Category Archives: Lesley’s Blog

Updates on Tracy’s incredible journey by her sister Lesley Dort-Lendvai

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My Aunt

My daughter Abigail has been hard at work on a speech she’ll be giving tomorrow in her Grade 9 English class. After rehearsing it tonight in front of Lesley, Grandma Joan and I, she graciously agreed to share it will all of you…

Robert

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Life is precious, and that is not something that I really understood, until I was forced to.

Comprehending that life is precious and every second that we are here is a gift, is not something that a teenager often stops to think about. In a world where we focus so much of our attention on the negative it is often hard to see the good and the beauty of our world. We don’t often think, “Isn’t it amazing that I can walk, I can see and I can hear, we take for granted the things that we have.”

I’m not saying that I walk around being constantly amazed by my life, and I’m not saying it’s easy to be optimistic all the time, but we can choose to focus on the good things in our lives, instead of constantly focusing on the bad. I get it, it’s hard being a teenager, heck, it even, for lack of a better word “sucks” sometimes. But I hope that after you hear the story I am about to tell you that you’ll live your life with a little more optimism.

The wind rushes past, the trees are a blur and before you know it you’re speeding down a hill. Biking. Your body is used to this kind of exercise, but you’re still out of breath. Then just as you turn the corner you feel yourself flying through the air. You crash to the ground, yet there is no pain, no feeling at all. This is what happened to my aunt on the day that changed her life forever.

She was found in a ditch off the side of the road in critical condition. Then my Aunt Tracy was airlifted to a hospital in Toronto from Collingwood. My Mom received a phone call about the accident around 5:00pm on September 4, 2011.

“Quadriplegia, paralysis of four limbs” This is the prognosis, that has been given to Tracy.

This means my aunt will never open another door, brush her own teeth, or even hug her children, without the help of someone else. She will never write a letter, go for a walk or shake someone’s hand. It is hard to imagine not being able to move, it is something I often think about, and it is not an easy topic. This condition is life altering. And after seven months we now know just how hard it really is.

Never again will our lives be the same.

Although this heavy weight is on my Aunt’s shoulders. She chooses not to dwell on this fact. She is pushing forward, she makes sure she is their to attend as many fundraisers she can and thank people for their support. I wish I could summon the same strength she has within. She inspires me to keep going, to look at life with passion and to find the beauty in every small moment.

Although, when I first heard the prognosis, I can remember being speechless like the wind had been knocked out of me.

What could I say? What could I do? I was sad but I was also angry and resentful, angry at the people around me, angry at god, angry at myself.

Why? I wanted to know why this had happened to my family! Why did this have to happen the week I was supposed to start high school?  What lesson was this supposed to teach me? I was also angry at myself for being selfish, I wanted and needed my parents but yet I knew my aunt needed them more

My Aunt is 41 years old. She has three boys, Christian 13, Malcolm 12 and Thomas 7.  The fact that my Aunt has been raising these three boys with no husband for the past six years astonishes me. My Aunt’s life was not easy, she experienced a very painful divorce from her husband and still she’s managed put her life back together and built a beautiful house in Bedford Park.

My Mom often comes home from the hospital and recounts the tales of the day. There are hard days and there are times my Aunt does not feel so strong, but what I think makes her so inspiring is that she wakes up the next day with a smile on her face and ready to fight. She doesn’t let her condition paralyze her mind or her soul. She has faith. She knows that this is major setback, a big bump in the road, perhaps a mountain, but she wants to make it!

Although we have had many struggles and trying times, it has brought us closer as a family, and taught me many things. The first of which is that we must be grateful for everything we have and seize every opportunity we can in life. It has also strengthened my faith, I believe that there is reason this has happened to us! The relationship between my mother and her sisters had strengthened and that is not to say that there isn’t sadness and anger but every day my family learns to over come it.

My Aunt is my hero. When I think of her situation, I am saddened, and I often find it hard to explain. Yet when I think of how she is dealing with it I want to be strong for her, to push on and be the best person I can be. If she can put a smile on her face, I can make it through High School. If she can have optimism and look forward to her life, then I can too.

I’ve learned a lot about who I am after this accident. Seven month’s later and our family is still learning new things and new skills to coup with this tragedy. I have come to realize that family is one of the most important things in your life and that good friends make all the difference. I have become more understanding, less judgmental and although I always knew it I’ve realized there is much more to life than my own small world.

