t just need to take place
within the walls of rehab; the family needed to heal as Jessica Kruger with her family
well. While Jessica declined to attend therapy on her and golden retriever, Rolly.
own, she did go with her sister. “Leah suffered
so much guilt, and I was so worried about her. I needed
to show her I wasn’t angry, and it wasn’t her fault.” and started as soon as she could. “It’s a mixed-gender
For the most part, Jessica’s reconciled the truth of her contact sport, and I’m on a team with only two
new life, and she accepts the situation with a wisdom women.” She wants to compete at the provincial level,
rarely seen in people even three times her age. and eventually get to the Paralympics.
“My family thinks I skipped the anger, sadness, and She’s also in her first year at Simon Fraser University,
sense of loss from the accident. And, for the most part, taking psychology and English courses — subjects
I think that’s what I did…because it didn’t seem worth she’d planned to take before her accident. And, despite
it,” she says. “I decided it was a waste of time — pointless. the physical challenges she faces, Jessica still wants to
I had things to do and needed to get on with my life.” travel and see the world again, this time as an adult.
She took a trip to Europe last summer with a friend,
But Jessica does think about what happened, every and is already planning a trip to India this summer with
day. On good days, she sees it as just one of those her boyfriend.
things. “Everyone experiences trauma and loss in life,
and I got my share a bit earlier than most people.” She even wants to teach English in a Third World
country when she graduates.
Looking toward a brighter future “The Third World may not be the easiest place to travel
Two big things in Jessica’s life right now keep her in a wheelchair,” she says. “I’d need to overcome
moving toward the future with confidence. incredible challenges. “ But her resilience is her lifeline.
“The accident will not stop me from living my life. I’m
One is wheelchair rugby, which is sometimes called
stubborn. I generally find a way to do what it seems I
“murder ball.” Jessica learned the sport at GF Strong,
can’t, or I get help from someone.”
the Journey 3
Simon Paradis, flanked by his son, Eli
and wife, Kara Stanley.
4 the Journey
s imon Paradis is an artist and a musician. He’s
also an injured worker, and uses a wheelchair
to get around.
part-time with his band, The Precious Littles, and he’s
reestablishing his career as a guitarist and guitar
Before his injury, he liked his job as a finishing But his triumphs are not without adversity. Getting out
carpenter, but he enjoyed playing his guitar even more. of bed in the morning and preparing for the day takes
In 2008, the part-time musician was getting ready to Simon two hours. “It’s a monumental challenge,” he
shift gears — he wanted to devote more time to the says. But, it’s also a source of artistic inspiration. A
recording studio, and less time to the hammer. That black-and-white-photo essay titled, “Simon’s Legs,”
lifestyle wasn’t meant to be — at least, not how he now graces an entranceway wall outside WorkSafeBC’s
envisioned it. While working on a construction site that Special Care Services department.
same year, Simon was walking across a scaffolding
bridge. The plywood slipped underneath him and he The project was inspired by Simon’s desire to give
fell three metres. With the fall, his dream of a full-time others a glimpse into his private world. It records, one
career in music seemed to come crashing down. moment at a time, the agonizingly slow routine he
follows to start his day.
Serious spinal injuries left him unable to walk — but he
also suffered complex brain injuries. He had multiple Simon took the photos for his essay with the help of his
skull fractures: arterial bleeding, tissue damage to the wife, Kara, and he views the images as depicting the
frontal lobe, and damage to his brain stem. stark reality of his situation. Simon, nonetheless, sees
in them a lesson for his son, Eli. “There is wisdom to be
Since his accident, Simon has had many barriers to gained from this experience: even the greatest
overcome, but his music dreams live on. He now plays obstacles in life can be overcome.”
the Journey 5
Deadly pressure wounds • Reposition yourself as needed.
• Give your butt a break! Move
between your wheelchair and
p eople with mobility issues
know the risks associated with
painful pressure sores. Unlike
come from other sources as well.
• A brief, high-pressure encounter:
other sitting surfaces, and use
medically approved pillows or
bumps or falls can damage the cushions to support you while
able-bodied people, whose nerves you sit.
send messages of pain or feelings skin and cause pressure sores
of discomfort to the brain to let that do not show up right away. Pressure sores often form on parts
them know to change position, • Abrasion: this can occur when of the body over bony, prominent
nerves damaged by spinal cord you pull yourself across a surface surfaces (such as hips and heels)
injuries thwart these messages. instead of lifting (or being lifted). that bear weight when you sit or lie
down for a long time. Medically
This means it’s hard to tell that you • Shearing: this happens when the approved surfaces or pillows can
have pressure sores until they pose skin moves one way and the support your body and relieve
a serious problem. So it’s important bone underneath it moves pressure in these areas.
to do everything possible to prevent another way. An example of this
them, and to recognize them in the is slouching when you sit. Anyone with mobility issues can
early stages. benefit from reading WorkSafeBC’s
How can you prevent them? book, Skin Care after a Spinal Cord
what causes pressure sores? • Check your skin twice a day, Injury. To get a free copy, contact
Pressure sores can develop when morning and night (ask your Kim Lee in Special Care Services
too much pressure is placed on one home care worker or a family at 604 231-8888 (toll-free
part of the body over a long member to check areas of your 1 888 967-5377) or contactscs@
period. But pressure sores can body you can’t see). worksafebc.com.
what would you like to know?
