“It’s 10:40am but the HandyDart is nowhere to be seen. I hurried into the Karen Magnussen Community Centre to find my colleague, Michael, waiting patiently on the bench just outside the indoor pool where the elderly held their water aerobics lessons every morning. Susan sticks her head out the door, dripping wet, with a disappointed look on her face and asks, “No show?” We shrug in synchronicity and just as we’re about to cancel the session for Scott, the bright yellow shuttle bus with pearly white accents pulls up outside the rec center and starts backing up into the driveway.”

Scott is a brain injury survivor. Now, with help, he’s also a fighter. For the past several weeks, Scott has been taking one-on-one lessons with Susan, his instructor, to help regain strength in his leg muscles following the brain injury a few years back. Michael and I help him Monday and Wednesday mornings at 10am sharp to take him into the pool for rehabilitation with an instructor at the community centre. He’s transported from his room at Evergreen House  to the pool via HandyDart and wheelchairs. When he tried to rejoin the rehab class after a long absence, Susan was unable to let him jump straight into group lessons.  Two years of mostly lying  despondent in bed allowed his legs to atrophy.  As a result, Vancouver Brain Injury Association paid for one-on-one instruction for Scott to prepare him to rejoin the class.  VBIA’s social work program provides whatever is missing.  Scott deserves a chance to walk again.

It’s been four weeks now. After twelve sessions, Susan decided that he had regained enough of his strength to join the group classes on Monday and Fridays. In the beginning we used a callable hoist that lifts him out of his wheelchair. Scott uses another wheelchair to enter the water. He then walks on his own using foam noodles that keep him afloat. Now, he’s built up enough strength in his legs to be able to stand with our help to hop out of one wheelchair and into another.

Despite our efforts, this will not be enough.   At the hospital Scott was denied participation in a physical rehab program.  Scott was despondent because someone determined that he was a “poor candidate” for rehabilitation. Someone decided Scott would never walk again. VBIA’s outreach worker thought differently. 

But all this progress could be curtailed. Someone has to pay for the recovery.

Brain injury is by far is the leading cause of death and the leading cause of permanent disability in Western countries. People recovering from brain injury, like Scott, typically require the attention of social workers, physical therapists, and physiatrists in order to recover fully  and perhaps be independent again.