Kurt: someone strong to lean on
His strength is a counterpoint to the challenging road he's travelled since he was a client of ErinoakKids. But after graduating from the ErinoakKids Independent Living Program (ILP) in 2009, Kurt Reid came back in 2011 as a Goal Support Worker to give advice and support to those who are on a similar journey.
The ILP helps youth ages 16 to 19 with physical or developmental disabilities develop living skills by living independently for two weeks in a supported environment.
When Kurt was 16, he suffered from a blood clot in his left leg. The clot caused neuromuscular damage and a loss of function. After a stay at SickKids, Kurt came to ErinoakKids for rehabilitation and to regain his independence.
"For two years I was using a manual wheelchair to get around," he says. Kurt fondly remembers how his physical therapists were not shy about being assertive. "There was a lot of physical therapy. A lot of reminding me to do my physio," he says.
Then, after two years of steady progress at ErinoakKids, Kurt suffered two cardiac arrests. "I was rushed to SickKids to be operated on and then spent three months in hospital, says Kurt. After SickKids, Kurt went to Toronto Rehab before returning to ErinoakKids. "I went full-circle," he observes.
Kurt adds, "From the first time I went to ErinoakKids, I was told by my physiotherapist that they've never seen a case like mine before. She told me it was going to be tough on both of us. That made me determined. ErinoakKids was determined to help me, and I was willing."
Kurt's experience at ErinoakKids led to his own determination to come back as a Goal Support Worker after graduating from the ILP, to help others in the same situation. Kurt says, "It led me to want to work with people like Jon Greenaway and Joe Trovato [ErinoakKids clinicians] and give back to the organization that gave so much to me."
The ILP class of 2011 found his strength inspiring, his knowledge reassuring and his advice encouraging. Kurt reminisces, "It's really humbling. You see yourself in some of the kids. You realize how you were shy the first day you where there, but by the last day you were friends with everyone, and it's great to see them grow in the same way and reach their goals. We can connect because we've been there – we have that in common."
Today Kurt is a university student in environmental studies, with a focus on urban planning, where he wants to build a career.