Local ‘celebrities’ to learn trials of spinal cord injuries

Published: May 10, 2010  |  Source: ca.news.yahoo.com
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Winnipeg’s police chief is one of five notable Winnipeggers participating in an event to give them an idea of what it’s like to live with a spinal cord injury.

The Canadian Paraplegic Association’s second annual Chair-leader program, which is being held this week, matches a local “celebrity” with a person who suffered a spinal cord injury.

In police Chief Keith McCaskill’s case, he will be paired with Scott Coates, who injured his spine diving head-first while swimming with friends about 18 years ago.

Paralyzed from the chest down, the 35-year-old was told he would never walk again but he defied the odds and now walks with the use of a cane.

On Wednesday, Coates will spend half the day with McCaskill, who will be wearing leg braces and using a cane to simulate Coates’ limited mobility and make the experience as realistic as possible.

“I’m hoping to be able to understand a little bit better what Scott is going through,” McCaskill said.

Coates, a rehabilitation counsellor with CPA, said he endures muscle spasms after he awakens in the morning and pain when he walks long distances.

Climbing stairs or getting over a curb can pose a challenge most people never face, he said.

“This is a great awareness event. Walking in someone else’s shoes is an important experience,” Coates said.

Other participants, including former lieutenant-governor Yvon Dumont, radio personality Resby Coutts and Winnipeg mayoral candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis, will be using a manual or powered wheelchair or walker.

Organizers said the event’s goal is to raise awareness about the organization and people who have spinal cord injuries to help them gain independence, self-reliance and participate in the community.