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My column, “Motorcycle Madness” last week may leave you with the hope that all ends well. There is another side to the issue.

I have learned that in many cases after horrendous vehicle crashes that many young men with spinal cord injuries lose their walking legs. Soon after my column appeared a young man thirty-two died. Young males do not die suddenly: they commit suicide.

The family has gone through enough turmoil and anguish. To protect their privacy I will refer to this special person as ‘Isaac’. Sarah & Abraham called their first son Isaac because he would give the family laughter and joy.

I used to see Isaac at the downtown Y in his wheel chair after he was discharged from Parkwood Hospital. He made his way around the weight bearing equipment to help him to regain his strength.

One week he simply disappeared. Isaac had died. Many of the personal fitness instructors and acquaintances felt very perplexed wondering what they could have done to intervene.

Isaac was a kind gentle young man with a sense of humor. He was well educated from a good family. Blessed with good looks, a friendly genuine smile and a kind word for everyone he met. Isaac was the epitome of the young man who had everything to live for.

Statistics Canada suicide rates by sex and age group shows individuals ages 25-44 are at high risk. 1,390 males took their lives compared to 390 females.

Women, however, on average make three to four suicide attempts more than men do and are hospitalized for help 75% more often then males.

When in doubt I look for help. Dr Steve Orenczuk a psychologist at Parkwood Hospital was very kind to share his knowledge. Young men who have experienced traumatic spinal chord damage because of motor vehicle accidents have a four to one suicide rate over their female counterparts.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for persons with incomplete paraplegia.

Many months spent in the hospital in rehabilitation is needed to bring about physical healing. Integrating back into the family and mainstream society is a very difficult transformation. Depression and thoughts of suicide are not strangers that pass in the night.

The hospital offers help and encouragement for men and women with spinal cord injuries.

Tom Proszowsk, a paraplegic is the Director of Employment Equity & Diversity for the Canadian Bank of Commerce.
He offered up some sound advice. Personal support is absolutely necessary for a recent spinal cord injury. The first year is critical. Perceptions of oneself changes when you have to look in the mirror. Your new image doesn’t jive with your expectations & memory of your old self.

Family and friends can easily disappear over differences. There is an incongruity of how others now relate to you. The first thing they see is the wheelchair. The occupant can be perceived as a dependent individual in need of help.

It is important for society to realize that those who rely on a wheelchair have not intrinsically changed. Only the physical circumstances have altered.

Parents are encouraged to continue to love, support & value their sons/daughters. The wheelchair should have no impact on their relationship.

There is help that you can access: Canadian Paraplegic Association, www.cpaont.org.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com