SCIO Community Magazine
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Spring 2020

Community Magazine Cover Spring 2020

Opening Notes: Strength in the face of adversity

Stuart Howe
Dr. Stuart Howe | CEO, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario

COVID-19 has crystalized, for me, both the vulnerability of our community, and its strength. In the face of devastating health risks, I’ve seen great evidence of resilience, expertise and passionate problem-solving from those with spinal cord injury who’ve helped steer our response to the virus. And I’ve seen the same in all staff and volunteers who’ve reacted with great agility in changing the way we work.

With the announcement of the pandemic, we set out to reinforce access to our services and support in every possible way. And we did so with the active engagement of our staff members across the province, our SCI network across the country and our alliance of health care clinicians who understand our community so well. We also reached out to government to inspire important changes to policy around mobility vendors and medical supplies.

Living with an SCI has transformed in profound and positive ways since our founding in 1945 (our 2020 75th anniversary celebrations are delayed to later in the year when it’s safe to gather). Over our history, our community may never have faced such a potentially dangerous scenario as the coronavirus pandemic. But in all those years, a foundation of strength was being built, making today’s response as effective as it needs to be. As PhD research student John Shepherd, our 2019 Patti Dawson Activist of the Year award recipient, said in a recent COVID-19 information session, 

Physical Distance Doesn't Mean Being Alone."People living with spinal cord injury, typically we've been through a lot, and the fact that we're here means that we've been able to cope with a lot. We've proven our resilience. And I think that resilience will really help us deal with this new situation. I would go so far as to say that we can be helpful to the world around us in modelling that resilience. And I think we could also be of service to the world and to each other."

John Shepherd
University of Toronto Rehabilitation Science PhD student John Shepherd. See John in our #PeeforFree video at and COVID-19 info video at

John’s positive take reflects the kind of man he is, and the kind of people we are lucky enough to know and work alongside every day. In the early days of the pandemic, John brought to our national network the very stark data showing just how serious the risks are to people with SCI. It’s that combination of truth and strength that I witness regularly, and that our Board and leadership team try to embody as we respond to this crisis.

In this issue of Community, you’ll read a lot about our response to COVID-19 and the importance of staying connected. Not surprisingly, we’re all experiencing a high level of stress and fear as we try to keep ourselves and our families healthy in body and mind. I hope SCIO’s support systems, which you can now access online, by phone and email, can help you manage that stress and maintain your vibrant health. I appreciate all members of the SCIO community who have come together for each other during this very challenging time.



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