This accident may have changed who I am but it will be for the better, and I know that with my Aunt’s spirit and my brave family we can get through this.

So the next time you get up in the morning and you want to complain about how early it is or the test you have the next day, think about how lucky you are to even be able to get out of bed.

Abby Lendvai

Please leave Abigail a comment and let her know what you thought of her speech.

gratitude

March Update

The Updates

I am long overdue in writing a blog post. It is close to 7 months since that fateful day. It has been an unbelievably difficult journey ……too difficult to write about at times. So here’s the Tracy scoop:

  • Tracy is still at Toronto Rehab’s Lyndhurst hospital.
  • She is learning to use her motorized wheelchair using a sip and puff controller – not without its challenges but she is very determined.
  • Tracy sold her house and purchased a modest bungalow near Lawrence and Don Mills that she is planning to renovate and make accessible. The move out will happen at the end of the school year.
  • Tracy has had on/off medical issues – and she continues to experience quite a bit of pain.
  • Tracy has been out of Lyndhurst several times, and is learning how UN-accessible the world really is.

The boys: Lynn hired two excellent caregivers for the boys – Leslie who is full-time during the week and Beverly for the weekends. She finally packed up her little Prius and drove to Chicago last week so that she could fly to Phoenix for some serious R & R before heading back to St. Louis to resume her life.

Lynn sacrificed so much for our family! She left her life in St. Louis for almost 7 months to care for Christian, Malcolm and Thomas. They did so well under her watch and they’ll really miss her. Thank you big sister!!! xo

“Layers” & Lessons

What I know is that Tracy learning to live as a quadriplegic is only a small part of the challenges we have faced and continue to face. The dynamics of our family are forever changed and changing. There are multiple “layers” to this conversation and within each of them – they too are multifaceted. My nephews without their mother; our mother not living in her home and away from her husband; Lynn who gave up close to seven months of her life to live away from her family and take care of someone else’s kids; my Dad at their home in Ottawa alone and trying to run a business; me – the only one who actually lives in Toronto juggling full-time job, teenage daughter, husband, home; finances/fund/fundraising; and the ongoing worry of all things Tracy; etc…

Selfishly I feel I have lost my mother as I knew her, my father as I knew him and my daughter has lost the grandparents she once knew. They are forever consumed – changed, ripped and torn apart at the pain & suffering of their baby. I don’t ever want to imagine what it feels like, as I only have my sweet Abigail, but I am one of the able-bodied daughters and the sister, so my perspective is different.

Emotions run high, and there is strife. People don’t talk to each other. There are arguments and disagreements. There are short tempers and tears. Feelings are hurt. Words are used like daggers that can’t be taken back. Healing and forgiveness seem so distant. Guilt sets in …

….but I can move.

Gratitude

It continues to amaze us all at the overwhelming generosity of people! People, who most often do not even know Tracy, yet go out of their way to help her. Some of those people include:

  • Sandra Dower – for doing Tracy’s hair on a regular basis!!
  • Michael Carmichael and Universal Motion for lending Tracy an accessible van – on several occasions.
  • Peter Grande for for lending Tracy an MV-1 purpose built accessible van – several times and especially for the drive to Collingwood.
  • Crestwood Upper and Lower School for Christian and Thomas’s bursaries.
  • Christina Kaufman and Gears Toronto for the Spin that Tracy was able to attend on Thursday January 26th.
  • Cindy Drohan, Gail McGregor and Macpherson Homes for the Silpada Jewelry Fundraiser at the Orchard at Craigleith on Saturday February 4
  • Beverley Daniels for her February photo shoot fundraiser
  • Marsha Hamilton, Marlene and Jeff Stubbins and the entire school community at St. Clements Early Learning School for their February fundraiser
  • Mona Harrison, Leigh-Anne Copp, Tammy Comish, Ashlynn Band and the Craigleith Ski Club for Craigleith Ladies Day on March 2 – Tracy was able to be a guest of honour.
  • Bedford Park Moms for their Suppersolved Meal
  • Brianne Stewart and Bryn Copp for their “Caring Motivating Tracy” t-shirt fund raiser.
  • Wesley Kwong from Barefoot Wine for donating wine and bubbly for our fund raisers.
  • Milton Davis and his team at Davis Moldaver LLP for their advice and counsel.
  • Robert’s colleagues at 6S Marketing for the work they are doing on a much improved web site.
If I missed anyone…I’m sorry. We’re all so very grateful. xoxo Lesley

