On September 11th, 2001 my husband was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him severely brain damaged. At the time of the accident my husband and I were just about to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary. We were 31 years old and had been together since high school. We also had three children, Kayla who was 6, Meghan - 3, and finally, the long awaited for boy, Jared, who was just 3 weeks old. Needless to say, a young family who had everything going for them and a beautiful future ahead. 

Then all our dreams came to a crashing halt. The phone rings and your worst nightmare is on the other end informing you that there has been an accident on the highway and your husband is at the hospital fighting for his life. You arrive at the hospital faced with hospital staff and doctors who first need information and time to explain what happened before you are allowed to go in and see your husband. Violated, is what I felt, just a few hours earlier we had our privacy and we belonged to each other, now he belonged to the hospital and I am allowed to visit. 

Once Jason was considered stable, he was taken from ICU and transferred to the floor. What a different experience being on the other side of the fence. Having worked in the hospital for years I could never really empathize with what family members who were struggling with and how nothing would be good enough for your loved one. This is where the rehabilitation begins, with the first steps, first solid foods, first words, and the first glimpse into whom this new person is that has awoken from their coma. Everyday was a nightmare for Jason, functioning with a severe brain injury and impaired short-term memory. He could not recognize or remember from day to day any of these new faces and he could not understand why they were all around him. Jason would refuse his therapy and staff would dismiss his behavior saying "oh that's just the way people with brain injuries act". But I didn't see him as a just a brain injury, he was Jason, who unfortunately had to heal from having an injured brain. Everyday I would go to the hospital and feed him puddings / yogurt and give him his bed bathes so he wouldn't have to be restrained. I would walk in front of him during his physiotherapy sessions so that he wasn't walking for strangers but rather walking for me. 

It was time for a move from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility that deals with and knows how to look after patients with severe brain injuries. Two and a half months after the accident Jason was transferred to Chedoke Hospital in Hamilton. For the next seven months Jason would participate in the Acquired Brain Injury Program there. Still ran very much like a hospital with subtly little changes. An actual physiotherapy area, a games room, a dining room to eat meals in, opportunities to actually go outside, and one on one staffing during the day for more intensive therapy. Unfortunately though, Jason felt like he was being punished for something, that he was in jail and the hospital staff around him was prison guards. Cameras lined the hallways and bedrooms; no one would ever look familiar to him. I guess if you were not functioning with a healthy brain what else could you conclude from these messages around you. Jason would need to feel safe and comfortable in order to relax enough to participate and trust those around him providing him the extensive rehabilitation therapy that he would require, in order to have any independence one day. 

Now what, I thought, where are they going to put him this time, hasn't he already been through enough. This time though I had a choice and a voice. I went around to Rehabilitation Facilities and had the opportunity to interview staff and the facilities themselves. I was able to witness how the staff seen this population by how they spoke to and treated other brain injured clients currently enrolled with there program. I needed to be Jason's eyes and ears. I needed to find a place that Jason would thrive in and I had to make the right choice the first time or he would end up not trusting me either.

 That was when I crossed paths with Ted Newbigging, the Executive Director of Paradigm. From the moment I walked into the house Ted had proven to have a plethora of knowledge in this field. He was warm, compassionate and real from that very first moment. Not trying to sell me on Paradigms services, more of a casual visit and a sharing of information. It was an actual house for Jason to live in, with a high male staff ratio, which is rare to find. Clients are respected and given every opportunity to grow and test the limits of their abilities. Jason wasn't just a new client at a rehabilitation program but became part of a family. 

Paradigm not only looked after Jason's well being but rather adopted our whole family and began to look after all of us. It was Paradigm who felt it was important for the children to feel comfortable during their visits with their dad and chose one primary therapist (Paul) who the children would come to love and see today as an uncle. Sharing with both their daddy and Paul because both are equally important and worthy of the stories they wish to share during their weekly visits. Paradigm also looked after my rehabilitation and me. I required education, support and a listening ear, which was always available even if it was at the other end of a phone they were and still are always there for me. I would choose Paradigm again, if I had to do it over again. Paradigm provides real life experiences and shows a great deal of respect towards their clients. A real peace of mind is what I have today with the caring competent staff that run and work within Paradigm.