Alex Abbott was a professional freestyle motocross rider for two years, and had been riding for eight years altogether when he was injured in July 2010 in Millbrook, Ontario.
“I was at a training facility with a foam pit learning backflips with the motorbike when it fell with all its weight on top of me. I knew right away something wasn’t right.”
Alex was immediately airlifted to Sunnybrook’s trauma centre, and it was determined that he had a critical injury to his spinal cord, mainly at the C6 vertebra. Surgeons took bone from his hip and pelvis to rebuild the C6 and then fused his C5, C6, and C7 vertabrae using metal brackets to restore some stability to his spine. The damage, however, was too great and Alex was an incomplete quadriplegic, meaning he has varying paralysis from the neck down.
He was a patient on Sunnybrook’s trauma ward for about two weeks and was transferred to Lyndhurst Centre where he stayed as an inpatient for five months to learn how to mobilize with the wheelchair and take care of himself.
Through all of the challenges, Alex has not lost his positive outlook on life. He volunteers for Sunnybrook’s P.A.R.T.Y. Program where he shares his story with teens during the school year. He also speaks with groups in many parts of Ontario, and on behalf of the Rick Hansen Foundation.
“Talking about my injury and my journey helps me a lot in my recovery, and hopefully it helps others too. You can’t take all the risk out of life, but if my story makes someone think twice and prevents an injury then I’ve made a difference.”
Alex also regularly volunteers at Sunnybrook’s Veterans Centre, the largest in Canada. His grandfather is a war veteran, and Alex has a great interest in Canada’s military history, particularly World War I and World War II. “I bring coffee around to the vets, and talk with them. We have some great laughs. It’s something that I really enjoy.”
Alex says, “I want people to know that we all have the ability to dig deeper and overcome great difficulties. A positive attitude, perseverance, communication and support are crucial, but what we find and use within ourselves to build these qualities differs from person to person and can change over time. The important thing is to find that inner strength and discover your own method of empowering it so you can keep moving forward. As Churchill said, ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’”