Upcoming fundraisers:

1. Saturday March 31 from 2pm to 4pm – Arbonne tea at Tracy’s house RSVP jo-annmcb@rogers.com

2. April 2 at 6pm – Plank a Thon RSVP online or ross2170@sympatico.ca

3. April 14 from 4 to 6pm – Spin for Tracy at Max Revolution RSVP gagsanna@gmail.com

4. June 24 at 11 30 am – Golf for Tracy RSVP golffortracy@gmail.com

5. Team Tracy at the Centurion – contact debbie.gray@sympatico.ca

 

 

 

Team Tracy Cycling Group

Join The Team Tracy Cycling Group

A cycling group called ‘Team Tracy’ is being created to participate in The Centurion 50 mile ride in Collingwood on September 16, 2012. It is wide open for anyone to join…and all levels of riders are welcome. Tracy’s friends Debbie Gray and Jeff Chalmers have graciously offered to help put the wheels in motion.

Tracy loved to ride and it was during her training for The Centurion that she had her accident. It is Tracy’s wish for people to come together to ride in this event to share the experience she had worked so hard to prepare for. To help you get ready, we will be organizing regular mid-week training/recreational rides, affiliating Team Tracy with a local bike shop for support and service, and raising funds for Tracy’s Trust through the design and sale of an amazing Team Tracy Cycling jersey.

To make The Team Tracy Cycling Group a reality we are looking for a few volunteers to fill these positions:

  1. Corporate donation liaison
  2. Bike shop liaison for coordinating group rides, etc.
  3. Communications person for a Team Tracy Cycling Group website/blog

If you are interested in helping with any of these roles, or if you are interested in joining Team Tracy, please contact Debbie Gray (debbie.gray@sympatico.ca) or Jeff Chalmers (jeff.chalmers@noranco.com)

Here’s a little taste of The Centurion experience from last year. We hope you’ll ride with us!

Please share this post on Facebook and Twitter.

Team Tracy Cycling Group

Never Give Up!

I spent last week in Miami at my company’s annual customer conference and sales kick-off. While I had hoped it would be something of a respite from the challenges of the past five months, Tracy was never really far from my thoughts — especially after listening to the inspirational words of Nando Parrado our keynote speaker.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the story. In October 1972 a rugby team from Uruguay was flying to Chile for an international match. Their plane crashed high in the Andes Mountains and the survivors endured 72 unmanageable days of hardship, starvation, frostbite and even an avalanche.

Nando told us about how those two and a half months changed his life completely. His mother and younger sister passed away in the accident, and Nando made a superhuman effort to survive including a hellish 11 day mountain trek across the Andes to find help for the other survivors.

Nando told his amazing story in a best-selling book called “Miracle in The Andes” which was recently made into motion picture called “I AM ALIVE.” His story really resonated with me. It’s a message about perseverance, choices and never looking back. He told us to “never ask why,” because there are no answers, and it’s not helpful. Our family continues to try and be strong for Tracy, but there are days when our “humanness” overcomes and our emotions take over – anger, sadness, despair and more recently exhaustion.

Nando signed books after his talk and I was eager to get a copy for Tracy. We were asked to write the name of the person we wanted the book inscribed to on a little yellow post it note. I wrote Tracy’s name and when I reached Nando he smiled, looked up at me and asked “who is Tracy?” He could clearly see my conference name badge – Lesley Dort. I was overcome with emotion in that instant and sobbed as I retold Tracy’s story. He leaned over and very gently held my hand. We talked about Tracy and her will to live. It felt to me like we were the only two people in that room, even though there was a huge long line of people waiting behind me.

His inscription to Tracy was “Never Give Up.”

Nando’s story is inspirational and the message of resilience and a positive attitude gives me hope. If he could survive two and a half months in the Andes and live to tell his story, we can help Tracy to transition to her new life as a quadriplegic.

My husband and I continue to believe that she has a calling. Her story, just like Nando’s, will inspire others to be better and do better in their own lives.

A Very Different Birthday Party

Tracy turned 42 last Saturday. It was obviously a very melancholy day for our family. Here’s an email that Tracy’s friend Tammy Comish sent me about a party her wonderful girlfriends organized for her at Lyndhurst Hospital. I loved her note and thought we’d share it with you.

