Josh Gogol’s journey has been a long and winding road

Josh Gogol of Canora continues to face a variety of challenges, monetary and otherwise, after suffering a serious spinal cord injury which left him in a wheelchair.

The injury was the result of an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident which occurred approximately two-and-a-half years ago, on Nov. 5, 2016.

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In an effort to make things easier for Josh and his parents Jim and Kim, a number of their friends and fellow Canora residents are putting on a fundraiser, “Rock N Roll for Josh” on May 4 at the Canora Curling Rink, with music provided by Strange Brew and Men Without Shame. The evening will include a silent auction.

Christine Danyluk, one of the organizers, said the fundraiser is an effort to help Josh and his family deal with his ongoing medical expenses and other issues.

“In a moment, your whole life can change, as it did in Josh's case,” said Danyluk. “Josh will have additional expenses for the rest of his life. We just want to ease some of the financial burden for the family so Josh can concentrate on his therapy and living the best life he possibly can.”

Even before graduation from Grade 12 at Canora Composite School, Gogol had a strong interest in outdoor activities.

“I enjoyed going quading and snowmobiling with buddies along with going hunting, fishing and camping,” he said. “I loved the outdoors and still do. One of my main passions has always been photography, mainly storm chasing.

“I worked for Wyonzek Bros. Construction before the accident and loved my job.”

The accident, which left Gogol in a wheelchair happened when he and a group of friends were out riding their quads on an unusually pleasant November day in 2016.

“It actually started as one of the best rides I had went on since buying my quad, until we were going across a field and I hit a hole, which left my quad undriveable,” said Gogol.

“I got it back to a safe place to park and hopped on with a buddy. We ended up coming over a hill going around 55 to 60 mph and a washed out ditch kind of came out of nowhere. We hit it and with two people on one quad the shocks couldn’t handle the added weight, so we both were thrown off very hard.”

He woke up a few minutes later and couldn’t remember what had happened.

“Then I tried getting up and found out my legs would not work,” recalled Gogol. “I knew right away my spine was broken and I was paralyzed.

“We called an ambulance and I also called my parents and told them what had happened so they would come out. Luckily they drove the paramedics to pick the both of us up. I then found out at the hospital I had a major spinal cord injury. Thankfully the injury was low enough to not affect my arms, so I still have full use of my arms.”

Not surprisingly, Gogol said there have been many major changes in his life since the accident.

“I’m not able to get out as much as I like to enjoy fishing. Taking pictures is a bit of a challenge, including getting the right angles,” he explained. “Daily activities take a lot more time and I tend to have to figure out different ways of doing things. It just makes everyday life much more of a challenge.”

Gogol said maintaining a healthy diet has been difficult at times.

“My insides don’t work as fast as they used to, so I have had troubles with that. Another major challenge is being able to access places around the countryside in areas not built for a wheelchair. I tend to get stuck quite often but usually have someone around when I’m going off the road.”

One of the biggest changes for the Gogol family has been the financial burden, starting with a $4,000 wheelchair.

“The seat and backrest were extra on top of that,” said Gogol. “Getting my truck outfitted for me to be able to drive it and get in and out was a huge expense. “The therapy I go to is a private place, meaning it is not covered. So it costs upwards of $3,000 per month along with my apartment which is fully wheelchair accessible at $1000 a month.

“Things have been taking their toll since I have not been able to work due to a pressure ulcer which I had surgery on in August 2017. It’s still not quite healed. It is almost there, but very uncomfortable and sore.”

His therapy is usually two hours per day from Monday to Friday, where he works on a number of different areas of his body.

“First we start doing range of motion which stretches my muscles out along with trying to move my legs in different directions. We do sit to stands, where I use a bar to pull me up from sitting to a standing position, and then go back down to sitting. This helps in trying to activate those muscles to stand up,” said Gogol. “I also do crawling exercises which have helped build strength in my hips to get my legs to move.

“I would say therapy has helped tremendously and is still progressing. I have gained a good bit of my core strength back along with just movement in general, and am hoping it continues in the right direction.”

Even though the experience of going through the accident and the resulting injuries was tremendously difficult, Gogol said good things have come out of it.

“I would say I have a whole new perspective on life. I have always liked hard work and this has been a huge challenge which I didn’t want in my life,” he admitted. “But to push through and get back up to normal again will definitely boost my self esteem. I also have met a broad variety of different people with different stories and it just makes a person appreciate what they have and how much we take things for granted.”

He still loves to hunt and fish, even though these activities are much more challenging than before the accident. But he usually has friends available to provide the necessary assistance.

Over two years after the accident, Gogol said he recently finally got back on his quad.

“I am looking forward to driving it around again, maybe not getting it into any really big mud but just to have the freedom to drive again is good enough for me. I still have a passion for taking pictures and storm chasing and will continue to do that,” he predicted. “Just going out for drives and visiting people, going to hunt or anything to make every day count is the best way to look at it I think.”

Gogol said he is very thankful the support he has received from family and friends in Canora and the surrounding area.

“My parents have been there right through everything and have supported me tremendously. I can’t even begin to explain the amount of appreciation I have for the things they have gone through and helped me through,” he said. “The people of Canora have been there for me through many different things. Anytime I need a hand I usually can get help. I am very fortunate and thankful I grew up in such an amazing community with some of the most amazing people out there. We all help each other through thick and thin no matter what.

“If it wasn’t for the generosity and helpfulness of the people in Canora, along with my family, I have no idea where I would be. The respect and appreciation I have for it all is tremendous. I can not thank everyone enough.”

Gogol said it’s important for him to concentrate on looking forward. He hopes to continue to improve his physical health and get back into the workforce.

“I want to work on my main core to gain the strength back in my back muscles to gain better balance and control in therapy. I want to try wheelchair racing,” he stated. “I am planning on getting into some sort of schooling to start working again because I do love work and want to get back at it as soon as I can.”