As some of you already know, Tracy took delivery of a beautiful new MV-1 accessible van last month. The MV-1 is the first factory-built, wheelchair friendly vehicle on the market. Tracy really took her time and looked at many options including van conversions but ultimately decided that the MV-1 was the best solution for her, the family and her caregivers.
I know we don’t say it enough – Thank you. Soooo many of you have generously cycled, planked, stretched, purchased, promoted, and spun to help us raise almost $250,000.
Because of you, Tracy’s Trust Fund was able to cover the $56,000 cost of the van. We’ve also used the Trust Fund to cover the medical training for one of Tracy’s future caregivers, monthly accommodation fees at Lyndhurst, and her physiotherapy with David Frake.
Again, thank you for supporting Tracy. And be sure to give her a honk when you see the MV-1 — it’s hard to miss!
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.
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!)
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.
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
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
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”
Several 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!
It’s the old cliché that we’ve heard a million times, but sadly it is true. The clock nor the calendar stand still for anyone! People must get on with their lives, their work, their families, their day-to-day routines, their social gatherings, their celebrations, their appointments … their “busy“. Slowly the impact of Tracy’s accident is fading for some. Priorities shift. It’s amazing to think that it was only 3 months + 1 week ago on labour day weekend that Tracy’s life changed – along with our entire family.
The difference for Tracy is that the impact of that fateful day is more real than ever. Each day brings unknowns. Each day brings new challenges. Each day staying healthy, well, strong in her mind and her immobile body is paramount to survival. Each day she is completely dependant on others for every aspect of her life. Just imagine.
HOW TO LIVE LIFE at LYNDHURST
Tracy’s inspirational attitude comes from within her. She is tenacious and driven, but during this tragic time she has drawn great strength from the positive and powerful energy, love and compassion of people. Visitors: families, acquaintances, work colleagues, fitness fanatics, school buddies, neighbourhood pals, ….FRIENDS….
True Friends Strengthen and Help Each Other
Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.(NLT)
GRACIAS, MERCI, GRAZIE, DANKESCHON!
A VERY BIG note of appreciation toJane Roos and her husband Conrad for opening up their gorgeous Gallery on November 29th for a spectacular evening of art and friendship. Thanks also to a very special group of women called the MINOES (mother in need of entertainment) who have found the key to “happiness in the hood” and hosted a fantastic night of fun and fellowship Thursday December 1st.
WHAT IS CHRISTMAS?
I asked Abby today if it was OK if we didn’t put up a Christmas tree this year. I know how much she loves the tree, the ornaments and the amazing smell. I felt guilty. I explained that I just didn’t have it in me to take on this task. She paused and then she said “it’s OK Mom, the tree doesn’t actually matter.” Of course! She was right, the tree doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are all together and Tracy is alive and every day we should be grateful for small miracles each day.
Words cannot express our sincere appreciation. Here is a growing but not inclusive list of those we wish to acknowledge and express thanks to:
First of all a HUGE shout out of THANKS to Deirdre + all the “spinners” at PURE FITNESS yesterday!!! What an awesome fundraiser with truly special, loving & generous people.
On November 15th we were all invited to a “family meeting” at Lyndhurst in the morning. We weren’t told very much – other than it would be an opportunity to have all of Tracy’s medical and therapy “team” around the table in one room. Lynn, Mom, Dad, Robert, myself & Tracy of course – all cleared our calendars and prepared our questions and notes for the big day.
Finally, we would have an opportunity to discuss the many questions, challenges and struggles in a mediated and managed forum with professionals giving us input and collaborating on the solutions. Sounds great, doesn’t it?? HA!! Well, what actually happened was not what we had anticipated – what actually happened was a very formal and rigid – 30 minutes – of each professional around the table stating the facts about Tracy’s entrée to Lyndhurst and their prognosis relative to their line of work. There was physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social work, psychology, nursing, recreational therapy, Dr. “B”and Dr. Judy. Dr B lead the meeting and it was at a fast pace. There wasn’t much time for questions or interactions as it was made very clear that there was another family coming in at exactly the 30 minute mark!!
