After a snowmobile accident in 2007—one that left me with a bad leg, complete with a titanium kneecap and 33 pins and screws holding all the bones together—I spent six months as an outpatient at Providence Care’s St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital (SMOL) learning how to walk again.
It was a slow, frustrating process. Day one: “Stand up! That’s your day.” Day two: “Stand up! Now take two steps. That’s your day.” By day twelve, though, I was taking a whole bunch of steps.In time, I went back to my normal life. I even became a more skilled hockey player: scored more goals and picked fewer fights.
When I returned to SMOL, unexpectedly, in the summer of 2016—this time as an inpatient, having lost my right leg (the good one) above the knee in a motorcycle accident—I knew the road to recovery would be tough.
But I was a firefighter before I ever became an amputee. With help from the rehabilitation team at Providence Care I had high hopes of being one again.
And it was just like 2007 all over again. Who knew learning to do simple things could be so frustrating or that navigating a wheelchair in a kitchen could be so difficult. Getting a drink out of the fridge, pouring it into a cup, bumping into doors and countertops, spilling things—it was all tough.
I was champing at the bit to get my prosthetic leg but I needed time to heal. At Providence Care they helped me set weekly goals and when I sped past them they would adjust the schedule: slowing me down when I was over-doing it, but letting me fly through therapy at my own pace, too.
All the while they gave me hope and steady encouragement. They believed in me and made my goal their goal. “If anyone is going to be able to do this, Mike,” they said, “it’s you!”
And I did it. I am coming up on the first anniversary of my return to active duty as Canada’s only above-the-knee amputee firefighter.
These days I do check-ups at the Providence Care Hospital. This new hospital is a great place for patients and staff: the gym, all the new equipment, the larger therapy spaces and wider hallways. But the people are the same and I know that when I look back on all of this as I get older it will always be the people who helped me, and gave me hope, that I will remember the most.
Like the pressure bandages that help to shape a stump—toughening it up to receive a prosthetic so you can walk again—the staff at Providence Care were instrumental in helping me to shape the new life I am happily living today to its fullest.