Kids with incomplete spinal cord injuries are about to get additional support from the province.
The Ministries of Children and Youth Services and Health and Long-Term Care are expected to announce funding Monday to give kids with these injuries who have been discharged from health care facilities more access to care.
The money will make Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital a hub, allowing it to train providers at other children’s treatment centres in the province and purchase equipment.
The announcement comes three years after late Toronto Star reporter Barbara Turnbull revealed a lack of provincial support and intensive rehab for children with these injuries.
Diane Talbot-Schoenhoff, who fiercely advocated for funding, credited Turnbull with exposing the need for additional care.
“She would be really proud to know that her work brought about such a positive outcome and that families of children with spinal cord injuries will be helped,” said Talbot-Schoenhoff.
In July 2012, Turnbull reported there were hundreds of adults in the province who suffer from incomplete spinal cord injuries—meaning not all nerves are severed—each year.
Children with the same injuries were even fewer—only a handful a year in Ontario—and their intensive, outpatient physiotherapy offerings were lesser.
Around the same time, the government was investing in “greater physiotherapy services on the adult side for a variety of disorders,” but “there wasn’t sufficient therapies that these young people really deserved,” said Golda Milo-Manson, Holland Bloorview’s vice-president of medicine and academic affairs.
That meant families were dipping into savings and relying on studies or the generosity of charities to cover the costs of specialized physio for their children.
It’s an experience Talbot-Schoenhoff can relate to.
At age 13, her son Nick was left with a serious but incomplete spinal cord injury after a snowboarding accident incurred north of Toronto in 2005.
“At nine months, we were given a prescription for a power chair and told there was nothing else they could do,” Talbot-Schoenhoff told the Star, in 2012.
To get specialized outpatient rehab for Nick, Diane relied on workplace insurance benefits and a grant from the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Wheels in Motion Fund.
That the ministry would be increasing access to services like those Nick required was welcome news for Talbot-Schoenhoff, who started Support in Motion, an organization that provides support for youth with incomplete spinal cord injuries.
She and Holland Bloorview pushed for extended services, but Diane said it was Turnbull who got the issue attention.
After Turnbull’s coverage, then-health minister Deb Matthews admitted, “We’ve got some work to do” and the province approached Holland Bloorview to develop a plan to expand access to rehabilitation services.
That plan had yet to be formally announced when Turnbull, 50, died this past May of complications related to pneumonia.
“This is a part of her legacy…We both knew we would see the day. I just wish she would be here with us to experience it and celebrate,” said Talbot-Schoenhoff.