Project to help injured war veteran needs votes

NANAIMO – Student's idea to help a local war veteran injured in Afghanistan makes it to semifinal of nation-wide competition.

A Nanaimo student’s idea to help a local war veteran injured in Afghanistan has made it to the semifinal round of a nationwide competition that funds projects creating positive change in communities.

Rebecca Lumley, a Grade 12 student at Wellington Secondary School, is spearheading a bid to purchase state-of-the-art technology that will help Capt. Trevor Greene work toward his goal of walking again, through the Aviva Community Fund competition.

Greene was wounded while serving in Afghanistan. On March 4, 2006, he was talking with a group of elders in a village, his helmet and weapon aside, when a young man snuck up behind him and drove an axe into his skull.

The axe cleaved into the area of his brain that controls basic motor functions. His ongoing recovery has defied the odds and inspired others.

The technology, from California-based Ekso Bionics, consists of a portable system of braces, motors and an onboard computer designed to allow wheelchair-bound patients to walk.

Lumley said the technology is not yet available in Canada and to allow it to be accessible to others, it would be kept at the CBI Health Centre in Nanaimo.

There is a chance that the technology could help rebuild neural pathways to get Greene walking on his own again, she added.

The project received more than 12,000 votes to put it into the semifinals and now it has to go through another round of voting to get to the final.

The inspiration for the project was both Lumley’s dream of becoming a military doctor and personal connections with Greene.

Wellington teacher John Mandziuk’s wife, an occupational therapist, works with Greene and Lumley’s mother was one of the trauma nurses at Vancouver General Hospital who worked with Greene in the early days of his injury.

“When it was mentioned that this could be an opportunity, I kind of just seized that,” said Lumley. “This is an uplifting story – literally.”

The technology costs $140,000 plus $10,000 per year to maintain and the Aviva competition funds projects between $5,000 and $150,000.

If the project is chosen, Greene and his physiotherapist will also have to travel to California to learn how to operate the equipment and the group will have to find another source of funding for both the California trip and maintenance costs for subsequent years.

“Hopefully we get enough attention and awareness from this that someone else is willing to step up,” said Lumley.

Voting for the project started Monday and of the 98 ideas left from the hundreds originally submitted, 30 will make it to the finals. People can vote until Dec. 12 at www.avivacommunity