It was a whirlwind – disappointing to say the least. We felt ripped off. My poor mother just wanted to say something at the end and was cut off as she sobbed an incredibly heartfelt “thank you.” The real goal of the meeting wasn’t for “us” but for them to give us “the date” – of Tracy’s discharge. The actual purpose seemed to be for them to check all the proper bureaucratic “boxes,” and communicate the date that we should be ready to assume Tracy’s care!
DR. LEO DA COSTA
On Tuesday November 22nd Tracy had an appointment with Dr. Dacosta at Sunnybrook Hospital. He is the neurosurgeon who operated on Tracy’s neck and spine the day after her accident – the person responsible for “putting Humpty back together again.”
I volunteered to go with Tracy to Sunnybrook to meet with Dr. D, because I knew she wanted to start at the beginning. She wanted to see all the scans and xrays that we had seen pre-op, post-op and now. She was on a mission to educate herself on her spinal injury. To gain some understanding and figure out why she’s favouring her left side? Was her head on an angle because of the surgery? Would another operation fix it? What was the deal? We finished getting her ready to go that morning and got into the Dignity ‘van’.
We first went to the Xray clinic because they wanted to take another xray of her neck After that we made our way to Dr. Dacosta’s office – which by the way has two sets of doors WITHOUT handicapped buttons or automatic door openers!?? Huh? He called us into his cramped quarters and gave us his FULL attention. He listened, replied and interacted with Tracy with admiration. I could tell he was amazed, maybe even in awe of her. He shared the details about the hardware holding Tracy’s neck together.
There are 8 screws/bolts – 4 on each side of the front of her neck with a bar going horizontally across the middle section. On the back there is a plate going vertically holding the graft from her hip in place between the vertebrae. He went on to explain just how badly torn and ripped apart her muscles and tendons in her neck had been, and how difficult it was to put her back together again. He seemed to marvel at the fact that she is breathing on her own. It became clear that he did not want to operate again. The risks are way too high. She would need to focus and work through the pain in her neck and start building up strength in her right side. He reminded her that she’d been lying in a hospital bed for the past 2 months and even an able-bodied person would need time to rejuvenate the muscles and work to gain strength. She should be patient.
She was unbelievable during this appointment. Just before we got up to leave, she said “thank you for saving my life,” to which he replied “I wish I’d never met you.”
Where to live? Sell, buy, renovate, build… stay or go? So many questions and so many decisions. Have you ever thought about the considerations and accommodations needed for a wheelchair? And then, take that one step further and think about the added accommodations or technology needed for someone in a wheelchair who cannot use their arms or hands? Imagine the myriad of simple tasks that become overwhelming feats. And then layer that with 3 young boys who want and need mothering, nurturing, discipline and care…Now add that to the mix!! I know in my heart that we will work through all of this and find the solution, and Tracy will continue to amaze and inspire us all.
Christmas is fast approaching – the stores, TV, magazines, radio, and advertisements are all telling us to shop, buy and spend on “gifts.” This Christmas has taken on new meaning for our family. I definitely don’t have the same motivation to buy “things.” I seem to be questioning what it’s all about. Is it really about the “stuff?” If you knew you could ask for any gift this Christmas – anything you wanted, what would it be? My response today would be much different than it would have been in Christmases past. Today if you asked me that same question…. I promise I wouldn’t be greedy and ask for Tracy to be able walk, or to rewind the clock and take away her injuries. I would say “please God give Tracy strength, courage, peace and hope” …I might say “please let her have some movement in her hands, or her arms” … “please let her find happiness and purpose again.” Those are some of the “gifts” I might ask for today. This Christmas celebrate the “gifts” we all take for granted every day.
Extreme Fitness Fundraiser for Tracy at The Dunfield Club
9 30 AM – On Friday morning Extreme Fitness hosted three separate classes (step, sculpt and spin) all in honour of Tracy. Tracy has been a group exercise teacher at their Dunfield Club location since 1994, back when it was a Sports Club. When I arrived at the Dunfield, I walked into the main entrance. As I approached the front desk to introduce myself to the receptionist, I could feel an energy in the building that sent a wave of emotion through my body. This was a place that Tracy frequented – to teach, to work out, to visit, to share, to motivate, to recharge… I had been there with her as a guest several times. Those memories flooded my mind as I tearfully explained to the young girl at the front desk that I was Tracy’s sister. It would never be the same.
