The parking lot behind the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre in Halifax bustled with activity Sunday afternoon, as people prepared to run, walk and wheel for a good cause.
Michael and Alvina LeBlanc decided to participate in the weekend event because they wanted to give something back to the Rick Hansen Man In Motion Foundation.
Their 28-year-old son, Daniel, was in a dirt-bike accident almost two years ago that left him paralyzed from the Adam’s apple down.
Now, he is in an electric wheelchair – which is controlled by his mouth – similar to the one Christopher Reeves used, and uses a new, cutting-edge device called a diaphragmatic pacer to help him breathe without the use of a Ventilator.
“It’s incredible,” Mr. LeBlanc said. “It’s really changed his lifestyle a lot.”
After the LeBlancs heard about the experimental pacer, they approached the Rick Hansen foundation in August for help in getting one for Daniel.
With the assistance of the foundation and many other organizations, the LeBlancs managed to raise almost $28,000 that was needed to pay for the device and the required surgical procedure.
The experimental pacer is only available at the University Hospital of Cleveland, and at the time of his surgery, Daniel was one of only 19 people in the world to have received the device, his father said.
By January, Daniel had had the procedure, and just three weeks later, he was able to breathe on his own with the help of the pacer.
“His first words when they had the pacer first turned on . . . were ‘I’m so happy.’ It was a great feeling for all of us,” said Mr. LeBlanc.
Since 1988, the foundation has devoted itself to improving the lives of Canadians with similar injuries.
According to the Canadian Paraplegic Association, 35,000 Canadians have some degree of paralysis due to a spinal cord injury.
When Rick Hansen was 15 years old, he was in a car accident that left him a paraplegic.
But he turned his tragedy into triumph, not only going on to become a world-class athlete but wheeling around the globe to raise money and awareness for spinal cord injury.
In 2003, the Rick Hansen foundation launched the Wheels in Motion event, which takes place across Canada every year.
Daniel, who now lives in British Columbia, participated in the Wheels in Motion event in his area.
In Nova Scotia, the event was held at eight different locations.
Ed Joyce, chairman of the Halifax-area event, estimated more than 200 participants were registered in metro, raising over $18,000. Mr. Joyce said that amount would likely increase, as a main sponsor of the event, Scotiabank, usually makes a significant donation.
Not including funds from this year’s event, Mr. Joyce said Wheels in Motion has raised almost $3.6 million.
Laughie Rutt, regional executive director of the Canadian Paraplegic Association, said the organization supports the Wheels in Motion event because it gets their members involved in the community.
“This event is good because it’s a participatory event – people can get out and walk and roll and it’s good for health promotion and fitness.”
Mr. Rutt said involving family and friends in the event is also important.
“Spinal cord injury is not about just you. Spinal cord injury affects your family and your immediate circle, even the people you work with.”
By HOLLY FRAUGHTON