Been there, done that” – the key to delivering peer support to those with spinal cord injuries

One of the most powerful ways of helping someone who has recently sustained a spinal cord injury (SCI) is through a peer support group. Help may be offered through practical advice on how to adjust to a new situation. It also may be in the form of emotional support delivered SCI-Ontarioby an individual who can honestly say, “I understand what you are going through because I’ve been there myself as someone with a SCI.”

Someone with SCI Can Say, “Been there, done that”

Ron Rattie, Peer Support Coordinator at the Hamilton branch of SCI Ontario, describes a typical situation he’s recently witnessed. A 23-year-old young man injured in a workplace accident, required assistance to help him master wheelchair skills. “It’s all new to the young man, and this is someone who can say, ‘been there, done that’,” explains Rattie. “So we looked through our list of volunteers and brought in someone who can help him with wheeling, that is, maneuvering curbs and doing transfers in and out of his chair.”

The volunteer Rattie called upon is one of 80 trained and ready to help from the Hamilton office. Each has a SCI, or a family member with SCI, and has made a positive adjustment in their life. They are viewed by those they assist and their families as individuals who truly understand what the person is going through.

Wynperle Law, Committed to the Peer Support Program

Its stories like these that keep sponsors like Wynperle Law committed to its annual sponsorship of the program.

Wynperle Law, committed to the Peer Support Program of SCI Ontario“We’ve seen how it really helps out people and their family members by connecting up those who share the same experience,” explains Allen Wynperle. “One of the best parts of this sponsorship are the incredible people we’ve met—individuals like Ron Rattie, who had a SCI injury over two decades ago, as well as the many volunteers and those they support. Each one is truly an inspiration to us.”

Wynperle Law has been a sponsor of the Peer Support Program at SCI Ontario (formerly the Canadian Paraplegic Association) for several years. Allen also sat on SCI Ontario’s Board of Directors for eight years. Support for the program includes funds to provide opportunities for peer support volunteers to meet those recently injured. It also funds events such as the annual volunteer dinner, volunteer awards, and promotion for the program to recruit volunteers and spread the word.

SCI injuries in Ontario: Over 600 a Year

Each year, there are 600 new spinal cord injuries in Ontario—almost two every day. The journey through rehabilitation is a long one. On average, it takes 2 to 3 years to attain sufficient independence following a spinal cord injury.

For those with a recent SCI, thinking about the future and how different life has become can be daunting. The Peer Support Group believes that nobody should have to contemplate such changes alone. By listening, sharing their own experiences and helping with practical information, volunteers provide invaluable one-to-one support.

SCI Ontario has 17 regional offices across Ontario. Further information about the Hamilton Peer Support Program can be found at sciontario.org, or ask Allen Wynperle about his experience with this exceptional organization.