One step at a time

“I wouldn’t be walking today if it wasn’t for the staff at Parkwood,” says Lynda Vanderaa, who was initially left paralyzed in both legs following a car accident.

It was the summer of 2008 when a car that Lynda was travelling in hit some gravel and went off the road. She spent two weeks in hospital in Toronto, and then as the sensation in her legs slowly returned, she was transferred to Parkwood Institute.

Lynda Vanderaa sitting in her home reading a book.
Lynda Vanderaa is an avid reader who enjoys sitting down with a good book.

Lynda admits just how scary the accident was for her. She had lost her husband about 18 months before, and she knew she had to find the resolve to get through another difficult life event.

While at Parkwood Lynda undertook a wide range of therapy. The care teams taught her how to stand, how to brush her hair and her teeth, how to get dressed and how to walk again. She participated in group sessions and also spent dedicated time in the therapy room and pool.

“The therapy I received at Parkwood was exceptional,” she says. “And the constant encouragement was not just from staff, but from other patients. I’d see the same people doing therapy every day, and we soon became each other’s cheerleaders – that was a big part of my recovery.”

“It may seem minor for other people, but when you are doing therapy and one day you can take two more steps than the day before, it is a big deal,” she added.

It’s because of this care experience that Lynda began making donations to St. Joseph’s Spinal Cord Injury Program.

Lynda Vanderaa in her home watering her plants.
Lynda's rehabilitation and houseplants from injury has afforded her the ability to continue gardening  continue appreciating life's joys.

“The staff were just so helpful with my recovery and because of that, I like to give back and donate to help other people,” she says.

Finding herself next to a Veteran while doing her therapy from time to time, she grew to learn more about the Veterans Care Program and it reconfirmed her immense gratitude for what they do for the country. And it inspired her to also donate to that program. 

“I got to know about the Veterans Care Program and I was so thankful for all of the Veterans and for all they have done for us, we need to acknowledge them,” she says.

After eight weeks in hospital, Lynda was discharged in a back brace. But before she returned home, her family full of children and grandchildren, who had been cheering Lynda on, stepped up to set up her house for her – complete with grab bars and other aides.

“I have a wonderful family and had such terrific support from my family and friends,” she says.

After two more years of outpatient therapy, Lynda was on solid ground. And today, although she still walks with a cane and deals with some limitations, she is enjoying her life.

Throughout her entire experience, she has maintained a positive outlook – which she embraces today.

“You can’t change what happens in life sometimes, but you can learn to adapt and live with it. I choose not to be miserable every day, I’m going to live with what I can do and forget about what I can’t do.”

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