ATV accident victim on road to recovery

Published: January 19, 2009  |  Source: orilliapacket.com
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‘It’s amazing how she’s tackling’ tragedy

After a tragic summer accident 18-year-old Tyhme Thompson was told that she would never walk again.

“My surgeon told me I was complete, so what happens is a complete spinal injury means you won’t walk. That’s what it means,” said the Orillia teen.

“But, the doctor said ‘Please do; prove me wrong,'” said Thompson’s dad, Mike. “It’s hope and persistence that wins the battle.”

Thompson and friends decided to go ATVing during a trip to Haliburton. Thompson was driving; a helmet was securely fastened on her head. She remembers flying off the ATV, landing directly on a rock and shattering discs in her back.

“I was awake through everything, so I remember it happening,” she said. “I felt that crack and I felt (my back) instantly go numb. I couldn’t feel half my chest all the way down and I was hyperventilating. They said at the hospital if I wasn’t wearing a helmet I would have broke my neck.”

Since the July accident Thompson has been fighting the battle every day.

She now travels her hometown of Orillia by wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down.

A long scar lines the middle of her back where surgeons worked to fuse together remaining discs, added two rods, 11 bolts and a metal disc to replace the ones that “blew up.”

“I can feel muscles, I can feel charlie horses, I can feel when (my legs) are tight, but I can’t feel if you touch them and I can’t move,” said the former student of Orillia District Collegiate and Vocational Institute. “Everything has changed 100 per cent.”

Before the accident, Thompson led a very active life. While growing up in Orillia, she played house league soccer, swam with the Orillia Channel Cats competitively, played baseball and competed with the Orillia Rowing Club. She was also on the Orillia Warrior Rugby team and the Severn River Rowing Club.

A busy personal schedule didn’t stop Thompson from volunteering at the Orillia YMCA, for the City of Orillia Parks and Recreation and the Triathlon Team.

Since the accident, she has spent weekdays at the Lyndhurst Centre, with the Toronto Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Program; however that 90-day government program ended in November. The program helped her gain more feeling in her abs. To continue physiotherapy, Thompson has to pay out of her own pocket.

Thompson works with a personal trainer at the YMCA, is also actively involved in wheelchair sports and uses therapeutic machines and does stretches and weights in her home daily.

The Thompson family has purchased a standing frame for $10,000, which holds Tyhme upright for an hour a day.

“In a spinal injury or even brain injury, people really need to put weight bearing on their feet,” said Thompson’s mom, Linda. “It helps prevent osteoporosis and helps with calcium in your body.”

Thompson is also getting a specialized bike machine — at a cost of about $22,000 –which will send shock waves to her muscles to stimulate them.

“No one understands the spinal cord because there’s so many different nerves and it changes for different people, so when you are complete you can’t walk, you can’t move, you can’t feel, but it changes depending on” individual bodies.

In hopes of gaining more movement or feeling in her lower body, Thompson will be heading to California and staying for the entire month of February. At Project Walk, Spinal Cord Injury Recovery, she will undergo several hours of “intense physiotherapy” five days a week.

“They don’t promise you anything, but … when you go in the gym they limit the use of your chair as much as possible and you try and do everything on your own,” she said. “Most places, they want to adapt you into society with your wheelchair, but they focus you on getting out of it.”

Staying active gives Thompson a better chance of gaining movement or feeling in the lower half of her body, and in the future if she can walk again, it will keep her bones and muscles healthy.

“They say the first six months, you’re supposed to work your hardest to try and gain as much as you can,” she said.

“If anything, we would like to see Tyhme physically healthy and to maintain what she can gain,” said Linda. “It means a lot even to gain a little.”

Janet Dixon, a friend of the Thompson family, has set up a trust fund to help the family with specialized rehabilitation to keep her active inside and outside her home.

“She is a very inspiring young lady,” Dixon said. “She really has a lot of spunk and she has held her head up so high through this; it’s really amazing how she’s tackling it.”

Thompson hopes to head to university in the fall, but before she does, she will push her body as hard as she can to prove her doctor wrong. She also wishes to attend Project Walk for a second time before school begins.

“I just think about what I can do,” Thompson said about staying positive.

“The more you do, the more you feel better about yourself and you just keep going in hopes of soon it will all work out in the end.”

Donations can be made at any TD Canada Trust. The account number is 059626395066. Donations can be made payable to Mike and Linda Thompson in the name of Tyhme Thompson.

By SARA ROSS, THE PACKET AND TIMES