Austin, Texas a visit to Ottobock

Marijo_Bryan2On Feb 12th of this year Marijo and I had the privilege to visit the Ottobock USA Head Office in Austin, Texas. We were there on an invite to see their facility as well as to have the opportunity to speak to their employees about our story. Although Marijo and I enjoy sharing our story, it was particularly rewarding to share with the very people who are behind allowing me the opportunity to set goals for myself and achieve a sense of independence.

Ottobock is the company that manufactures my prosthetics legs & feet that allow me not only to stand, but to enter into long distance events like the Ottawa 1/2 marathon that I completed this past September. I came in dead last but I felt like a winner!

Marijo_Bryan10.jpgThe beauty of this gang was they were not the folks that actually made prosthetics.  They were Management, Marketing, Accounting, Customer Service and HR – all the in behind the scene employees. It was enlightening to be able to share with them how they touch peoples lives. The thrust of my speech for this audience was that I wanted them to know that even though they think they manufacture arms and legs, what they really do is provide confidence, hope and independence. I felt it was also important for them to know that improving fit and comfort of our prosthetics is an area that needs research and development and to keep the avenues of communication open between them, the prosthetist and the end user.

Marijo_Bryan4At the end of the speech many questions were asked.We received many compliments by such warm, kind caring people. I think they were touched to have heard how what they do each day directly affected people like me.

Marijo_Bryan1.jpgOttobock has a huge wall of signatures of which I was proud that Marijo and I got to sign.

 

 

 

Mission accomplished …..time for a rest

Hi gang, Marijo and I have returned from the Ottawa Army run happy and satisfied that we each achieved our goals. I’m feeling terribly guilty for all the attention this event has garnered me. So now it’s time to simply say thank you for all the support. The cheers of encouragement and well wishes that we received before and after was amazing. The highlites of the race were numerous. From the start, to the oh my gosh I really have to do this, to meeting the Governor General at the 17km mark. It was quite an honor as I was really crashing and along side of the empty highway we were on stopped a motorcade of vehicles. It was just like out of the movies when the US president is being whipped into a location. Motorcycles, security cars, limos all with their lite flashing. Out pops David Johnston and the first thing he asked me was, was I tired? I told him it was nothing that a beer wouldn’t fix. He asked me if I had served in Afghanistan and upon saying no I very briefly told him my story. After leaving him Marie Andree (my physio therapist from Ottawa) and I continued on our way. Marie Andree was great as she continually deflected runners away from me during the race. She’s a great body guard. We met all our my family and friends at km 18 and proceeded to all walk to the finish line. Their support and encouragement got me through the last few kilometers.  The Army run folks looked after me so well. Police motorcycles and cars and medical vans never left me during the last 6km. I was on the CBC news cast that nite and the announcer said Terry Fox would have been proud….that was quite touching. There were so many people in the run that all had their own stories. So much inspiration and I was so happy to have been a little part of it. My time was 5 hrs and 40 seconds. I wanted to be under 5 hours so I will blame it all on the Governor General for holding me up….just kidding! My biggest thanks to my wife Marijo who supported me and enabled me the opportunity to walk each step of the way. She had to listen to me whine for 5 months…lol. So now for a little rest and time to figure out what the next adventure might be.

Failure is “Not” an option….is it?

shapeimage_4-1I once had a very smart sail racing coach tell me “it’s not the result, it’s the journey”. On Sept 20th a few short days away Marijo and I along with several family members and dear friends will participate in the Canada Army Run in Ottawa.  Flesh Eating disease robbed me of many things in life and caused some serious adjustment to even the simplest of tasks. On Sept 20th I get to claw one of these restrictions back from its grasp.

I never had the opportunity to run in a half marathon (21.1 km) as an able-bodied person.  This year in April after having completed my first 10 km as a disabled person I said to Marijo “What do you think…can I possibly do a half?”

I knew where I wanted to attempt to do this as I had participated a couple of times in the Ottawa Army Run in the 5 km portion.  I approached the facilitators of the run to see if it was even an option. They have been amazing at helping me to accomplish my goal. If I complete it , it will take approx 5 hrs. I’m thinking this pretty much guarantees me a last place finish. Since I get a 15 minute head start as I’m in the Ill and Injured category, I’ll likely be one of those rare athletes that will go from first to last in the same event. The only difference being is you are going to see a very big smile on my face when I cross the finish line.

I wanted to take a few moment to send out some thank yous to those who have worked to help me get ready for the big day:

  • Body Maintenance who has donated many free massages while I’ve been in training…thanks Cloud (yes, that’s her real name).
  • My Prosthetist Marty from Motion Specilalities in Kingston who has made many adjustments and implementations to my gear and who will also be running in the 1/2.
  • Marie Andree my Physiotherapist from Ottawa who will walk every step with me. She is an amazing inspirational person.
  • A special thanks to Michael Stashin a running guru from Ottawa who given me his time and  many mental theories to aid in my run.
  • To the surgeons in Kingston who told me 5 years ago I’d likely never walk I simply think of a Go Daddy commercial “STICK IT!” (just kidding ..they saved my life).
  • To all my friends and family who will be joining Marijo and I in this event and to all of those that have shouted out encouragement along the way I simply say a heart felt thank you.

