My name is Remy, but I call myself Remy “D” because I like to rap. I play guitar and drums. As well as music, I like snowboarding and longboarding, although these days I can’t do much riding on boards.

I was working in Alberta on the oilrigs, but about three months after I arrived I was in a terrible car accident. I was transported back to Sunnybrook Health Science Centre (SHSC) in Toronto, where my family lives. I was then transferred to The Salvation Army Toronto Grace Health Centre (TGHC) as I needed rehabilitation, but was still a Complex Continuing Care patient. I had a surgically implanted feeding tube because I couldn’t swallow or speak. I was in a special wheelchair because I was unable to walk.

At the time of my arrival at the TGHC no actual discharge date was forecast, but my mom seems to remember being told that I would likely remain at the TGHC for at least a year. Initially I couldn’t speak and I remember how my mom and the health care staff helped me to communicate using an alphabet board. I would point to the letters and spell out the words. It took about a month before my communication skills improved.

I also had to learn, how to swallow, speak, stand and walk. Despite all of these problems, I wasn’t angry or depressed while I was at the TGHC. I was just determined to get better. I remember having a confrontation about food — I saw real food and wanted real food. I hated the feeding tube so one day I pulled it out! Because of the car accident all the muscles in my throat were damaged. The speech-language clinicians worked with me on different speech exercises, and my throat muscles eventually healed and I gradually regained my speech. When it was safe for me to swallow food I started with popsicles and soup. Finally, after some time, when I could chew, I went to soft food. Now I eat normal food and I can’t stop eating.

I could see that I was improving and this encouraged me to work harder. Barbara, my physiotherapist, was a big part of my recovery. I worked on the parallel bars gaining strength and coordination through weight transfer exercises. I also worked with weights, to give my arms and legs endurance, strength and coordination. With help I worked on balance and moving in the hallways with a walker. My mom also worked with me on leg exercises. As my legs and arms got stronger, I was able to use a wheelchair and pay visits to some of my friends on the hospital unit. I kept improving until I could use a cane to walk. My mom, my therapists and all the nurses worked hard so I could get better. After five and half months I left the TGHC walking with a cane.

Following my stay at TGHC I went to the Toronto Rehabilitation Centre but I still remember the TGHC. I think of the party for my 20th birthday with friends and staff all singing “Happy Birthday.” I recall getting my mom to buy roses so I could give one to each nurse on Valentine’s Day. I remember my friend Mary, who suffers from multiple sclerosis – we encouraged each other to work harder in physiotherapy. Also, I recall teaching some of the older patients cool expressions and handshakes, and I got the nurses to listen to my rap music. I’ve been back to the TGHC since I left in April and I’m planning to visit my friends again.