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Column: What March of Dimes Canada has done for me

Hear from Ken Vandeligt and his mom on the accident that changed his life
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Ken Vandeligt was 24 years old when an ATV accident changed his life. Now living with acquired brain injury, he's come a long way and owes much of it to the March of Dimes Canada. He's seen with his mom, Joe-Ann Vandeligt. (Supplied)

Ken Vandeligt, acquired brain injury survivor

On Aug. 14, 2004, I was in an ATV accident that caused an acquired brain injury.

I was 24 at the time, a licensed heavy equipment mechanic, engaged to be married, and planning on buying my own home.

I lived a totally independent life, loved my trade, and the people I worked with. I enjoyed fishing, hunting, snowboarding, and working on cars. I was almost always surrounded by friends. 

I miss all those things now — especially not being able to work and support myself — and unfortunately most of my friends have moved on due to other commitments. 

This has all been hard on my mom, my dad, my brother and me.

My accident was described as catastrophic. I was in a coma for several weeks and, apparently, I spent several years in the hospital, then a long-term care facility, and a temporary apartment through the March of Dimes Canada. I don't remember any of it, and my mom says that's a good thing.

Since August 2011, the Wade Hampton House has been my home. I have the privacy of my own room where I can hang out and do my own thing.

When I need assistance with cleaning my room, or performing daily care tasks, I always have help, 24-7. I have Wifi. I can work out in the gym, watch movies, play poker with other residents, and help with meal preparation. The food is great and I love the barbecues.

I’m now able to direct my own care, and I love my independence. The staff is great, too — they’re helping me improve my speech, and maintain and improve my physical mobility by doing physio. I get to go to the YMCA twice a week, and my goal is to bear weight. Everyone is very encouraging and tell me that I’ve come a long way.

The support services I get from March of Dimes Canada allows my parents to have a life now that they are retired and getting older. They no longer have to worry about me. I’m very fortunate that I get to go home or to camp on some weekends and holidays, so I can say I have the best of both worlds.

Joe-Ann Vandeligt, Ken's mom and caregiver

Ken’s acquired brain injury has affected all our lives. His progress was very slow in hospital and in long-term care, but, at Wade Hampton House, Ken went from being unable to communicate, incontinent, and tube-fed, to the person he is today. 

Now Ken enjoys directing his own care and spends a lot of time communicating with his iPad. We were fortunate to get support from March of Dimes Canada in September 2007. Everyone has worked so hard and never gave up on Ken.

As Ken's mom, I am very thankful to have him living and enjoying his life at the Wade Hampton House with March of Dimes Canada. Having him close to home and knowing that he’s happy and has accepted his brain injury and new life is a blessing.

I hope this new residence for acquired brain injury survivors can assist other families who are going through what we’ve been through.

For more information about March of Dimes Canada’s services, please visit marchofdimes.ca.

For more information on the Moving-A-Head Campaign, and to donate, please visit marchofdimes.ca/movingahead.




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