I’ve run (ha…I really mean walked) over 250 km to prepare and we are all anxious and ready. IRUN aired me on TSN 1200 Ottawa if you might like to listen….just go to the 29 minute mark for my portion.

I really, really, really hope I can finish to the end point. I’m excited and pretty nervous. I’m simply going to think of those words I mentioned from my sailing race coach. That’s really what all of life is about.

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Army run 1/2 marathon training update

new shoesIt’s Bryan – the possibly foolish trialteral-amputee who’s looking forward to his very first 1/2 marathon. Since I signed up for the Ottawa Army Run 1/2 marathon I’ve logged 95 kilometers on #nikeplus. I am following a similar training schedule to an able-bodied runner, walking anywhere between 5 to 10 km runs each time. I have all the same issues able bodied runners have. I hit walls after certain distances, I ask myself “What in the world am I doing this for?”. I wonder if possibly I’m crazy.
At this point in my training I am struggling to get past 10km and I know I’ll have to cover more than twice that on run day. The main issues for me are my back and glutes get sore and also my one leg that wears a below knee prosthetic goes numb by about km 5. I think I have a hip flexer issue as well, which is slowing me down. The good thing is I feel guilty when I don’t train.
My spirits are up and I’m still looking forward to the day when I say to myself “Hey, you might just do this”. My biggest concern now is getting my time under the 13 minute mark per kilometer.
The Army run folks said I needed to stay ahead of the last police car (they were kidding…..right?) and have calculated that I have around 4.5 hrs to complete the race. Working with my prosthetist we are trying out a few leg combinations that will hopefully make things a bit more comfortable for me. My wife Marijo, who will be running in the 1.2, has been a big support in my training.
So now it’s July and its time to work on endurance. I need to get a few runs around the 2.5-3 hrs in duration. Happy training everyone!

5 years!! A reflection back

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Often in life we have milestones: our birth; first day of school; graduations; first car; first job; wedding and all the anniversaries that follow – and so on. My family always seemed to feel that the 5’s and 10’s were big deals. So today, I’m celebrating that I’ve reached the 5 year mark of having contracted necrotizing fasciitis. I feel so good about it that I’m giving everyone in the whole country a day off to celebrate with me!

I’d like to take some time to reflect back and think of what 5 years has brought me since the doctors told Marijo and my family that I was not likely to make it through the night on May 18th, 2010.

I’ve met so many people and many to thank along the way. First and foremost, my thanks to all the amazing medical staff that worked hard to save my life. The medical professionals that got me strong and back on my feet (well maybe not quite back on my feet). My family and friends were so important. I’m not sure I would have made it through without them. My biggest thanks is to my beautiful wife who had every right to say goodbye as it wasn’t exactly what she had signed up for.

In the past 5 years I gained 4 grandchildren (Hailey, Caryssa, Liam & Claire). All these beautiful children keep telling me they are going to find my legs and that I must have simply lost them. I still managed to go on a few airplane rides with Mj. I sailed on both coasts and several places in between. Marijo and I have had many opportunities to speak about my experience. I’ve can still ski and golf but not quite as well as I used to. I’ve gone in 5km walks and just recently did a 10km – call me crazy – but I’ve just signed up for my first 1/2 marathon in Ottawa in September. I went to college for two years to learn to cook (I needed to fatten Marijo up) and I think we have bought our forever home. I’m just about to be refitted with some very cool high tech legs.

I love life, yes I miss my legs but as I (we) move forward I know there are still many life adventures in front of us. Thanking all of you that touched my life and helped my along this path. It’s so important to smile and be thankful.

Bryan

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Musings of an Amputee

It’s certainly been awhile since I’ve last written and there’s much to catch up on. My good friend Ron Gray used to tell me that denim shrinks in the winter….it’s true! After not having worn my left prosthetic leg for almost a year I tried it on one day and my belly overflowed the top of the portion I sit in. I was mortified and Marijo simply said it appears you might have put on some weight dear or she said I was fat…can’t remember exactly. I’ve never been big in my life and immediately I vowed  to get in shape. I’ve always been stats or goal driven thus I wondered if I trained three to four times a week I might possibly be ready for the Pitter Patter run held at Loyalist college put on by Belleville Community Policing. I wanted to try to see if I could go ten kilometers. I trained covering almost 100km by race day. My brother-in-law, David, walked beside me and I started 1hr 15 mins ahead of the start time to ensure I would finish with the able-bodied racers.

Success! We completed it in 2:04:57. Last year in Ottawa at the Army run my time was 1:06:54 for 5km as I wondered if I could ever eclipse the hour mark. My little grandson Liam who’s 3 1/2 accidentally tripped me as I was 5 yards from the finish line.

 Thanks to all the surgeons, doctors and physio therapists who allowed this to all happen. Next walking event is the Army run in Ottawa in SeptSo whats next the 1/2 marathon I never went in?

