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St. Michael’s physicians riding for trauma survivors

Toronto, July 13, 2017

By Kelly O’Brien

Drs. Samuel Vaillancourt, Joel Lockwood, Rob Sargeant and Alun Ackery
(from left to right) Drs. Samuel Vaillancourt, Joel Lockwood, Rob Sargeant and Alun Ackery.

A group of physicians from St. Michael’s Hospital is cycling through southern France this fall to raise money for the Trauma Survivors Network.

Emergency physicians Drs. Alun Ackery, Samuel Vaillancourt and Joel Lockwood, along with Dr. Rob Sargeant, head of the hospital’s Division of Internal Medicine, will cycle from Sept. 10 to Sept. 16, covering more than 700 kilometres and climbing more than 11,000 metres.

The hope is to not only raise money, but awareness that care shouldn’t end when trauma survivors leave the hospital, said Dr. Ackery, who is also a trauma team leader at St. Michael’s.

“When someone has sustained traumatic injuries, the focus has always been on making sure they survive,” he said. “We save their lives physically, but we now recognize there is more to it than just healing the body. There is a need for continued support for all the other ways trauma can affect someone’s life.”

The route crosses the French side of the Pyrenees Mountains, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. It includes several legendary climbs of the Tour de France, which will make the ride more difficult, said Dr. Vaillancourt.

“We wanted to do something constructive to show our support for these patients and their families,” he said.

“This challenge we’ve taken up reminds us of the courage our patients need to go through the ups and down on the road to recovery. Obviously, we’re doing this by choice, but we’ll face a physical test beyond what we’ve experienced and we’ll need each other’s support to get through it.”

The Trauma Survivors Network was developed by the American Trauma Society to help trauma centres break the isolation many patients experience after trauma, and provide support and services to patients and their families need during their recovery from serious injury. My BeST (Beyond Surviving to Thriving), a patient support group at St. Michael’s, is the first Canadian branch of the Trauma Survivors’ Network.

The group was spearheaded by Margaret Harvey, a former St. Michael’s patient, and Amanda McFarlan, a trauma registry manager and quality improvement specialist at St. Michael’s, along with a committee including social workers, trauma surgeons, psychiatrists, physiotherapists, patient experience advisers and spiritual care providers.

In 2012, Harvey was hit by a garbage truck while cycling. The truck’s tires completely shattered her pelvis. She was rushed to St. Michael’s, where she underwent emergency surgery and received 38 blood transfusions.

When she returned home, she realized she couldn’t go back to the way things were before the crash.

“You need to respect that when someone goes through a physical trauma, their whole life could change on a dime,” said Harvey.

Harvey said she was lucky to have the resources necessary to seek out the support she needed with things including navigating the insurance system, coping with post-traumatic stress and finding a lawyer to fight a lengthy legal battle. My BeST aims to help people who don’t have access to those resources on their own.

“I had a house, money, my family and people around me,” she said. “But a lot of people don’t have any of that, and trauma has very real impacts on peoples’ mental health, so it’s something that needs to be addressed.” The money raised by the bike tour will go towards the support group. It will also help expand the Trauma Survivors Network efforts at St. Michael’s, which will potentially include training and mentoring peer support workers for both inpatients and outpatients.

To donate, click here.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 29 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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