Calgary Health Foundation

Arjun's Journey

ArjunIf you could give someone a second chance at life would you?  

Arjun Keswani is using his second chance to complete his PhD. Something that wouldn’t be possible without the Neuro Rehab Unit at Foothills Medical Centre (FMC).  This unit helps people recover from the devastating effects of brain injury, stroke and spinal cord injuries.

Twelve years ago, Arjun was working on his PhD in Geology at the University of Alberta. He began experiencing muscle weakness and numbness in his hands which was diagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).  A surgery to fix the CTS disabled his hands making him unable to complete his PhD. 

After years of occupational and physio therapy, Arjun’s symptoms were getting worse. His muscles were beginning to waste away and he was having difficulty with everyday tasks.  His doctor recommended taking an x-ray of Arjun’s neck and spine. What they discovered was life threatening. 

The x-ray showed severe spinal degeneration. The nerves leading from the spine were being pinched between the disks in his neck. This lead to loss of nerve function, muscle wasting and pain.  Arjun initially resisted surgery but was told that within 2 to 3 months the condition would become so severe he would suffer from paralysis of his diaphragm and would stop breathing.

Arjun was admitted to FMC where he had halo traction, a very painful procedure followed by a 9 hour surgery to fuse his spine.  The surgeon had to use 16 screws to hold his head to his spine and protect his spinal cord.

After surgery, Arjun was moved to the Neuro Rehab Unit to begin rehabilitation and help him transition back to his home.  He had a halo on his head limiting his upper body mobility and was in a wheelchair for three months.   He had to re-learn to walk, talk and eat again. He had to re-learn everything a person needs to know to take care of themselves and be independent.

Each day involved one on one therapy including physio, occupational and recreation therapy.   Arjun also received emotional support through individual and group counselling and activities. The group environment provided him with a sense of community and belonging, which was so important at this difficult time in his life.

Slowly he regained function in his hands and legs and learned the skills he would need to care for himself again.  After 4 long months in the hospital, he was able to return home and begin rebuilding his life. “Thanks to the Neuro Rehab Unit I can pick up a coffee, walk around the mall and buy groceries on my own.  Without them I wouldn’t be here today” says Arjun

A year after Arjun’s surgery, he returned to Neuro Rehab to thank staff and present them with a plaque which now hangs at the unit’s entrance. It inspires other patients who are just starting their rehabilitation journey.

In Arjun’s words: “I am deeply grateful to everyone who supported my quest for a second chance at life!  Staff at Unit 58 gave me hope for a better tomorrow, and I shall make the most of this opportunity to live my life to the fullest potential.”

There are patients like Arjun everyday in Neuro Rehab.  People whose lives have been changed by traumatic injuries or illnesses.  People who need care to help them get back to living their lives.

The average patient stays for 48 days and it is a very challenging time in their life. Many of them have experienced a devastating loss of mobility and independence and have to relearn even the simplest tasks.

Your gift today will help Neuro Rehab further enhance their current services in many ways.  They will be able purchase state of the art equipment and offer enhanced skills training to help patients transition from hospital back to their homes.

A young man who has lost the use of his legs through a skiing accident will learn how to adjust to life in a wheelchair and a grandmother recovering from a stroke will speak to her grandchildren again.

You will be giving them their second chance at life.

“Thanks to the Neuro Rehab Unit I can pick up a coffee, walk around the mall and buy groceries on my own.  Without them I wouldn’t be here today,” says Arjun.

If you would like to help Unit 58 - Neuro Rehab and give others a second chance at life as they recover from the devastating effect of brain injury, stroke and spinal cord injuries please donate here.

The unit helps people recover from neurological illness or injuries through the following programs:

  • Brain Injury Rehabilitation
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Stroke Rehabilitation
  • General Neurological rehabilitation

Fast Facts about the unit:

  • Trauma is the cause of 58% of all brain and spinal cord injuries in patients on Unit 58
  • 63% of stroke patients on Unit 58 are 65 years of age or younger. 15% are younger than 46
  • The average length of stay for patients is 48 days
  • 70% of all Unit 58 patients return home when discharged
  • 26% of Unit 58 patients are from outside the Calgary Zone
  • 40% of Unit 58 patients have had strokes, 27% brain injuries and 12% have other neurological diagnoses
  • Patients have 2-3 hours per day of therapy – including physio, occupational therapy, counselling

The Neuro Rehabilitation Unit offers rehabilitation services to people living in southern Alberta, southeastern BC and southwestern Saskatchewan.  Every year 4,300 Canadians suffer a spinal cord injury.  This number is expected to reach 5,800 by 2030.  (Source: Rick Hansen Institute)