Bob Pesant was just 16 years old when his high school wrestling career was cut short and his life was changed forever. He had recently started competing for his school at matches against other schools in the province.
In 1973, during a competition, Bob sustained a spinal cord injury to his C4, C5 and C6. Reflecting back, Bob says, “Your mid-teens are such an important time in your life. I was in the midst of making key friendships and just embarking upon my first relationships and, all of a sudden, that stopped.”
“I was in hospital for a full year after my initial injury. My parents took turns to come and see me every day. It was an incredibly difficult time. I was so dependent on others and needed to be fed and receive sponge baths.”
Bob initially spent four months in the Toronto General Hospital and eight months in rehabilitation.
His rehabilitation started at the original Lyndhurst Lodge on Lyndhurst Avenue. “It looked like a typical hospital in an old movie; women were upstairs and men couldn’t go up there, it had a library like a Sherlock Homes movie, and men had to go through the kitchen to get to the hall that led to their rooms.”
“There was an extremely steep ramp into the basement where physio was held. An orderly had to stop you from rolling down too quickly and push you up after physio was over. There was a therapy pool that only two people could use at one time.”
On Canada Day weekend 1974, all the patients went home and on Tuesday took the journey to the new Lyndhurst Rehabilitation Hospital on Sutherland Drive.
“I stayed in Unit 1A on the first floor, the second floor wasn’t open yet; different areas were still under construction. The gym was completely empty and there was no pool yet. There was a pool table but no one to play with – there weren’t enough staff or patients around and no organized recreation classes. But, hey, at least there was free parking!”
“It doesn’t matter who you are, I think everyone involved would say it was exciting to move to the new facilities and that both patients and staff looked forward to future opportunities. We were all involved in creating a whole new work environment.”
Bob left Lyndhurst 365 days after he entered the Toronto General Hospital on December 20th, 1974. In the years that followed, Bob continued to build his strength and independence.
Much later he started to develop secondary issues as a result of his injury. In 2015, he spent 116 days in hospital due to wheelchair-induced pressure sores and diabetes.
“I was acutely aware that my level of fitness needed to be improved, so I hired a personal trainer. By attending regular training sessions for two years I gradually improved my strength, flexibility and most importantly, my attitude. I’m now able to get out of bed without assistance, climb stairs and step up onto a platform with four risers.”
“I really noticed my new energy streak at the Spinal Cord Injury Ontario Ski Day. I’m relatively new to sit-skiing but I know that core strength is everything. I could feel the difference from all the hard work I’d been doing in the gym as I slalomed down Blue Mountain with my guides. This year was the fourth time that I’ve attended Ski Day and I absolutely loved it! I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to be active and get out there.”
In addition to skiing, Bob’s new healthy lifestyle includes aquafit and tai-chi among other activities. Bob was recently recognized for his incredible energy, persistence and huge gains in the gym by GoodLife Fitness as he was shortlisted for their Transformation Challenge.
Not only does Bob have persistence in his approach to healthy living and staying active, he also has determination to giving back to SCIO. Bob served on the Board from 1984 to 1991, volunteering as a Director and overseeing the governance of the organization. Even more amazingly, Bob has been a donor to SCIO for 36 years! Almost half of SCIO’s lifetime. The giving spirit is strong in the Pesant family with Bob’s daughter Megan generously giving her time as a member of our Young Professionals Board which hosts our highly successful Annual Comedy Night.
With the generous support of donors and sponsors, events like our Comedy Night bring our community together. When we can get together again we’re sure to see Bob there and, with his focus on healthy living, we should be seeing him for years to come.