In 2010, the Urban Futures Institute estimated that 600 new spinal cord injuries occur each year in Ontario, and that over 33,000 Ontarians were living with spinal cord injuries at that time. The most common cause? “Unintentional falls” and motor vehicle accidents, which together account for 85 per cent of all spinal injuries in Ontario. These injuries can occur at any time and effect any one.
Anthony Simas knows this better than most. At 17, he slipped on his pool deck and broke his neck when he landed in the water. Today, Anthony is a “C5 incomplete quadriplegic,” meaning he has full head and neck movement and muscle range in his upper-body, but has lost function of his legs. Now in his 20s, Anthony has become an advocate for victims of spinal cord injuries.
Spinal Cord Injury Ontario – which works to assist people with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities to achieve independence and full community participation – says that it takes the average spinal injury victim between two and three years to attain “sufficient independence.” That generally involves a period of acute hospitalization followed by an extended period of intensive rehabilitation therapy. At Toronto Rehab, where Anthony went through his rehabilitation, this process usually lasts 50 to 60 days, after which patients are discharged.
While rehab and hospitalization can be painful, exhausting experiences, the process of reintegrating into the community can be equally overwhelming. For victims of spinal cord injuries, re-entry into the community essentially means learning to live a new life.
That’s why Anthony partnered with Toronto Rehab’s Lyndhurst Centre and UHN OpenLab to develop and launch a spinal injury-specific version of the Patient Oriented Discharge Summary (PODS). The tool, developed by Toronto Rehab, “facilitates a more patient-centred discharge for spinal cord injury patients during the transition from hospital to home,” according to a recent UHN article.
“There are so many physical and emotional challenges for patients returning home, and sometimes they have not begun the process of grieving the loss of their mobility,” Sandra Mills, Patient and Family Educator at Toronto Rehab, told UHN.ca. “They’ve participated in intensive rehab where healthcare professionals are readily available. Going home post-injury is a huge adjustment and accepting that life will be different than it was before is part of the adjustment process.”
Briefly, PODS are designed to help make the transition from rehab to everyday life as painless as possible. They ensure easy access to resources like telephone contact lists, and equip patients with information on a variety of subjects, including short-term care plans; medication; signs, symptoms and pain management; outpatient referrals; and follow-up appointments. Each patient’s PODS is completed at a pre-discharge, patient-led meeting between a member of the healthcare team, a neutral facilitator, and the patient themselves.
From January to March 2015, Anthony Simas helped launch a pilot PODS program tailored to the needs of victims of spinal cord injuries. Under the program, PODS meetings also included patient advisors who offered practical advice to soon-to-be-discharged injury victims.
“There are so many things to consider once you’re on your own but you don’t think to ask until you’re faced with the situation – for example, whether you know how to jump a curb, roll up and down ramps or what to do if your wheelchair breaks down,” Simas’ told UHN.ca. “It’s also a lot easier to speak with another person with a spinal cord injury about more sensitive topics like catheterization. Having the support of a patient advisor in your discharge meeting offers a sense of comfort and support that you wouldn’t get otherwise.”
If you or a member of your family has suffered a spinal cord injury, you may be entitled to compensation which will help you follow the long path to recovery. Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
On July 4, 2016 – the Monday following the Canada Day long weekend – eleven pedestrians and nine cyclists were struck in 18 separate motor vehicle collisions around the City of Toronto. One 73-year-old cyclists was killed near the intersection of Kipling Ave and Brookemere Rd, and a second cyclist in his seventies was killed the next day near Dupont and Christie.
The exceptionally dangerous day for Toronto’s pedestrians and cyclists came at a politically relevant moment: next week, City Council is set to debate a new road safety plan unveiled last month by Mayor John Tory and Ward 25 Don Valley West Councillor Jaye Robinson, who is also council’s public works chair.
Robinson told the Toronto Star that Monday’s motor vehicle collisions are “a clear indication that we have to get the (road safety plan) into action now. Clearly, the status quo is not effective in reducing collisions and improving safety for vulnerable road users, meaning pedestrians, cyclists and seniors.”
Unfortunately the number of motor vehicle collisions which occurred on July 4, though unusual, is not unprecedented. Twenty-two pedestrians and one cyclist have already been killed in Toronto this year, and the city is on pace to match the 40 pedestrians who died in 2013, the highest number in a decade. Since the end of May, 70 pedestrians have been hit by cars in Toronto, and 50 cyclists were struck during the month of June, alone.
“It’s hard to ignore numbers like these,” Kasia Briegmann-Samson, whose husband died after being struck by a car while riding his bike in 2012, told the Star. “It’s extremely sad if it takes 20 people being injured or killed in one day to make things happen. Every single one of these deaths are preventable. Every single one.”
Briegmann-Samson’s view is shared by Matts-Ake Belin, a traffic safety strategist with the Swedish Transport Administration and a principle architect of the “Vision Zero” road safety program that aims to eliminate road fatalities in different jurisdictions around the world. “You have to raise the needs of the unprotected road users,” Belin told the Globe and Mail. “You have to put them higher and their needs higher up in the discussion about how you want to plan your urban environment.”
Mayor Tory and Councillor Robinson’s road safety plan did not initially adhere to the “zero fatality” ideology, aiming instead to reduce serious injuries and deaths by 20 per cent over 10 years. In response to criticism, Robinson quickly amended the $68-million strategy to include a zero fatality goal. The plan has also been criticized as reactive for focusing specifically on identified danger spots – intersections and stretches of roads where vulnerable road users have already been killed – rather than addressing city-wide issues.
While the road safety plan is argued in city council, Toronto’s streets remain an unacceptably dangerous place for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike. Serious motor vehicle collisions are a common occurrence, and can have a profound effect on peoples’ lives. If you or a member of your family has been injured in a car accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers for a free, no-obligation consultation.