For Brianna Seewald of southern Manitoba, the best Christmas gift she could receive and give her family was 'standing hugs' after being paralyzed from a collision.
On August 17, 2020, an accident occurred at Highway 12 and Provincial Road 210 intersection. For Brianna Seewald, it was just another drive home from a local hospital where she worked until she got into a car accident. Her life changed in the blink of an eye and she was left severely injured and unable to walk.
Flash forward to now, she has become a more “independent version” of herself.
Seewald says that she lives in a bi-level home, which is limited in terms of accessibility. However, they have adjusted the tools and space to make it more accessible.
“Things in my kitchen, for instance, we have different utensils now and equipment to help me hold those utensils. Some of the big ones that I didn't even realize were things like transfers, so I could independently transfer from my wheelchair to the couch or learn to get from my wheelchair into my vehicle. Those have been really hard transfers, but so beneficial to me.”
Last summer, she began the spinal cord rehab program at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg and has opened her eyes to setting goals beyond walking.
“I've been so hyper-focused on only walking, I've neglected so many other areas that really help with overall independence and functionality. Over the last few months, I've really got to start doing other things that make me more independent and more functional in my own home and space. I think a big part of my recovery has been walking, but now we've got to be transitioned to things that help me live my life now and that's been super beneficial as well.”
She adds that “rehab has not been a linear progress, but it's going in the right direction again.”
Hugs are a big part of Seewald, and she adds that if you see her in person, she will hug you. She created a goal to stand up and hug her family on Christmas Day.
“I've been working really hard with my physical therapist to get out of my chair by myself so I could show them this and so I could take a few steps for them and hug them,” Seewald said. “I've had this moment in my head that I wanted to have with my family since the moment that I couldn't stand anymore myself. I wanted to be able to stand and hug my family again,”
However, that was pushed to New Year’s Day due to illness. Then finally, the moment arrived.
“I could barely keep myself up, but from my point of view, seeing that for me, I did it for me. I missed hugging them so much, but when I got to replay that video back and I saw the looks on their faces and what that meant to them. They needed those hugs just as much as I did, and their hugs held together the broken pieces of me that I haven't been able to heal yet.” Seewald said. “It's something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. This was a turning moment for me in my recovery and just helped pick me back up, to help drive me, to keep doing more and so I can continue this with them,”
Whether she can consistently stand with the help of her walker and leg braces depends on her pain and energy level. She adds that now and then, she needs “a little boost to get up.”
On New Year’s Day, Seewald showed persistence, strength and progress in the right direction. It was the first steps of many more to come. In a few months, another special day is coming up as she is tying the knot. She only hopes to “get stronger” and use the skills that she’s learned for the big day.
With files from Corny Rempel.