Manitoba gives $3M boost to spinal injury treatment

The Manitoba government will spend $3 million over the next five years making sure people with spinal cord injuries receive the most up-to-date services.

Premier Gary Doer and other government officials announced the funding in the provincial legislature Friday.

The money will help ensure medical treatment and social services incorporate the most recent research and provide more counselling to people who have experienced spinal cord injuries, they said.

Brad Boiselle, who had a tumour removed from his spine seven years ago, said counselling helped him make the transition from mechanic to teacher.

“Just managing your life, your body — it takes a lot of time when you have a spinal cord injury,” he said. “It’s just too much to think about, and there’s so many things that happen. If you’re not in the right mindset, you’re not going to succeed.”
Treatment has evolved

Canadian Paraplegic athlete Rick Hansen was at the legislature for the funding announcement; he is best known for his Man in Motion tour, a 40,000-kilometre wheelchair trek through 34 countries nearly 24 years ago.

In 1972, when Hansen injured his spine in a car crash at age 15, treatment was crude, he recalled.

“I was actually sitting on the side of the road, twisted over a steel tool box as the pickup truck that I was in had rolled. My back was shattered, spine was damaged,” he said.

“The people on site actually put me onto a barn door, and it actually straightened out my spine again, and it probably caused further aggravation [of the injury],” he said.
60 spinal cord injuries a year

People who have spinal cord injuries today have a much brighter future, said Hansen, now CEO of a foundation that carries his name and raises money and awareness about spinal cord injuries.

“Seventy per cent of people with spinal cord injury have some level of improved function on the way out the door [of Rehabilitation services], and many people are actually walking again,” he said.

The Canadian Paraplegic Association of Manitoba will administer the new money, which will be spent to hire a new rehabilitation counsellor and peer support co-ordinator and establish an accessibility fund to help modify homes for injured Manitobans.

Each year, about 60 spinal cord injuries occur in Manitoba, provincial officials said. There are approximately 1,000 Manitobans with spinal cord injuries.

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