 

[box] Hi Lesley, I wanted to share with you, my thoughts on Tracy’s birthday! As I was driving to attend Tracy’s birthday party on Friday night, I found myself flashing back to a year ago, when I was attending Tracy 40th birthday (for the 2nd time, lol!)

Tracy Dort-Kyne Birthday Party

 

What a difference a year makes.

Last year we celebrated with a yoga class, snowshoeing, a trip to the Spa and dinner. Then the following night a big party at Shirlee’s!

This year was so different, but so much more meaningful.

I was so happy to be among 10 incredible, caring women who have shown what a true friend will do when things get tough! These friendships are a testimony to what an incredible person your sister Tracy is!

I continue to be thankful for your incredible family and all these “true friends” for carrying and loving Tracy — the same way she would if it were one of us that was hurt.

I am still not convinced there is a reason that this accident happened. But on days like Tracy’s birthday it makes me thankful for Family and Friends.

Love Tammy[/box]

Resolutions, Nanny Search, New Board and Little Angels in Markham

As I watch the programs on TV and listen to people talk about their New Year’s resolutions, I wonder about them. Isn’t a resolution really more like a wish? We wish to be skinnier. We wish to get in better shape. We wish to be a nicer person. We wish to be tidier and if we’re lucky,  we change our behaviour to actually make the “resolutions” come true.

My resolution and my wish is for continued courage, hope, resilience, tenacity, determination and drive for my sister. My resolution is to never take anything for granted and to always be grateful – for everything!

Some of you have asked about the number of visits we’ve had to Tracy’s website. We launched the site in early October and as of December 31, 2011, we’ve had over 160,000 visits. Robert says that pretty good.

NANNY SEARCH

We’re  searching for a Nanny/Caregiver for Tracy’s boys to move in and work alongside Lynn and/or Mom. This person will ultimately live with Tracy and the boys when Lynn returns to St. Louis and Mom heads back to Ottawa.

Requirements for this full time live-in Caregiver/Nanny/Housekeeper:  drivers license (car will be provided), duties will include – managing all aspects of care for the boys: meals, homework, school, appointments, laundry, activities, social outtings, clothes, driving to/from school or activities, etc.  Must be a self starter with lots of energy, patience and compassion. Must clear a police background check. If you know of anyone please have them send me an email at Lesley [dot] Dort [at] rogers.com

TRACY’S TRUST FUND :: BOARD OF DIRECTORS

We’ve decided to assemble an informal board of directors to provide some oversight of Tracy’s Trust Fund and the money you’ve  generously helped us raise. While the Fund is still relatively small, we think it’s important to have a team of pros helping us manage disbursements. We’ll be assembling the board in the coming weeks and I’ll share more about this soon.

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO MRS. TORSHER’S GRADE 3 CLASS

In late November, Robert received an email from Maureen Torsher, a Grade 3 teacher at St. Justin Martyr School in Markham Ontario. Maureen had seen Tracy on CBC News and was touched by her story.

“Yesterday my Grade 3 class was on a field trip, and Tommy, one of my students, said, ‘My mom said teachers get too much chocolate.’ And he’s right. So today I talked to my class, told them about Tracy’s accident, and have asked them to make donations instead of buying me any teacher Christmas gifts. I will send them to your website to make donations if that is ok. Keep well, prayers for all of you.”

As my Mom likes to say, “we are surrounded by Angels!”

Mrs. Torsher's Grade 3 Class fund raising for Tracy Dort-Kyne

 

Christmas Homecoming

Home Sweet Home

Tracy was able to spend the day with us at her house on Christmas Day! She wanted it to happen, and had mentioned about being home for Christmas in her first CBC interview. It was her first-time home since the accident and we made it happen.

We hired a private ambulance and they brought her home in a stretcher. While it’s only a five-minute drive, Tracy still finds being jostled around in an ambulance or accessible van uncomfortable and painful. Her house is a tall walk up with many steps and turns to navigate. Unfortunately, the house that she loves doesn’t lend itself to being made accessible and livable for a quadriplegic. The ambulance attendants did an amazing job of carrying her into the house and gingerly positioned Trace in her wheelchair.

She spent the day with her boys and all of us. We opened gifts, enjoyed Christmas dinner and shared lots of laughs. She was happy to be there, to be a part of “the normal.” To be back in her own space, to be in familiar and welcoming surroundings with people she loves, to take part in it all and to savour the celebration. I felt mixed emotions, happy she was with us, but sad and even angry at times.

