Learning to roll again

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Peer counsellor helped United Way speaker start living again.

Spinal surgery did not go as planned for Kevin Black in 2004.

“Little did I know those steps I was taking at 5:30 in the morning were going to be my last.”

After being left paralyzed by complications following back surgery, Kevin Black's outlook was revitalized and revived by a United Way-supported Canadian Paraplegic Association counsellor.

After being left paralyzed by complications following back surgery, Kevin Black’s outlook was revitalized and revived by a United Way-supported Canadian Paraplegic Association counsellor.

Complications from surgery left Kevin paralyzed from the waist down. Friends and family tried to comfort him, tried to help, but anger and bitterness set in.

“I would lay in that bed and say ‘Don’t tell me it’s going to be fine, don’t look at me and say I’m OK. You’re going to walk out of this room, and I’m stuck in this damn bed.’”

After about a week, Kevin went to rehab. There he met his Canadian Paraplegic Association (CPA) counsellor, Dan.

A United Way of Winnipeg partner agency, CPA has been around since the end of the Second World War with a mission to help people with spinal cord injuries and other physical disabilities achieve independence, self-reliance, and full community participation.

For Kevin it took someone like him — someone who was dealing with the same challenges — to get past the anger and bitterness and start down a path to living fully again.

“Dan didn’t walk into the room, he rolled into the room.”

“He said ‘Don’t worry Kevin, it’s going to be fine.’ Well, I couldn’t tell this guy where to go and how to get there because he’d already been there.”

Kevin didn’t know how to do basic things, or the challenging new tasks now facing him.

“I couldn’t dress, I couldn’t move, I didn’t know how to operate a wheelchair. Every imaginable thing you could think of, I didn’t know.”

With the help of Dan and the CPA, Kevin learned how to navigate the world again. Rehabilitation counselling, peer-support, advocacy and employment services bring the world back into reach for people like Kevin. Today he works full time at Payworks and volunteers as a United Way speaker sharing his story.

“Without the support of the donors and United Way itself none of this would be possible. I don’t know where I’d be.

“I don’t know how I would have coped and survived without somebody rolling into my room and saying ‘Shut up, I’ve been there, you are going to be fine.’”

You can help people like Kevin by donating to United Way online at www.unitedwaywinnipeg.ca/help or by calling 204-477-UWAY (8929).

Originally published by Canstar Community News.