Jan 3 2021
We received this thoughtful announcement from a dear thespian friend, James Sanders, whose work has made theatre in Vancouver accessible to all. With James’ permission, we share this in full with you:
IT’S MY 30-YEAR CRASHIVERSARY!
Sometime around 1 AM on December 31, 1990, I enjoyed the full use of my spinal cord for the last time. I used it to communicate an idea from my brain to my legs that I should stand on a railing 6 feet off the ground and dive headfirst into roughly 3 feet of snow.
Turns out that was a bad idea. It completely horrified my girlfriend (who was present and took this picture), devastated my family, and forever changed the overall course of my life.
I rarely talk about this. Partly because I don’t think it’s a very interesting story but mostly because I believe the circumstances around a life-altering injury are weighted disproportionately against the total set of life experiences. The moment of an injury is a flash, barely remembered. I’ve had much deeper and longer-lasting regrets over bombing auditions or missing opportunities I wasn’t prepared for. And I’ve spent infinitely more time grieving the loss of others than missing my old able-bodied self.
But, holy shit, 30 years is a long time. That’s as old as my van! And I’m compelled to share.
I honestly never thought I would get to this stage of life. There were two trains of thought that arrived at my rehab station: my lifespan had been cut in half but a cure was only 10 years around the corner. Well, bullshit to both! I’m likely to live just as long as you are and a cure for a spinal cord injury is about as easy as colonizing Mars. Nice to fantasize about but don’t put your house on the market.
I’d sometimes get caught up in all sorts of cause and effect computations: If I hadn’t been injured, I wouldn’t have met that person, done that thing, or become the inspirational being that I am. Bullshit again! I would have done different things with different people at different times. Sure, perhaps somewhere the multi-verse would have offered an easier, less restricted lifestyle but, in all likelihood, I could have just as easily lost my life at my next reckless stunt.
I think about how I feel today, that on my 30-year anniversary of my initiation into disabled life, I probably feel like most of you feel on this reflective day of the year. I’m fucking tired. I’m exhausted with all the shit that’s been thrown at us this year. I’ve had enough and I want it all to go away.
Ah, but life is always going to be full of problems and solutions will often be elusive. So I’m not making any resolutions for actions or predictions for the future. I’m simply going to commit to live life in the most efficient way possible: Don’t worry, be happy. And wear lots of sunscreen.
May 11 2021
A second massive wave of the COVID pandemic swept through India and its neighbours. We received updates from two medical directors: SIRC’s Dr Raju Dhakal (Nepal) and ISIC’s Dr Harvinder Chhabra (India). The citizens of both countries were suffering severely, and hospitals could not keep up with the flow of often very ill people. From the Kathmandu Post: “The second wave of the coronavirus has engulfed Nepal as well. Hospital beds have filled up, ventilators and oxygen supplies are running out. Patients are dying in some hospitals for lack of oxygen. There is no vaccine. The last three months were largely unutilised by the government in diversifying vaccine procurement, as it was apparently complacent for having the world’s largest vaccine maker as its next door neighbour.” (While the initial vaccine supply was from India’s Serum Institute at a reasonable price, India now needed all it could make and negotiations were under way with China on a grant, and Russia at a higher price, among others.)
From Dr Raju: “SIRC is actively functioning despite a second wave tsunami of COVID throughout the country. A lockdown has been declared again to minimize the contact and transmission of new variant of Corona Virus for patients, caregivers, staff and in the community. We are still continuously providing comprehensive rehabilitation to the people with spinal cord injury and brain injury. About 75% of the staff were vaccinated earlier this year. All the guidelines of infection prevention and control are in hand. We are providing the medical and nursing care, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and psychological counselling to the COVID and non-COVID patient with different dedicated teams. In addition to regular therapy, we have been providing group exercises for COVID-positive patients and caretakers outdoors where they get enough sun exposure and fresh air of nature which help them to feel tranquillizing effect. This reduces their psychological stress and promote wellbeing. Cafeteria is running well. Shuttle staff bus has been used.”
From Dr Groves, co-author of their COVID paper published earlier this year: “A team effort in Nepal: experiences from managing a large COVID-19 rehabilitation hospital outbreak”: “The lockdown in Kathmandu is strict. People are allowed out only from 07:00-09:00 daily for food shopping. The main COVID-accepting hospitals are full and also without oxygen, leading to preventable deaths.”
We spoke over Zoom with Dr Harvinder Chhabra, Medical Director of the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, himself recovering from COVID infection despite vaccination. Under government edict, they had to markedly reduce the spinal activity and admit COVID patients, most of their almost 200 beds filled with people needing oxygen which was in very short supply, delivering only about 1/3 of their oxygen needs. Receiving no government funding and because also of the marked reduction in normal activity they were, as with Nepal’s SIRC, under financial stress. Their immediate need was for 27 ventilators to be able to meet the needs of the sicker COVID patients.
“You are doubtless aware of the incredible suffering as COVID sweeps through India and Nepal. Their public health services are rudimentary and people are dying for lack of medical care, particularly for lack of breathing equipment and oxygen, for lack of drugs and access to beds. Only 7-11% of the populations have had even a single shot.”
This was the introduction to a letter we sent out to Vancouver’s former spine fellows and to members of the Canadian Spine Society. Working with the administration of both the Indian Spinal Injury Centre and Nepal’s SIRC we raised funds to be now divided between both.
Oct 11 2021 – Happy Dashain!
This summer’s major COVID ‘wave’ finally settled, being well-managed at SIRC, which was able, with precautions, to maintain the flow of admissions of people needing post-SCI rehabilitation.
Dr Jas Gurung passed his final exams, successfully bringing to a close his years of rehab residency in Dhaka. Good news also for Raju and Sheela – Sheela was appointed to a position with HI in Kathmandu at a location fairly close to home.