My Brain AVM Story: Leaving Ottawa, 2012 Update

I was in Ottawa over the weekend. As always, it brought back a lot of memories. It’s almost twelve years ago to the day that I walkedbrain avm out of the Ottawa Rehabilitation Centre after being in hospitals since the end of May. I’d be going home for good, and starting a new chapter of my brain AVM story.

Ottawa, December 21, 2000

My last day at ORC was marked by my infamous tantrum about a day nurse that lied about me at a previous meeting being scheduled to represent Nursing staff at my discharge conference. Administration eventually declined to send someone from Nursing if I refused to have her there. This was fine, as far as I was concerned. My psychologist read Nursing’s notes, and the nurse who’d thrown me under the bus (as far as I was concerned) didn’t get to speak. It was a win-win for me, really. The whole sordid story behind that is here:  http://www.girlwiththecane.com/brain-avm-4/

All of us on the unit were leaving that day, because the unit was closed over Christmas. Some people would be returning in the new year for more inpatient therapy, or for outpatient therapy. I wouldn’t be, so I said good-bye to all my friends: Nick and Angela, and Helene, and Alison, and Katie. Some of them I’d see again. Angela and I spent a week together at her home in Ottawa in the next year, and I saw Katie a few times when I went to Kingston to visit my sister. The others slipped off my radar. I’ve tried to find some of them through the Internet, and haven’t been able to. Angela kept in touch with some of them, as she went to ORC for outpatient therapy. But some even she lost touch with some of them. Perhaps they wanted to forget that time in their lives.

I said good-bye to all my physiotherapists and occupational therapists, and my social worker and my psychologist, and the doctor that oversaw my team. I was nervous. The hospitals were friendly places for disabled people. The buildings were accessible and people were okay with me moving slowly and I knew that if I had a seizure I was surrounded by people who knew what to do. I knew that the “real world” wasn’t always like that.

A Brain AVM Story Milestone: Good-Bye Inpatient Rehabilitation

I started inpatient rehabilitation at Penetanguishene General Hospital in a wheelchair, barely able to do anything for myself. I walked into Ottawa Rehabilitation Centre three months later using a cane. I was shaky and I didn’t get very far before I needed to use my wheelchair, but I walked in. I was a lot less shaky when I walked out, but my wheelchair was right behind me. I needed to use it when Dad took me to the mall so that I could do my Christmas shopping before we left town.

Today, nearly twelve years later, I could have walked around Ottawa without the cane if I needed to. We don’t need a disabled parking placard for Dad’s car anymore because I simply don’t qualify for one. I carried a tray in the restaurant at lunch – using one hand, but it’s something that I can manage.

It’s taken a lot of hard work, and I know that there’s still hard work to come. But things are very different than that day that I walked out of Ottawa Rehabilitation Centre, and that really struck me this weekend.

With each year and each December update, there’s a little more to celebrate.

I’ll always be thankful, as hard as inpatient rehab was, that I was fortunate enough to have access to the professionals that got me here today, and for the friends that I made. I’ll never forget any of them.

About Sarah

Due to a stroke, I've walked with a cane since I was 22 (I'm 36 now)...but I'm so much more than just the girl with the cane.
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