How 10 cups of water changed a life

After a traumatic car accident, Londoner Joan Hubert was “broken” in body, mind and spirit. It was July 13, 2016. Joan was in the midst of a busy day at work as the general manager of an insurance company in Komoka when she realized it was getting close to lunch and she needed to get food. “I told my assistant I was running out for lunch and I would be right back,” remembers Joan. “I haven’t been back since.” 

Joan has no memory of the accident, but has been told she lost consciousness, veered to the other side of the road and hit a tree head on. She was left with broken bones and tissue damage from her shoulders to her toes and told by her care team she may never walk again. Her physical injuries were more than most people could manage, but her mental state was the key to her recovery. “When I was told I may not walk again, I thought – there is no way. There is just so much life left to live.” 

Joan and her husband Paul decided to remain positive throughout her recovery, a difficult challenge given the extent of her physical injuries. “One of my biggest frustrations was the loss of my independence. Before the accident, I was very active. I volunteered; I was often out with friends. My husband’s position is very social so we went to many activities, which I so enjoyed. All of a sudden, after the accident, I couldn’t do anything for myself.”

When Joan was admitted to the Complex Care Program at Parkwood Institute, part of St. Joseph’s Health Care London, she was instructed not to stand for 13 weeks so her body could heal. “One of the things that frustrated me the most during that time was not even being able to get myself a drink of water. The water cups are very large and heavy and I couldn’t lift them. I was so embarrassed having to call the staff each time I wanted a drink. How could I ask them to stop what they were doing, helping someone else, to help me do something I should be able to do myself?” 

When Joan shared her frustration with the team, one of her primary care providers came up with a solution. She lined Joan’s food tray table with 10 little medicine cups filled with water. “Because they were so tiny, I could lift them and get a drink of water myself. For me, that was huge – that was such an accomplishment.” 

After 13 long weeks of lying in bed, Joan was finally able to stand. “We were so excited. I was between the two bars (exercise bars) and from my wheelchair… I was able to stand. When I looked up, I saw my husband… and he was crying, so I started to cry. When I looked at the two staff members helping me, my physiotherapist and occupational therapist, they were both teary. These women had helped me from day one. I couldn’t believe they were crying too. They help many, many people. I am just one of many. They see this often. The fact that they were emotional because I could do it, for me, was pretty incredible. Their heart was there; their mind was there…they encouraged me the whole way.” 

With the help of the team in Complex Care and in the Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation Program, part of St. Joseph’s Specialized Geriatric Services, Joan is now able to walk with only the assistance of a cane. “The care I received here at Parkwood Institute was second to none. I am so thankful.”

Living our mission – 10 cups at a time

After hearing Joan’s story, Ciaran McKenna, Coordinator of St. Joseph’s Spiritual Care, penned a poem about the importance of living our mission and how the seemingly little things St. Joseph’s staff, leaders and physicians do every day as part of their care and service can make those we serve see possibility and hope. 

Ten cups of water.

Ten cups of water,

ten kisses of  service,

no magic staff struck a rock,

rather a magic

member of staff saw

the possibility

and created the miracle of

ten little cups.

The beautiful sting

of salt water tears

drew lines on her

drawn face

which had seen so much

and had so little

yet this altar of water before her 

filled her with hope and thanks,

“I can do this, I can do this

with the gift of ten cups of water

I can do this”.

Ciarán Mc Kenna © July 1st 2017 inspired by “Joan at  June 22nd LDI

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