Other notes : I’m pretty sure I’ve completed my Culinary course at Loyalist finishing up my year with a final mark of 73%. I will miss my chefs who taught me so much and wish my fellow classmates all the very best in their Culinary careers. The school bent over backwards to accommodate my disability and the most touching thing said to me was by Chef John who said “your family now…there’s always a place here for you”. Thank you Chef John and Chef Karin for being people that enrich the lives of others.

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Sailing is still my passion, especially racing but it has taken another small detour. I’ve decided after joining Nepean last year that I will try the Kingston Yacht Club (KYC).  This year as well as sailing in the Martin 16 I will start training in the 2.4mr which is a small single seat sailboat that’s used in the Paralympics.

Funny story…..I had a digital receiver box from Cogeco that I had on a six month “free” promotion and was using it with a second tv in our home. well we simply weren’t watching the tv and I decided to return the digital receiver box to cogeco at the mall. They said were sorry sir but you can’t return this untl May 23rd or we will have to charge you a $75 early cancellation fee…..but I said it was free….go figure.

I’ve been in touch with a young lady Sarah Stott in Ottawa who was waitressing in Montreal this past December. After her work shift she was going home crossed some train tracks and got both her legs severed and both hands and figures were affected. I hope I can give her some encouragement and advice…..stay tuned.

And finally Marijo & I, in a quest to escape snow and ice, have rented a place in Texas near San Antonio for the winter of 2016. We are really looking forward to the adventure – and, of course, the warmer weather.

Go Habs Go

2,280 hrs (Stir Crazy & Disabled)

snowchairwinterMost of the people that will read this blog post are not disabled. I thought I might share with you some of the challenges of being disabled. 2,280 hours (stated in the title) is approximately 4 months of winter. A big chunk of this time many people in wheelchairs cannot venture outside due to ice and snow. For perspective, my Montreal Canadians in playing an 82 game schedule will consume 205 of these hours. In the winter months when you are confined to a wheelchair in Ontario, your disability becomes much more prohibitive.

I use a powerchair outside. When winter comes, bringing ice, slush and snow, I get stuck often. Trails, sidewalks and roads become unusable, not to mention it can be quite cold.  I’m a pretty active guy so going for walks (I roll) with my wife and dog are essential to my mental well-being and not just in winter. Everyone one of us can get a bit stir crazy in the winter months, but being in need of a wheelchair magnifies the issue.

So back to my quest. There are powerchairs out there that will do the job. The Extreme 8 and Cajun Commando are a couple that I have found. Likely many others exist. The drawback is that they are very expensive. I demo’d the Extreme 8  yesterday at  Motion Specialties (the mobility shop I use here in Belleville). It was perfect. It went through snow. I easily went up a slippery, icy hill and even climbed a curb. In my current chair, I often get stuck on the flat surface of my driveway.

I’ll take it!!! How much I ask?

I’m told “It’s a bit over $15,000. But we don’t charge HST on disability devices”. I thought to myself “Well if there’s no HST then give me two (sarcastically said). Just for info – a fully-loaded John Deere ATV with a snowplow comes in at around the same price. BUT – hold it – my mistake. I’m sure they charge HST.

Further discussion:

Sales person: “Umm, I’m afraid they don’t come with batteries, that’s extra”.

“Gosh.” I said. “Well how much is a battery?” I’m told it’s $280 dollars and… umm… it requires two.

Okay. I just recently bought a battery for my small SUV vehicle and paid $120.

Further discussion:

Sales person: “Will you be wanting a seat with your wheel chair and possibly a back rest?”

I’m standing there on one prosthetic leg thinking of my response when the sales person said we can get you both of those items for $1,500. Hmm….I was pretty sure you could go to Leon’s and get a beautiful couch for that price and they would even throw in a 40″ LED TV. Chair value now over $17,000!

Here’s the issues. When you are in need of a wheelchair in Ontario there is an organization called ADP  (Assistive Devices Program), it’s the equivalent to OHIP but in the disabled world. They will fund a significant portion of an “approved” chair. They will not fund a chair that is not on their approved list. In turn most private insurance companies will not fund once they see that ADP won’t approve. Bottom line power wheelchairs that have been designed to take on the winter challenges that come around once a year will “not” get funding and the disabled person is on their own to pick up the tab.  When I asked about ADP’s policy I was told the following.

ADP funds only for basic mobility in the home including entry and exit of the home. Basically, essential mobility only. They may recognize that going out to work, for education or for leisure is important but they will not fund it. Again, basic mobility, not quality of life.

So my government agency, ADP, cares that I get out of my home and back in but should I wish to head down the road to go to work or get on a city bus – or simply just get some fresh air, I’m on my own.

This leaves charitable organizations, fund raising or self funds to solve the concerns of expense.  I’m going to try to fight government and unfair policies. I want the ability to function in the same world that a person with two healthy legs can. Even though my injuries are of the physical nature my mental well being far outweighs it all when I become housebound. They know it’s Bryan Cuerrier don’t they?

stuck in the snow……Bryan