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Nanaimo couple seeks support from community

Nanaimo man adapting to life in a wheelchair after medical condition leaves him paralyzed

Melissa and Cory Johnson don’t dwell on the past.

Their focus is on the future and providing Cory with the equipment he needs to help live with paralyzing spinal cord damage.

“He’s in good spirits,” Melissa said. “He knows he’s got a lot of support around him.”

Around Christmas time last year, Cory started to feel discomfort in his back and knees. Melissa noticed a difference in his gait.

“He said it felt like his left knee was backwards,” Melissa said.

They talked to their doctor, who thought it could be Multiple Sclerosis, and ordered an MRI, which Cory had in February. A few days later, he saw a neurologist, who diagnosed the problem.

“[The doctor said] it’s good news – it’s not MS,” Melissa said. “It is a tumour growing inside his spinal cord.”

The tumour was about half an inch wide and about three inches long. Cory was referred to Vancouver General Hospital for surgery about four to six weeks later.

“It was pressing all of the nerves,” Melissa said.

But during the waiting period, Cory’s health took a turn for the worse – he woke up one morning with his legs shaking and unable to hold his own weight.

After going straight to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, Cory was immediately transferred to Vancouver. That was Sunday – by Tuesday morning, he was unable to wiggle his toes.

Emergency surgery saw most of the tumour removed, but left Cory paralyzed from the waist down.

He spent 23 days in the spinal unit at Vancouver General before transfer to G.F. Strong rehabilitation centre, where he still is undergoing physiotherapy and learning to live in a wheelchair.

The tumour was benign, meaning that chemotherapy isn’t needed. But the costs for Cory to adapt to his new life are mounting and the family is turning to the community for help.

A beer and burger fundraiser is scheduled for Sunday (July 29), 4-9 p.m., at Pipers Pub on Hammond Bay Road.

Medical insurance only pays a small part of the $6,000 cost of a new wheelchair and doesn’t cover the estimated $30,000 cost to make their home wheelchair-accessible.

Cory, who can’t return to his job as a tow-truck driver, also needs to attend a driving course that teaches him to use hand controls.

Melissa is working and caring for their son during the week and visiting her husband on weekends in Vancouver.He’s scheduled for discharge from G.F. Strong in early August.

“We don’t like to dwell on the past,” Melissa said. “What’s happened has happened.”

Tickets to the beer and burger fundraiser are $15 and available from Desire Tattoo, 1925 Bowen Rd.