Joanne Smith

Joanne Smith’s spinal cord injury (SCI) at 19 left her paralyzed, but it has not held her back in the least. In fact, she has led an extraordinary life.

Over the last 25 years, Joanne has worked as a model, attended university to study media and communications and she has travelled the world. All of this might not have been the case had she not undertaken rehabilitation at Toronto Rehab.

While a patient at Toronto Rehab’s Lyndhurst Centre, Joanne was able to connect with other young people who were going through a similar experience. They were a support network for each other. “It was a unique time and a group of us were able to bond,” she says.“That meant a lot.”

Those connections helped her come to terms with her injury. “It was difficult,” says Joanne. “But I have moved forward and I’ve had a great life.”

After rehabilitation, Joanne was determined to get back to life. When she realized that she could live well with a spinal cord injury, it was a tremendous moment that changed the path of her life.

Joanne began work in television, with a hosting gig on the Gemini-award winning CBC show called Moving On for 11 years. She travelled across Canada and met people with disabilities doing incredible things and helped give them a voice. She also covered the 2000 and 2002 Paralympic Games.

“Had my injury not happened, I may not have gone to all these amazing places and had these adventures,” says Joanne. “Maybe I’ve even had a better life than it would have been.”

Now, Joanne is a certified nutritionist, and co-author of a new book on nutrition with an SCI. She also hosts her own television show Accessibility in Action on Accessible Media Incorporated (AMI) where she raises awareness of disability issues.

Joanne remains in touch with some of her peers from Lyndhurst Centre. Today, she is a patient of Toronto Rehab’s Dr. Cathy Craven.

“At age 19 I thought my life was over,” she says. “But I have been very fortunate. I feel my greatest accomplishment is living as ‘normal’ and happy a life as possible.” Joanne gives regular talks on nutrition at Lyndhurst Centre because she wants to help others benefit from her knowledge. She encourages patients to be healthy and live as fully as possible. “Don’t give in to the fear,” she says. “We all have fear and self doubt, but don’t give in.”

She continues to draw strength from others who are determined to move forward.

“I’m inspired by anyone with a passion, by people who go for it and make it happen – able bodied or disabled.”

Read more stories in our 2013 Report to Our Community
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