Day 202 - Kyle (3rd person I approached)
July 21, 2014 - Kyle was eating a couple slices of pizza at one of those intersections that has a little garden and rest area. People who are stationary while enjoying their pizza are usually good for 'the chat approach.’ When I told Kyle what I was doing and asked if he would chat to me, he seemed a little hesitant at first. I showed him my Facebook page and he asked why he recognized Russell from Day 201 (score!). When I told him who he was, it seemed to help him decide that yes, he would chat with me!
Kyle was born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan. He is the youngest of four boys.
“My parents separated when I was about five years old, and in time my two oldest brothers went to live with my father. I’m close with my brother who is just three years older than me. We lived with our mother, and when I was twelve, we moved to Calgary (Alberta). I think we went there because it was the closest big city to Regina that wasn't in Saskatchewan. I didn't find it difficult adjusting. At twelve years old, it’s fairly easy to make friends. Or at least it was for me,” he said. Kyle finished elementary and high school in Calgary.
“I played a lot of hockey growing up, especially in elementary school. And then I started playing football too. In high school I focussed mainly on football.” After graduating from high-school, Kyle took a year off and worked at Walmart.
“I’m glad it was only a year,” he said, through a big smile, saying a lot in that one sentence.
Kyle was interested in pursuing a career in justice, and in joining the police force. A coworker from Walmart suggested Kyle apply to join the Military Police, as it would be good experience to have when later applying to join the police force.
“I applied and got accepted. I went to Edmonton for some training. It was the kind of training where you have to lay your shaving cream and razor on the bed at the exactly correct angle and spacing. If it was not perfect, your bed would get ripped apart and you had to redo everything. If your locker wasn’t closed properly, if it was open even a fraction, they would pull everything out of there. The idea is that you need to be sure everything is always as it should be, the details,” he said.
"It was ongoing, I didn’t do full-time training. It was one night a week and on weekends. And then weapon handling and fitness training as well. It was tough but a good experience,” Kyle said. He did the military police training while going to university in Calgary, studying Justice.
In his second year of university, Kyle was out bike riding, and while going downhill, the brakes failed, and he fell off, breaking his back.
“I was twenty when this happened and was in hospital for my 21st birthday. I was in hospital for three months,” he said. After getting out of hospital, Kyle spent another nine months relearning and rehabilitating.
“My life changed. I was living at home and had great support. I had to learn how to do almost everything all over again, because it was all different,” he said. About a year after his accident, Kyle went back to university and completed his justice degree.
“The program was, well I had planned to complete it in three years because there were was an acceleration component. I took an extra year, while I was rehabilitating,” Kyle said. A young man in a wheel chair went past and Kyle and he nodded and said hello.
Three years after his accident, Kyle decided it was time to move out on his own. He decided to move to BC. When the time came, he got in his car and drove here.
“It felt good and scary, like anything in life that you take a risk with, but it’s better to take the risk than not do anything. It was liberating.” He has been in Vancouver for seven years now.
“I’ve taken some correspondence courses with the Justice institute of BC. Probably about ten or so of those. I’ve also taken up hockey again. I play on the BC Sledge Hockey team. We play on ice, and there are two blades on the bottom of the seat you’re in, and the puck can pass under the sledge. Your legs are out in front of you, (like on a sled). Depending on how much control and body mobility you have, the blades are closer or further apart. the more mobility and balance you have the closer the blades are. I have movement from about here (he gestures to just below his pectoral muscles) up. So balance is a bit more challenging for me and my blades are about (3 inches) apart. The players each have two sticks with small spikes on one end to move around the ice, and the blade at the other end for puck handling. It’s a very physical game,” Kyle said. (*Fact Check - see links below).
Kyle also plays on the Canadian Men’s Floorball team, a form of indoor hockey. It's played on a wooden floor in modified wheelchairs, using a hockey stick with a curved, slotted blade and a ball.
“We put together a team and last year were invited to Holland to compete in a tournament. It was a lot of fun. We came in fourth out of seven teams, so we did alright. The Swedish team won. Everyone was so hospitable, and we had a lot of fun after the tournament, socializing. Those Swedes can sing almost any pop song that comes on in the bar. Like karaoke but just to any song played in any pub! It was a terrific experience,” he says laughing. The Canadian team were the first North American team to compete internationally in the sport. (**Fact Check - see links below).
Kyle spent two years working as a parole officer in Surrey.
“It was too hard on my system. My body couldn't take the varied shift work, the fast turn around between early mornings and late nights. I need a couple of hours in the morning just to get things prepared. And the same in the evening. Everything I do takes longer. Even the little things that you might not think about. It wasn’t necessarily that I couldn’t do the job. I just needed more time,“ he said.
As we were talking, another person in wheelchair went past us, and Kyle again said hello. Then a woman, also in a wheelchair, and her husband came over to chat with Kyle. She asked him about a wedding he had gone to on the east coast, “those people like to drink,” he told her. Then he told her about his results from competing in the ScotiaBank Half Marathon last month.
“I wanted to do it in around two hours,” he said to her,
"I just used my day chair, and I finished in one hour and fifty six minutes,” he said with pride.
“I'm really happy with my results. It was my first time doing a half marathon,” he said. Then Kyle told the woman and her husband what I was chatting with him about. She and her husband had both heard about The Stranger Project 2014 on CBC radio. After they said goodbye and left, Kyle told me, “I know a lot of people from the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre (Vancouver). I volunteer there with the fitness program, so chances are if someone is in a wheelchair, it’s likely we know each other. It’s a tight community.”
Kyle lives in a cooperative housing unit that is fully accessible, from the shower, to the kitchen and the entrances.
“I’ve been there for about five years,” he says.
“It was built about twenty five years ago. It’s not completely modern but it’s comfortable and it’s home. Cooking a meal takes longer, getting ready for work takes longer. Everything has been a relearn for me, so living in accessible housing is good.” He’s been in a relationship with his girlfriend, who is a physiotherapist, for five years. They met at the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre. Kyle nows work in two medical marijuana dispensaries.
“I never smoked pot before my accident, but I use it now for pain management and to control spasms. I have a federal permit to smoke it for medicinal purposes.” Kyle also takes part in research with ICORD, (International Collaboration On Repair Discoveries - a world leading health research centre focused on spinal cord injury). He has worked with mobility
"robotics that allow me to actually ‘walk’ using a structure that keeps me upright and helps move my legs. There was a piece about it on the news earlier this year,” he said. (***Fact Check - see links below).
I mentioned that he seemed to be a really busy guy.
“Well, I don’t like to sit around, although that’s all I do," he chuckled.
"But I don’t like to sit on my ass all day doing nothing. I like to be busy and get out and do things. I like to be active.” I took some pictures and then we walked a block or two together, heading up a slow incline in the road.
“It takes effort to move the chair uphill and some days it’s harder than others. I try to stay fit and keep my arms and shoulders in good condition. It can be harder in the winter. And if I happen to injure my wrist or hands, then it’s all the longer to recover from those injuries. Being active helps.” #notastranger
*Fact Check - BC Sledge Hockey http://bit.ly/1mxPKHb
**Fact Check - Team Canada Floorball http://bit.ly/1nOZxsw
***Fact Check - CTV News http://bit.ly/1u9s99i