Wayne Brocklebank: The Difference A Decade Makes
by Andrew Plaudis
Wayne Brocklebank’s sense of achievement is evident upon his face. After watching treatment for people with disabilities improve over the years and being there every step of the way, Wayne seems content that he has made a difference.
Wayne’s story took a dramatic turn when he was paralyzed in a hit-and-run at the age of 21. The incident left him hospitalized at Toronto General for six months. He then underwent ten months of rehabilitation therapy, much of it at Lyndhurst.
Wayne arrived at the then-owned Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario facility in 1971. Having paraplegia as a result of his accident, his optimistic and outgoing personality helped him interact with his peers and understand their lives. He got a feel for how the place was run and what could be done to better serve patients. He approached a well-placed friend about his interest in volunteering and learned more about the organization. His community service experience included volunteer work with the Lorne Park Hockey Association, the Oakville Hornets Girls Hockey Association, Scouts Canada and the Mississauga Southwest Baseball Association.
At the time of Wayne’s arrival, Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario had six staff members to provide services to a growing number of people with spinal cord injuries. There was not a lot of information available to give people at that time. Wayne feels that the biggest change over his tenure has been the amount of information available and how easily accessible it is.
“The biggest change has been visible, as well as technical,” Wayne said. “We have transportation assistance, advice on getting your license back, we really try to cover every field in the person’s life.”
Wayne feels his transition from patient to peer support volunteer took initiative and a passion to contribute his knowledge in the service of others.
“You go through constant learning when you go through something traumatic,” Wayne said. “A lot of what you need to make it through is inside yourself and if you haven’t always had a great outlook, it can be hard to look down that road. There are a lot of other things that a person might be going through.”
Wayne’s involvement in peer mentoring began when he teamed with a fellow volunteer from Trenton. The men were able to learn a lot from each other’s experiences.
“We both had the same attitude on life and we wanted to help people.”
One of Wayne’s most memorable experiences was going gliding with four patients.
“They had a ball, they were laughing the whole time,” he said. “Those kinds of moments are rewarding. They put a smile on your face.”
Wayne has received numerous honours, including a Citation for Decoration and Award of Fortitude from former Governor General Romeo LeBlanc and a Civic Award of Recognition from Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion.
Wayne counts himself lucky for the support of his wife, family and friends. His time at Lyndhurst and Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario have taught him that things can always be worse. He believes that the stage in a person’s life when the injury occurs plays a big role in their response to the tragedy.
“It’s always a catastrophe but it can be different for some people than others,” Wayne said. “I was a young 21 and it made me grow up quick. I couldn’t imagine going through it later in life or if someone didn’t have things together to begin with.”
Wayne feels his volunteer work has helped reaffirm his identity.
“People don’t realize that volunteering is rewarding. Somebody will come back and compliment you and it feels great to be able to help somebody.”
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There are 600 new spinal cord injuries every year in Ontario (more than one a day) and current estimates indicate that there are approximately 33,140 Ontarians living with spinal cord injury. (Urban Futures Institute Report)
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