I had the privilege of addressing each class to say thank you and in each room I could feel a sense of warmth and compassion. I decided to take part in Shellie’s step class and part way into the class, Jacqueline from Extreme Fitness came into the class to say that one person had come to the club and presented a $5,000 cheque for Tracy! Words are not able to capture the awesome feelings of gratitude. It’s a morning I will never forget.
CTV News with Pauline Chan
11 15 AM – Pauline Chan and her camera man interviewed me at The Dunfield Club and then they followed me over to Lyndhurst to speak with Tracy. She spent time chatting with Pauline about her spinal cord injury, how it happened, and how she is coping. She talked about how through her own fitness, she had learned to set goals for herself and how that discipline was now helping her. They then followed her into physio and rehab to see what it’s like for a “day in the life” of Tracy. You can watch Pauline’s story about Tracy here.
News Talk 1010 with Mike Bullard
At 12 46 PM after a quick bite, Tracy borrowed Robert’s iPhone and went “live” on the radio with comedian and NewsTalk 1010 host Mike Bullard. Mike’s amazing producer Jordan Whelan was a regular participant in Tracy’s group fitness classes at the Dunfield, and he took the initiative to get Mike involved to help raise awareness for Tracy. She did a great job in her radio début! You can listen to the Podcast of her interview here. More on Mike’s incredible fundraiser for Tracy later.
Meeting the “Man in Motion”
At 4pm we all had the enormous pleasure of having a private meeting with Rick Hansen. Rick is one of the most inspirational people you’ll ever meet and a hero to all Canadians.
Rick was in Toronto as part of his 12,000 kilometer cross-country 25th anniversary tour. He requested a one-on-one meeting for one hour with Tracy – she was the only one he was visiting on Friday. He came to Lyndhurst that day just to meet and chat with Tracy. The next day he was back at Lyndhurst for a medal event with the Mayor and full court press, but Friday was different. He is a down-to-earth gracious, warm man who makes everyone feel at ease. We brought the boys and Abby to meet him and took a couple of photos, along with the CTV cameras. We then all left the room so that Tracy and Rick could chat. And that they did, for over 45 minutes!
Debbie Butt, Rick’s Director of Communications, who is a vibrant, smart and caring woman spent time with us as we waited for Tracy’s convo to end. She shared stories and insights that we will carry with us as we move forward in our journey. Rick is lucky to have Debbie, and vice versa!
Tracy – Still Very Much a Medical Patient
Friday was a long but rewarding day for Tracy. She moved forward with each appointment like a trooper. She would just ask me “What’s Next?” But at the end of the day, it was very clear that our Tracy is still a medical patient who is fragile and has broken bones with serious medical conditions. After Rick Hansen left, she needed to get into her bed to rest. The not-so-simple process of hoisting her out of the wheelchair and back to bed had to be done gently and slowly as she was having spasms and was in a lot of pain. The adrenaline of the day had clearly worn off.
Upcoming Fundraiser – Thursday November 10th
Robert was giddy with excitement when we learned that has favorite comic, Mike Bullard, had graciously decided to turn his November 10th show at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts into a fundraiser for Tracy’s Trust. $5 from every ticket sold will be donated to support the long-term care of Tracy’s spinal injuries. Mike is the host of Beyond the Mic on Toronto’s NEWSTALK 1010, Canada’s top radio talk station. We’re hoping that all of our Toronto friends will join us at Mike’s show.
Our plan is to bring Tracy to the show. It’ll be her first night out since the accident. Please Click here for ticket info.
Thanks for reading! …say thanks to God next time you stub your toe!
Luv, Les xo
p.s. We just heard that Friday was also “Pyjama Day for Tracy” at Crestwood School. Thank you to all the boys and girls that raised an astonishing $2,000. We’re so very grateful.
Sharing Tracy Dort-Kyne's Journey After Her Spinal Cord Injury