Monthly Archives: May 2014

Dealing with the Dreaded SCI Anniversary


Anniversaries can be either super fabulous or super depressing, depending on what’s being commemorated. In the world of spinal cord injuries, it’s a 50/50 thing, but most look at their SCI anniversary as a sad thing they’d rather not remember.

“Yup, one more year in a wheelchair,” is the thought process, and then there are the others who wildly celebrate the anniversary of their injury, looking at it as they have an amazing survival ability. We all can be vastly different with our coping methods.

From a 40 year old Australian talking about what he misses most to a quadriplegic embracing dozens of adapted sports the first year of his injury, here are three people with spinal cord injuries showing how they manage their anniversaries.

Video #1: Aussie Quad’s 2nd Anniversary; What He Misses & What Gives Him Hope

In our first video from Shane Clifton, a 40 year old dad, husband and C3-4 quadriplegic from Australia, he opens up on the second year anniversary of his injury, which occurred when he rode his BMX bike into a foam pit to break his fall (but the foam didn’t cushion as expected). In this honest video, Shane opens up about how difficult it has been for him.

To make his video worth watching, he’s dubbed it, “7 Deadly Sins,” and he lists seven things he misses most and seven things he’s thankful for. It’s a really great idea. It gives you perspective and allows you to vent.

From missing surfing, orgasming and not having to adhere to a schedule every day to things he’s thankful for such as receiving (some) hand function back and his wonderful wife and kids, this is one profound video.

Watch: Shane’s 2nd Year Anniversary 7 Deadly Sins

Video #2: “My First Summer as a Quad” and Trying Adapted Sports

Some people aren’t big talkers, like Joe Stone, a 20 something incomplete C7 quadriplegic from Minnesota. He was living in Montana at the time of his injury since he was absolutely obsessed with the outdoors. His injury in fact was due to a speed flying accident; another hobby Joe loved to do.

After his injury however Joe has been determined to remain active, and the first summer of his injury he took on several adapted sports. Whitewater rafting, off-road hand-cycling, 4×4 mountain biking, and he documented it all with a GoPro camera.

In his video, “First summer post spinal cord injury,” he almost brags at everything he did during the first summer injured, and he has definite bragging rights. Most people with spinal cord injuries don’t even touch these sports until a few years in.

Watch: Joe Stone shows off the sports he tried his first summer paralyzed

Video #3: Visiting the Site of Your Injury

And from our perennial favorite Andrew Angulo, who has been making videos of his life since his injury, here is his “1 Year Spinal Cord Injury Anniversary” video, which is one of the first videos he made. This video is a mix of both remembering his injury and thanking his family and friends.

Injured in a motorcycle accident, Andrew first visits the site of his injury in his neighborhood and reflects, talking about how difficult the first year has been on everyone. Afterwards, he and his two young boys have some fun with an anniversary cake you have to see to believe.

Watch: Andrew Angulo’s 1st anniversary video

It can be difficult recognizing your injury anniversary, but whether it makes you sad or feel empowered, it needs to be recognized. Anniversaries remind us of where we’ve come from and where we’re going, and it can’t get anymore important than that.

How do you celebrate your SCI anniversary?

Watch the videos!

Shane Clifton, a quadriplegic, reflects on his life on the 2 year anniversary of his spinal cord injury, titled “7 Deadly Sins”

Joe Stone, a low quadriplegic and lifelong outdoorsman, and his first summer as a quad

Paraplegic Andrew Angulo thanks his family for all of their support on the first year of his SCI anniversary

SCI Superstar: Robb Dunfield


In the lobby of the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre in Vancouver, Canada, you will find the largest mouth painting ever created- a beautiful 6X8 oil painting called “Visions of Possibilities” (view) – and this beautiful image of two young girls on English Beach was painted by their father and vent-dependent quadriplegic, Robb Dunfield.

