On 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!
The 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.
At 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.
Ottobock has a huge wall of signatures of which I was proud that Marijo and I got to sign.
I 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.
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.
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 Sept. So 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.
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
Thanks to Marty, my Prosthetist, I can now use outriggers for Sit-skiing, which will hopefully allow me to ski unassisted in the future. The custom outrigger is for my left arm. It’s the same design as my crutch that allows me to walk. It has a socket that the remainder of my arm can rest in that is attached to an outrigger like the one that I use on my right arm.
Bruce, my instructor, in the C.A.D.S. Program, is an amazing guy – instructing me to become independent.
Our goal one day is for Marijo and I to get back on the bigger ski hills together – something we had never imagined was possible.
Marijo was learning to tether me today – which is like keeping me on a long leash – sort of like real life. 🙂 She hopes to take the instructors courses over the next few winters to ensure we are as safe as possible when skiing.
Bryan and one of the nurses that cared for him while in ICU in the very room that was our home for 3 weeks in 2010.
It’s Marijo blogging tonight. 🙂
Today we had the privilege of speaking about our journey to a group of medical professionals at Kingston General Hospital. As we were wandering the hospital heading towards the auditorium, we ran into one of the intensive care nurses that had cared for Bryan when he was very ill. I remember her well as she comforted me many nights by Bryan’s bedside. Today she brought us into ICU for a visit and we got to visit the very room that Bryan spent 3 weeks in fighting for his life. Bryan doesn’t remember any of it as he was in a coma, but I remember it vividly. What an incredible journey we have been on since being in that room. Many of the nurses remembered Bryan and were visibly joyous to see him living and breathing right in front of their very eyes. The intensive care staff rarely get to see a patient once they leave the unit and we are always met with big smiles when we visit.
The speech went very well, except for the video sound not working properly, so we have posted the video below for anyone who was there so that they can review it with the proper audio. This is the second time we have spoken at KGH and it is always a highlight for us. It’s almost like coming home. We had decided that after this speech we were hanging up our speaking hats for a bit. We still will do the odd one (anyone know Oprah or Ellen?) – but our lives are moving on and with it, it’s time to put that chapter behind us.