Here are the answers to some your recovery. with toilet functions, bathing,
common questions WorkSafeBC eating, dressing, and/or transfers.
receives from injured workers. Some product purchases must be This allowance is paid in addition
pre-approved by WorkSafeBC to wage-loss or pension payments,
Q: I receive a pension before the costs are covered. Talk to and the amount varies, based on
(permanent disability benefits). your case manager for more details. care requirements.
Will my spouse receive survivor
benefits upon my death? Q: I receive an independence The IHMA is a monthly allowance
and home maintenance to help with the additional
A: Survivor benefits are paid to allowance (IHMA) and personal
dependants of a worker whose expenses incurred by severely
care allowance (PCA). What will injured workers who cannot
death is the result of a compensable happen to these when I turn 65?
injury. WorkSafeBC will need to be maintain their home and property,
given a notification of death and A: These WorkSafeBC benefits do and those who now use public
will also require further information not stop at any particular age. You transportation.
to determine survivor benefit will continue to receive both the
PCA and IHMA as long as you Q: I have more questions, but I
eligibility. don’t know who my case
qualify — up to age 65 and beyond.
Q: Which of my prescriptions manager is. Who do I call?
are covered? Here’s a brief explanation of each A: Special Care Services is
benefit: available to answer your
A: When a claim is accepted,
WorkSafeBC may pay for the PCAs are paid to seriously disabled questions at 604 231-8888 or
prescription drugs and medical workers with significantly limited toll-free at 1 888 967-5377, or at
supplies required to help with mobility or those who require help email@example.com.
6 the Journey
Your sexual health after the injury
I f you’ve suffered a spinal cord injury, you may be
hesitant to discuss issues and challenges around
sexual health and fertility. After all, talking about sex
While the range of
sexual function may
differ from person to
is difficult for many people. person, men and women
with SCIs can have
But talking about sexual health after a spinal cord loving and lasting sexual
injury need not be taboo. According to WorkSafeBC relationships. And
medical advisor Dr. Ronil Lalji, relearning the thanks to advances in
importance of your sexuality following a traumatic fertility treatments and
injury is a key part of recovery. technology, people with
People with spinal cord injuries might ask themselves: SCIs can usually become
“Will I ever have sex again? Will my relationship last? parents. In addition, Dr. Ronil Lalji
How do I approach new relationships?” And even, many of the treatments,
“Can I have children?” As part of your rehabilitation, medications, and equipment related to sexual health
it’s important to ask these questions of your physician and fertility are covered by WorkSafeBC.
or WorkSafeBC case manager. “Many people with SCIs
find it uncomfortable discussing sexual health and
where to go for help
sexual performance issues,” Dr.Lalji says. “But, opening Case managers at WorkSafeBC are sensitive to all
up that discussion and finding solutions is an aspects of recovery, including issues around sexuality
important part of rehabilitation.” and fertility. If you’re not comfortable talking with your
case manager, discuss your concerns with your doctor
The reality is, people with SCIs can enjoy intimate — he or she can help you access resources through
relationships, but they might need to make WorkSafeBC and find out what is covered.
adjustments to how they express and act on their
sexual feelings. There are no steadfast rules about how In addition, the sexual health clinic at GF Strong
a person’s sexual response changes after an injury provides information and education to clients (and
— the type of injury, the level of injury, and the their loved ones). To make an appointment, all you
medications the person is taking all play a role. need is a referral from your physician.
kevin Hayley was 24 years old with the help of advanced
and had a girlfriend, emma, technology and medical
whom he adored. In 2004, a assistance coverage from
workplace accident in a mineral worksafeBC, the couple
exploration camp left him welcomed their twins, kian and
paralyzed from the sternum Naomi, last May. “Adjusting to
down. He was told he’d never parenthood is a hell of a
walk again. “It was devastating,” challenge for anyone,” kevin
he recalls. “But emma was really says. “And when you throw in
supportive; she helped me a wheelchair and twins, it’s even
through it every step of the harder.” But the rewards are
way.” kevin and emma married great, he says. “It’s an amazing
in 2007. “one of the first things I feeling to see your children
asked after I found out I smile at you. It’s indescribable.”
wouldn’t walk again was, ‘Can I
have children?’” The answer, Kevin Hayley cradles his twin
thankfully, was “Yes.” daughters, Kian and Naomi
the Journey 7
The Special Care Services team assists severely injured workers with their claims
and helps them access the services and benefits they’re entitled to receive.
we’d like to meet
with you send us your
D o you have concerns about your health or medical
equipment? Perhaps you’ve had the same prosthesis
for 15 years, or have been housebound during the winter.
If so, we’d like to help in whatever way we can.
If you have questions about your
Starting in January 2010, a team of WorkSafeBC nurses benefits, pension, or other services
and social workers have been meeting with workers like
you who have been severely injured. Someone from the you’re entitled to receive, there’s a
team will be contacting you to set up a meeting at your chance that other readers are wondering
home or a nearby WorkSafeBC office — whichever is about the same things. Drop us a line at
more convenient for you. The team will want to hear how
firstname.lastname@example.org, or call
you're doing, respond to any of your concerns, and check
to make sure you’re receiving the benefits and special Care services, 604 231-8888,
allowances you’re entitled to receive. toll-free at 1 888 967-5377. we’ll answer
If you have any questions about this process, or would your questions promptly, and will also
like to share any other concerns, contact your case publish a sample of all the questions
manager, or call Special Care Services at 604 231-8888, we‘ve received (along with our answers)
toll-free at 1 888 967-5377.
in future issues of the Journey.
8 the Journey