Robb, a C3-5 quad from Vancouver as well, is one of Canada’s most accomplished painters. Thrown into the world of painting after a fall from a balcony when he was 19, painting is just one of his outlets. He’s also a pioneer of group homes for people with severe disabilities and a public speaker for the Rick Hansen Foundation.

A man that has been paralyzed for longer than many of us have been alive, this is the story of esteemed artist – Robb Dunfield.

Why he’s fearless

It all began with the stupid decision to break into a house that was under construction. Robb and some friends wanted to get a better view of tall ships coming into the harbor, so they broke into a home that had a balcony.

Unfortunately the balcony wasn’t complete, and it collapsed when Robb and his friends got on it, falling to the ground 30 feet. Robb was the only one to sustain a serious injury however. His friends only had a few broken bones.

Robb was 19 when his accident occurred, and it was only a C3-5 break as well, but since his injury happened in 1978 he didn’t receive the steroid medication to prevent swelling, and was left with C2 function; which means he needs to use a ventilator and has no movement below his neck. This has been Robb’s reality for the last 35 years and he’s now 54 years old.

When his injury occurred, Robb living for 35 years post-injury onward was the last thing any of his doctors would have predicted. But he, as well as fellow rehab-mates, all proved doctors expectations wrong of their high level of injuries and survived, and wanted to move out of the hospital and live on their own (which was unheard of at the time for someone with such a high level of spinal cord injury).

They made it happen though. And after 7 years of working the system and planning, Creekview open in 1985 – the world’s first group home for people with severe disabilities. And it was here where Robb met his future wife Sarah; a PCA who eventually became much more.

By 1992, he and Sarah were married, and he was gleeful at the fact that he was defying all expectations of his life, from living outside a hospital to getting married.  And a few years after that he also became a father, blowing those expectations out of the water too. They had their twin girls, Sophia and Emma, in 1996.

But painting is the one area of Robb’s life that really allowed him to tap into his creative side; a side that may not had developed had his injury not occurred. Before his injury, Robb was a self-described “cocky athlete” obsessed with skiing. Anything artsy was so not on his radar.

“I could’ve done a million things when I was able-bodied, but after my injury I was limited to maybe 100 or so things. I became determined to become perfect at the things I could still do,” he says, which is why Robb took painting and ran with it.

Influenced by painters like Emily Carr and Tom Thompson, he’s surged in his talent, and has gone on to sell thousands of pieces of his work, raising over $1.5 million from his art sales for Paraplegic Associations.

Robb also published a book profiling some of his best work, If Sarah Will Take Me, in honor of his wife in 1998, and he continues to create photolitho prints of his work. Some of Robb’s most well-known work also appears on Canola Vineyards wine bottle labels, which he’s been doing since 1987 and designs eight unique labels every year.

What’s next?

After his daughters were born, Robb became even more serious about making ends meet, wanting to fully support his family. In 2002, he was hired by the Rick Hansen Foundation to be their Senior Coordinator for their Ambassador Program, where he recruits, trains and provides support for people with spinal cord injuries across Canada who are part of their network.

He’s also become good friends with Rick Hansen himself. A few years ago, Rick made it possible for Robb to go fishing again after three decades and by getting him a Sip ‘n Puff fishing pole, which allowed him to reel a fish in completely on his own.  The experience was so powerful that he cried, and he’s created two paintings of Haida Gwaii, the islands they were fishing at, in honor of this experience.

A man who’s been determined since day one to stick to the path he would have been on if his injury hadn’t occurred, Robb has made this happen.  It may not be easy some, but Robb is excited to see what the next day will bring, and he’s managed to figure it all out.

View Robb Dunfield’s art

Have you developed a new skill post-injury?

Watch the videos!

Robb Dunfield contemplating life at the 50th anniversary of a therapy center

Robb Dunfield the “Difference Maker” from the Rick Hansen Institute

Robb on why he started painting and how it reflects his inner feelingsEnhanced by Zemanta