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Survivor & Mother - Taking Each Day As It Comes

Survivor & Mother - Taking Each Day As It Comes

Susan Henderson

"Every day I have a decision to make - I can choose to be happy or choose to be sad. I always choose to be happy.” - Tracy Dort Kyne

Tracy is at her computer. She is doing what many moms are doing at this time of year - filling out her camp forms. At first glance, I see a regular mom planning her children’s summer in her basement office.

But this is no regular mom. And this is no regular basement.

This is Tracy Dort Kyne - single mom of three. Tenacious. Passionate. Survivor. She survived a life-changing road biking accident where she hit gravel, fell and broke her neck. She was left a quadriplegic.

The basement is her home except on rare occasions where local firefighters - “hot firefighters,” she says with a smile - carry her up the stairs for special events like Christmas and her birthday.

After spending only two and a half hours with her, I only know the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of what it has taken physically and mentally to get to a place where she is back in control of her own life - sitting up in a wheelchair filling out camp forms using her nose and voice - which took dedicated, grueling hours of voice therapy to regain after a tracheotomy following her accident.

A closer look around reveals a sophisticated wheelchair; a custom hospital bed and mattress. She has a bright silver round sticker on the end of her nose to move her mouse. She hovers over a spot to induce a click down, then speaks into the microphone to type words. I know Tracy has spent countless hours to be able to complete this task - let alone get to this place in life where she has some control over planning her life.

She greets me warmly with a smile for this blog interview and she expertly and impressively navigates her wheelchair around her custom bed, by a tube with her mouth, showing me a cozy white bedroom chair - asking me if I need a pillow for my back while I type. Her mouth is dry and I give her water through a straw and find gum hidden in her wheelchair pocket and pop one in her mouth. Her medication, which she takes every three hours gives her a dry mouth. She is woken three times every night for this.

She has not had an uninterrupted sleep since the accident.

We talk about everything - biking, hiking, working out, yoga, aerobics which she says gave her a foundation for goal setting. No topic is off limits. She has been through a divorce, many legal issues as it pertains to custody of her boys (she has full custody), a more recent heart break from a man she loved and countless physical ailments.

Tracy is in pain daily.

“It feels like I have frostbite and constant pins and needles in my hands and feet,” she says. “I have strong stomach and leg contractions and continual pain in my neck and shoulder as my neck is fused at an angle. So, gravity pushes down on my head at the wrong angle making it hard and painful to keep it upright.”

Tracy endures recurrent bladder infections from having a catheter. She was in the hospital in December and January overnight three times in emergency for bladder infections, which causes her to become septic then makes her unconscious. Despite crippling pain at times, Tracy can laugh at herself and is grateful for where she is at in her life.

Her good friend Clare Cashman says, “From day one and all those months in Sunnybrook critical care and Lyndhurst rehab; Tracy would still crack a joke, still make me laugh and always ask me how I was and what was going on in my life. More importantly, this accident did not defeat her...and it has not defined her. Tracy is still Tracy."

An Ottawa native, Tracy lights up and talks passionately about her sons - Christian, 14, Malcolm, 13 and Thomas, her youngest, 8; who spends the most time with her, playing on his computer, watching TV and doing his homework by her side. I ask her what she wants people to know about her.

“I want people to know that I am really happy to be home and caring for my three boys,” she says. Every day I have a decision to make - I can choose to be happy or choose to be sad. I always choose to be happy.”

She also wants her friends to know that she misses them.

Tracy shares with me that she is an Ambassador for the Rick Hanson Foundation. In April, she attended the opening of Rick’s new school in Aurora. “Seeing Rick reminded me that anything is possible. All you have to do is put your mind to it. I take it one day at a time. I am SO grateful for all the help.”

One of her goals is to continue to advocate for people in wheelchairs or those who have trouble walking for accessibility in the schools. There is not one door she can enter in her boys public school. “I want to attend parent-teacher interviews, and the Christmas and spring concerts at their school,” she says simply asking me for a sip of water. Having access to the school would also mean that she would be able to access the teachers more regularly and more closely oversee her son's IEP (Individual Learning Plan).

With all the control she has managed to gain back in her life, the one place that she is the most vulnerable is financial. She is single mom with three boys - two of of which are on the autism spectrum.

Currently, she has no earning ability. The Globe and Mail estimated, “over the course of her life, that (her care) could cost as much as $10-million.”

Tracy requires a 24-hour attendant for her medical needs, a full-time nanny for her children, and she gets regular volunteer help from Spinal Cord Injury Ontario and CCAS.

Tracy smiles when I ask her about her simple pleasures. After three hours it takes to get her dressed and in her wheelchair, she loves her cup of coffee (Kenya medium brewed in her Keurig) and a Starbucks oat bar. She loves that her boys kiss her everyday before they go to school. She looks forward to her basement family dinner at six every night. Often, they watch a movie together before bedtime.

Her friend Clare (who helped dream up the Suetables Tracy Wishbone) later reflected about her friend: “I am in awe of Tracy. She has more strength than any one I have ever known. Despite the not so good days; the tears, her fears and the anger; she always has the fight in her. She's a fighter, stubborn to the core, and her biggest strength is her unwavering fight to give her boys everything they deserve.”

Tracy echoes what her friends say about her: “I have an enormous amount of tenacity. I am lucky,” she explains when I ask how she has survived the last few years post her accident. “I grew up with parents who chose to see the glass half full. Their motto was always, ‘one day at a time.’ It is mine too. I have a lot of lists...’to do’s’ and I get to one thing done every day. I would not be alive if it was not for my kids, Tracy explained. “My desire to be with my kids is so strong. It is the reason I am able to live one day at a time. I have these beautiful children that drive me crazy but I love them so fiercely. Each one is so precious.”

Tracy takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. “I want to make sure they never see me give up - ever. ”

To make a wish for Tracy, buy this sterling silver wishbone. 100% of the proceeds go to Tracy. To date, Suetables has raised $6,000 + selling these.

Note: Tracy is grateful to so many but asked that I list some of them including: Pizzaville and the Contardi Family who raised close to $35,000, parents who carpool for her boys (Silvia and Stevie), Mary Anne Dennison who recently did an Arbonne fundraiser, Team Tracy from the Centurion race (they are currently recruiting riders and have begun fundraising for this September' s, Crestwood School, Bedford Park School, Extreme Fitness and in particular Jacqueline Walters, Track Fitness and all of the other gyms, and fitness friends that hosted fundraisers, Rick Hanson, Mitch and Heather from Snow Hawkes, Rick Howard from Zodiak and Camp Tamerack, Polly from Hurontario (where her boys go to camp),everyone who has donated to Tracy's Trust, the community at large in North Toronto, the local Firefighters who bring her upstairs a few times a year, her friends, her sisters and brothers in law, her father and above all, her mother who has dedicated countless hours, days and years to caring for her.

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