In a matter of a few hours, Chloë Angus’ life changed forever. Having driven herself to the hospital with a sore back and numbness in her toes, she was told she would never walk again. She had suffered a bleed from a Cavernous Malformation in her spinal cord, and was left paralysed from the waist down. Little is known about her Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). Doctors across Canada told Chloë there was no treatment or surgery. Her SCI would affect bowel, bladder, circulation, digestion, mental health and nerve pain. She was told high doses of opioids, drugs and anti-depressants would be required.
Refusing to accept this as the only solution, Chloë has learned to manage her painful condition with alternative treatments that allow her to live drug-free. These include massage, acupuncture, CBD, nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, and ongoing physiotherapy, including exoskeletons, gait training over a treadmill, and aqua therapy. Determined to find a way to walk again, she has been instrumental in the development of a pioneering new exoskeleton by two professors at SFU and is a founding member of Human In Motion Robotics Inc.
She also continues to run her own fashion design business, Chloë Angus Design – even releasing her Spring 2016 Collection while still in GF Strong hospital. She works collaboratively with First Nations artists to create unique collections with an emphasis on inclusivity and has donated thousands of dollars to Indigenous charities.
Chloë is also a tireless advocate for people living with SCI. She is adamant that better care and access to ongoing physical rehabilitation including exoskeletons should be available to all. She has taken part in numerous studies related to her condition, in addition to speaking, volunteering and mentoring for SCI organizations and charities across the world.
Bernadine Fox’s life began in trauma. As a child in rural Canada in the ‘60s, she was used by traffickers to produce child pornography and provide child prostitution. The impacts, including PTSD, Chronic Fatigue and Osteoarthritis, have been lifelong.
At 15 she ran away and by 23 she was a single parent to two young children and living in Vancouver, thousands of miles from home. Determined to provide them with a better life, she put herself through post-secondary education and started working in the film industry. Although she worked hard to heal independently, she began suffering from incontrollable PTSD flashbacks and started therapy.
When money ran out, the therapist offered free services. But with a childhood void of boundaries, Bernadine could not recognize that the therapeutic relationship was slowly becoming inappropriate and unhealthy. Soon, she found herself isolated, emotionally dependent and in a sexual relationship with her therapist and abuser.
She eventually managed to escape, however the trauma continued to haunt her. But there was nowhere to go for help. She wasn’t taken seriously as a victim. Terrified of therapists, living with PTSD, anxiety and panic attacks, she turned to writing as her way out.
Throughout her adult life, Bernadine has been a fierce mental health advocate; as a support worker for survivors of childhood trauma, conference speaker, and as writer, artist and curator of art. She has published a memoir of her experience and hosts a weekly show on Vancouver Coop radio discussing mental health topics. She uses her voice and art to talk about serious social issues, including therapist abuse.
She selflessly volunteers her time and has been on the Board of four different charities and with the Therapist Exploitation Link Line. She aims to shed a light the emerging and historic issues around abuse of power.
Kristen McBride calls the day of her accident her ‘Re-Birthday’. A car accident left the 20-year-old daycare worker with a Spinal Cord Injury, paralyzed from the top of the chest down. Seven long months in hospital were just the beginning of a lifetime of learning new adaptive ways of living an independent life.
But Kristen would not let that stop her achieve her goals. After going back to teaching for a while, she started her own ‘Mary Kay’ business, becoming a top salesperson and shared with many women that anything is possible.
A keen athlete prior to her accident, she soon discovered Wheelchair Rugby, and became the only female playing for a B.C team, and only the second female to play nationally. She eventually brought a rugby league to her city, giving other individuals in the community a chance to participate in the sport. She was invited to light the cauldron for the 2010 Olympics, and to be part of the Paralympic Opening Ceremonies.
She is married and has a young child. Thanks to a rigorous routine and supports, she is able to take care of her own and her daughter’s needs, and live an independent life.
From the beginning, Kristen has also been committed to giving back and advocating for better accessibility. She started the Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion in her hometown, as well as volunteering for local charities that focus on accessibility. Soon after her accident she became a peer mentor and started supervising the Teen Mentoring program with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Every year, she fundraises for Spinal Cord Injury BC, and she has taken part in a program to support ladies going through cancer with makeovers.
She inspires those around her positivity, volunteering and hard work.
Dr Barney Jr Williams (traditional name: Klith-wii-taa)
Dr Barney Williams had the odds stacked against him from the start. Having lost his mother at birth, aged 6, he was forced to attend residential school by the government. For 12 long years Dr Barney both endured and witnessed emotional, physical, and sexual abuse from his father, priests, nuns, staff and older students. During his drinking days he was involved in a number of fatal accidents, adding to his trauma and eventually leading to two suicide attempts.
Aged 26, Dr Barney made the decision to quit drinking. Two years later he broke his back, leading to two years of recovery where he had to learn to walk again. But despite this, and many barriers and pressure from friends to drink, he has remained sober.
After finding his sobriety, Dr Barney set out to help others overcome alcoholism and mental health challenges. He has numerous qualifications in Social Work, clinical counselling, and drug & alcohol abuse counselling, holding dozens of posts in school districts, health units and First Nations. He was instrumental to creating a counselling program for Indigenous peoples at Malaspina College (now Vancouver Island University), one of the first programs to bring together traditional knowledge of healing and western approaches. He has become a leading expert in survivors’ trauma, and served as a committee member for the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. Today, aged 82, he continues to advise government officials at various levels and selflessly shares his story as a speaker at events big and small.
Dr Barney – whose traditional name is Klith-wii-taa – is also a knowledgeable elder and mentor to people from all walks of life. Last, and certainly not least, Barney is happily married and has six children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Casey Wright has been fighting cancer since he was a baby. Diagnosed with a brain tumour at just six months old, this began a long, arduous journey of surgery, medication, hospital stays and rehabilitation that continues to this day. The tumour and associated treatments caused blindness in one eye, short stature and various endocrine challenges. After a surgery to remove his brain tumour, an unexpected stroke left him paralysed on his right side. But Casey persevered, and dedicated himself to months of grueling rehabilitation to re-learn how to speak, talk and swallow.
Today, aged 21, he is 4ft tall, but carries himself taller, prouder and always with a smile. Despite missing years of school, he graduated in 2019 and is pursuing his goal to work in films and TV. He has already worked with actors and stuntmen, and starred in a number of parts. Most recently he played himself in an autobiographical stage-play called ‘Casey and the Octopus’. With his brain trauma injuries, memorizing his lines was a huge undertaking but he took on the challenge with enthusiasm. He played for a week to sold-out shows and standing ovations.
In spite of his young age, Casey has already been an incredible force for good, and maintains an infectious sense of humour and optimism through anything. He has been a Michael Cuccione Foundation spokesperson for many years, and readily helps with fundraising and events for BC Children’s Hospital, where he himself has been a patient throughout his life. Through the East End Boys Club, he mentors youth at risk. As a result of his philanthropic work, Casey is the only civilian in Canada to hold the rank of Honorary staff sergeant Major in the RCMP.
Casey has become a champion for children battling illness.