Road to independence

Published: November 19, 2007  |  Source: theguardian.pe.ca
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St. Teresa man recovering from spinal cord injury suffered in car accident

Michael Curran is inching his way back to independence.

Curran, 32, of St. Teresa says his busy recovery road since enduring a spinal cord injury in a car crash in May while on his way to work is overwhelming.

So much has been done —and a great deal more lies ahead — to deal with having become a quadriplegic seven months ago.
“It blows you away,” Curran said of all that needs to be done.

Of course, first there was surgery, which unfortunately came with complications, most notably collapsed lungs.
He was heavily sedated for the first two weeks following the crash.

More time passed as he tried to come to grips with his condition, which will see him using a wheelchair the rest of his life.
“It didn’t really set in,” he said. “It took awhile to accept it.”

But he has been making promising strides. The level of strength and degree of movement in his upper body is good for such a short period of time following a spinal cord injury, observed Brian Doucette, a member of the Canadian Paraplegic Association — P.E.I. Support Team.

“He can be 100 per cent independent,” said Doucette, who has worked hard to maximize his own independence following an automobile accident more than 20 years ago that left him a quadriplegic like Curran.

Each advancement spurs Curran on, from mastering the challenges of dressing, grooming, writing and eating, to building up his strength. He does find trying the slow grind required to learn how to do what he has done for years with little thought and next to no effort.

“It’s frustrating, it’s really frustrating,” he said.
“But, as they say, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel . . . The stronger you get, the more acceptance you get.”’

Curran receives one hour of rehab twice a day at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital from Monday to Friday.

He spends his weekends at home and hopes to be released permanently from the hospital by mid-December.

Adjustments continue to be made to his home, where he lives with his wife, Shelley, and the couple’s 18-month-old boy, Quentin.
Doorways are being widened and his home is now accessible from the garage by wheelchair.

“You’re constantly changing things,” said Curran.
“Having a Disability is very expensive,” added Doucette.

Take Curran’s new wheelchair, for example. On Thursday, he received a state-of-the-art manual Kuschall wheelchair worth between $3,000 and $4,000. The chair was one of 15 donated to persons with spinal cord injury across Canada through a partnership of Invacare Canada and the Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion.

Curran is currently shopping around for a power wheelchair for outdoor travel.

He is determined to push himself as far as he can go. He is set on eventually driving again.

He knows his disability makes impossible a return to his job as an equipment operator at Atlantic Enterprises, where he buried telephone cables for Aliant before his accident. He is a red seal welder, but he doesn’t know if that occupation could become a viable option down the road.

For now, he is dealing with his daily challenges and gradual advancements.
“I don’t like looking ahead too far because you get worked up,” he said.

JIM DAY
The Guardian