“Within a matter of hours, my legs became very weak, and I developed excruciating back pain. Soon, I couldn’t feel my legs at all.”
I’m sharing my personal medical story with you in the hopes that you’ll consider supporting the Health Sciences Centre Foundation. I also hope that people reading my story will be inspired to push through times of adversity and strive to live life to its fullest, regardless of what obstacles they may face.
In October 2020, when I was 27-years-old, I went to an urgent care centre feeling unwell. I felt achy, nauseous, and had a high fever. Given that this was during the COVID-19 pandemic and I had been working in the hospital as a medical student, I remember thinking that I most likely had the virus or maybe the flu. I thought I’d be treated for dehydration, offered some type of pain relief, and be sent home to recover. In reality, I stayed in the hospital and wouldn’t be sent home for two months.
While at urgent care, my condition worsened quickly and dramatically. I remember the difficulty I had transferring from the stretcher onto the CT scanner. Within a matter of hours, my legs became very weak and I developed excruciating back pain. Soon, I couldn’t feel my legs at all.
It became clear that I required specialized care and I was sent to Health Sciences Centre by ambulance. Once at HSC, an MRI showed that I had transverse myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord). After more testing was completed, I learned what had caused the inflammation. I was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack itself. The doctors explained that my newly diagnosed SLE caused a spinal cord injury that resulted in my paralysis.
The explanation of the disease, its impact on my body, and the road of recovery that lie ahead were made very clear to me by the doctors at HSC. I knew the importance of this clarity as a medical learner who would normally be explaining things to patients, but now I was the patient lying in the bed and my dreams of becoming a plastic surgeon were dwindling.
What followed my diagnosis was more testing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, pain management, rounds of steroid treatments, and regular plasmapheresis (removing and replacing blood plasma). As the COVID-19 pandemic intensified, I faced many of these days without the support of family and friends.
Throughout my diagnosis and recovery, the care and companionship I received from the staff at HSC were outstanding. Each person who supported me was skilled, compassionate, and present. During some of the hardest days of the pandemic, they persevered, and patient care remained their number one priority.
Once my condition was stable, I was transferred to the Rehabilitation Hospital at HSC. I went through intensive therapy to help me recover my strength and I attempted to gain as much mobility as possible. While in rehab, I was told that it could take up to four months before I would be discharged, but I wouldn’t accept this timeline and my therapists and I made it a goal for me to be home by Christmas. With the amazing support of the therapists at HSC, I worked hard and was discharged near the beginning of December.
Since being discharged from hospital, my life looks a lot different than it did when I walked into urgent care in October 2020. I’ve learned how to use a wheelchair, drive with my hands, and have created a new medical career path for myself. In 2022, I graduated from the Max Rady College of Medicine. Although I was unable to pursue my original dreams of becoming a plastic surgeon due to the difficulty of operating in a wheelchair, I found a new love in the speciality of radiology. I credit the radiologists at HSC with taking the time to thoroughly understand and diagnose my condition so the right treatment plan could be put in place. Since my diagnosis I’ve had a passion and desire to do the same for my patients.
I am now working as a radiology resident, I married my wonderful partner Trevor, and we are building a home together in Oak Bluff. Every day isn’t easy for me and I have to overcome barriers on most of my days, but from the moment I started my recovery I have battled through adversity and I wake up every day determined to have the best outlook on life possible.
I encourage you to support the HSC Foundation’s Operation Excellence campaign. HSC’s people are gifted and passionate. With your support, we can make sure that they have the best equipment and spaces possible so they can do even more for the Manitobans in their care.
Thank you for your consideration. I wish you a happy holiday season!
P.S. You can learn more about the transformational Operation Excellence campaign at OperationExcellence.ca.