Spinal Cord Injury Ontario

Voices Blog

Lifting his Spirits

Robert in wheelchair lift with John from Silver Cross

John from Silver Cross and a happy Robert

After months of living in a worldwide pandemic, most of us are tired of being stuck at home — unable to go about as you wish, grab groceries, shop, run errands or see family and friends. People with an SCI have had to be even more diligent due to the increased risk of complications from COVID-19.

For Robert, it wasn’t just the pandemic keeping him home. When his porch lift broke he was stuck inside indefinitely — not even able to go outside to enjoy the weather. More importantly, he couldn’t make it to his various medical appointments. His wife had also come to rely on the lift after a stroke had decreased her mobility. They struggled to find a solution.

Robert has encountered his fair share of struggles. With the limitations of Canada Pension Plan Disability, he has dipped into his savings many times to cover expenses and has had to forego daily living needs to purchase equipment and medical essentials. There was a time when he put his dental care on hold for over five years so he could pay for much-needed repairs to his wheelchair.

“I had a car accident in 1991, in my early 20s, and sustained a spinal cord injury. With no insurance available, life was very tough financially as well as physically and emotionally. I struggled with depression as well as other health issues and even contemplated suicide.” confessed Robert.

However, things took a positive turn for Robert after he started working with SCIO’s London area Regional Services Coordinator, Elizabeth Zarnowiecki. “I met Elizabeth over 10 years ago and she changed my life.”

Over the years, he and Elizabeth have formed a strong bond and been an effective problem-solving team. They’ve secured donated items or purchased used items to minimize costs, while at the same time ensuring his health and physical needs are met.

Elizabeth offered Robert a donated used porch lift six years ago and Robert’s diligent care and maintenance kept the lift working much longer than expected. However, after many repairs, it was no longer reliable and would often halt at various stages of operation. Replacement parts became unavailable for this model which posed a serious concern for Robert given his chronic medical issues. He had to cancel multiple specialist appointments with his family health team which put his health at greater risk.

Once again, he turned to Elizabeth and she sprang into action. She contacted suppliers, reviewed used equipment listings and recruited SCIO Resource Development Officer, Sheila Daniel, to help explore funding options. Thanks to the team’s hard work and perseverance, they secured funding from the Jack and Barbara Hay Foundation — a small London area community foundation. As a result of the foundation’s generosity and with a little help from Silver Cross, Robert and his wife now have a working porch lift and can safely leave their home and attend their vital medical appointments.

Robert is thrilled with his new porch lift and his spirits are lifted.

“Elizabeth helped me get the funding I needed for supplies and equipment and even helped me get into a power wheelchair when I needed one. She checks in and helps me talk through how I am feeling. I always feel better after her visits. I don’t know where I would be today if not for the support I receive from Elizabeth and Spinal Cord Injury Ontario.”

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