It was especially difficult when they came to pick her up. It’s not the image of your sister leaving her house that you want in your memory. Her being lifted out of her wheelchair, and put on a stretcher into an ambulance to go back to the hospital. It’s not fair!

3 Steps forward & 10 Steps back

Tracy in Sunnybrook Hospital E.R on December 17th

Saturday the 17th Tracy was sent by ambulance to Sunnybrook emergency in the morning. She had been VERY sick for a couple of weeks. Mom and I spent the day with her while we waited for the doctor, and then the X-ray, and then the diagnosis, and then the remedy. It was a long, tiring and stressful day. At the end of which she was to be sent back to Lyndhurst – this was around 8pm – only to find out that the “Ambu Trans” would not be available to pick her up for NINE hours!!! What?? By this point she was extremely uncomfortable and staying in the E.R. was not an option I wanted for her. We asked if they could admit her, but there were no beds. We asked if she could be sent by Toronto EMS but that was not allowed either.

She would have to wait.

So, after I had an emotional breakdown, Mom told me to go home and she would stay til the wee hours of the morning with Tracy and wait for Ambu Trans. As I was leaving, one of the nurses stopped to ask me if I was OK. As I turned my head to the emergency counter, I could see an EMS worker doing paperwork. She had just brought someone in, and so in my exhaustion and frustration, I looked at her and said “hey, what are you doing, why can’t you help us?” to which she replied, “maybe I can, what do you need?” And after telling her Tracy’s story and why she was there that day, she did help us –  even though she didn’t have to. Veronica Tello is the Angel who helped us that night. She and her partner took Tracy back to Lyndhurst. It was “kismet” that she was standing there at that moment in time. She is to be commended!

IRON PEOPLE: Cyclists & Spinners with BIG hearts

Lisa Bentley with Lesley Dort at City Buick Spin for Tracy

Ironman Champ Lisa Bentley with Lesley

On Sunday December 18th at 7am in the dark of the early morning’s dawn, on a not-so cold winter’s day, one week before Christmas – a group of dedicated,compassionate and super fit people gathered in the service bays at one of Toronto’s largest GM dealerships to help raise funds for Tracy’s Trust. Like most of the fund-raisers for Tracy, organizers Michael Carmichael the dealer operator of City Buick and professional triathlete Lisa Bentley, had never met Tracy.

They had simply heard her story through Canada’s cycling community and knew that they had to do something to help.

I was not joining in the spin but Robert and I had volunteered to help out and I co-hosted the registration desk with Connie, Michael’s amazing wife. The day before had been tough as we had spent almost 12 hours in Sunnybrook Emergency with a sick Tracy and so I was very tired, and was a little grumpy when the alarm went off at 5:45 am. Robert reminded me that for many of these athletes a 5:45 am wakeup was akin to sleeping in.

It turned out to be a very awakening morning in so many ways! As I greeted and signed people in, I was struck by the sense of community among this group of people. None of the folks spinning had ever met Tracy.  Nor did they know her before the accident. But their hearts were full of love and compassion. What they did understand and what seemed to create a very strong bond was —  that it could have just as easily been them.  Many of these athletes they’d ridden the road that Tracy crashed on and shared their own stories of close calls on Scenic Caves Road in Collingwood.

The 3 HOUR spin was lead by 11x Ironman Champion – Lisa Bentley who every day overcomes her own battle with Cystic Fibrosis. She is an inspiration and believes in overcoming challenges. Her mantra is to “Follow your passion, have a goal and share it with others”

City Buick Spin for Tracy Dort-KyneSeveral of the people who participated have done, or are training for upcoming Ironman races. They are focused, determined and dedicated and they all have a story to share about their journey. What I learned on Sunday morning was that the “Ironpeople” may have “Iron” bodies, but they definitely have soft and compassionate hearts!

Robert says he’s been inspired by all the cyclists from across Canada that have supported our family. While he hasn’t ridden a road-bike in almost 25 years, he now wants to train for the 2012 Centurion and is saving up his pennies to buy a Cervélo. He’s adamant that one of us needs to finish the race that Tracy had trained so hard to prepare for. Hard to argue that.

THANK YOU Michael & Connie Carmichael, all the staff at City Buick who helped out, Lisa & Dave Bentley, D’Ornellas Bike shop and all the amazing athletes who spun their “butts off”! Wow!