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!
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…
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.
Please leave Abigail a comment and let her know what you thought of her speech.
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.
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!!
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:
Corporate donation liaison
Bike shop liaison for coordinating group rides, etc.
Communications person for a Team Tracy Cycling Group website/blog
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.
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.
“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!”
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!
Many speak of leadership, yet very seldom do you see someone really step up at a time of need and lead by example.
In hockey, there are plenty of leaders. They usually wear the C or the A on their sweater. There are always others that step up, say something when it is time, or simply do something that can turn the tide, change the momentum.
Sometimes leaders have to do things that are “uncomfortable” to do. They can upset people with decisions, but leaders make those hard decisions. Someone always has to.
On Sept 4th, the day Tracy broke her neck, her sisters, Lynn and Lesley, took charge. Their lives took a significant swerve in the road. They were both being challenged, both emotionally and leadership wise.
They both lead in very different ways. Lesley has an incredible ability to communicate, get on the phone, email, talk and smile, all while having a full-time job and family of her own. She has great energy and spirit.
Lynn too has always been a leader, in good times, and in tough times, stressful times. When the chips have been down in our family, The Pang Family, she rises. She generally clenches her jaw and just gets to work. She is a grinder. She doesn’t take many orders, and has that “charming stubbornness” about her. (I call it charming as it sounds better that way! ) She makes lists, has an incredible grasp on time management and quite simply “gets things done..and then checks them off her list.”
This moment in her life, as a result of this very sad and catastrophic injury to her youngest sister, has been defined. She has really shown her true colours, her leadership ability and character.
These sisters don’t always see eye to eye on how they deal with things. That’s pretty normal as they are both different personalities. Lynn gets right to the point and doesn’t hold back, while Lesley can also get her point across, she can display a softer ability to say the same thing. But in this time of emotion, stress, anxiety and wonder, both Lynn and Lesley have been simply amazing.
Getting back to the early events of the accident to Tracy, Lynn, Sammy and I were pulling up at the front door of our good friends, the Browns, in St Louis, when we received the call from Lesley about Tracy’s accident. Not many details at the time, but they would come, though, as the night developed. We went inside, explained what had happened to Jeanette and her kids. I don’t know exactly what was going through Lynn’s mind, as we were all very numb, but I do know she knew enough to say to me, “Our lives just took a different path” and now, more than 4 months later, Lynn remains in Toronto. She arrived on September 5th and only came back home to pack up the car, put some clothes together, and get our 2 dogs to Toronto in her trusty Toyota Prius.
She has been living at her youngest sister, Tracy’s house, and has been the daily caregiver for Tracy’s 3 sons, aged 7 to 13, as Tracy has sole custody of the boys. Lynn and her Mom Joan, have that house so well-organized and in control, and although there was some adjustment early on for the boys, they know how Lynn works, what she expects and are thriving in their new environment.
Teachers have said to Lynn in Parent-Teacher meetings that ” Whatever you doing with these boys, keep doing it, because they are doing so well.” I know that means a lot to Lynn, and of course, to Tracy.
The boys have been great. I really can’t get over how well they have handled all of this, and we all know that there is a long road ahead for everyone, but it has been impressive. The boys can certainly be a rambunctious trio. As boys will be boys, they can be a handful. But it has been awesome getting to know them, to REALLY know them. I see Lynn with the boys, and she is special. She has really formed a great bond, and on drives to school and back with Christian, they have some really neat banter back and forth. He has been such an awesome kid. He is getting good grades, eats lots of food (and if you know Lynn, she loves to cook) and fun to be around. We recently went skating at UCC and Christian couldn’t get enough! He skated for almost 2 hours, never stopping.
Lynn has everything so well organized, from Thomas activities, school work, reading lots of books, his outdoor hockey, to Malcolm trying out for the school hockey team, and playing in the Lawrence Park Athletic Association outdoor hockey league with his buddy Charlie. I am going to take them to TSN’s studios while I work an NHL game on the Panel, as I did with Christian and his buddies a month ago. Christian just loved it, and couldn’t have been any more respectful!
The boys couldn’t wait to get the Christmas decorations up, and helped getting the boxes in the house, making sure to help Lynn figure out if the lights worked, what usually went where and then off they went, helping out. Christian confirmed that the big tree would look great in front of the window, and gave it a big thumbs up when it was done.
I really enjoy being around the boys, being an Uncle, and try to help Lynn and her Mom. I’m looking forward to Christmas as Tyler and Sammy will be there as well. Our kids have been amazing in this time, and it is so great to see Sammy and Ty show the same qualities and character as their mother in this really difficult time. They are growing up, and showing up, when needed the most.
In the meantime, when I broadcast hockey games, I always look for the players that rise to the occasion, that fight for their space on the ice. The difference makers. It’s not all about the players that get points and media attention. It is about the “glue guys” as much as any. The guys that stick to the fight when they’re hardest hit, that when things get worse, they don’t quit.
They don’t leave town — that’s for sure.
I can’t even begin to describe my thoughts on how proud I am of my wife of 24 years. This has been incredibly stressful on everyone. But in this time of such duress, it is amazing where the strength can come from, how deep you can reach for it and find it, even when you think the well is dry. The entire family reaches down deep every day, and should all be very proud, I know I am of them all.
Enjoy the Holidays, and take nothing for granted. Some moments in life change the path you were on, and when adversity hits, if it does, then your true character will step out…and lead. Just like what Tracy’s entire Family and so many friends have done.
Merry Christmas and Enjoy the moment.
Sharing Tracy Dort-Kyne's Journey After Her Spinal Cord Injury