“It’s Amazing What’s Taken Away From You”

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation

Fredericton Architect Recovers From Serious Leg Injuries

John Leroux, age 35

The distance between Fredericton and Saint John, New Brunswick is just over 100 km. But the journey that John Leroux began between the two cities on Feb. 22, 2006 has led to a long road back.

That afternoon, Leroux, a Fredericton architect, was heading south on Route 7 to Saint John for a meeting. Another driver, traveling north, had dropped his cigarette. He reached down for it, and when he looked back up at the road, his vehicle was headed straight into the path of Leroux’s Honda Civic.

“When the RCMP came, they thought there was no way I would make it out alive,” says Leroux, 35.

His car was crushed (“It looked like a metal meatball,” he says), and Leroux had a fractured skull, a broken left wrist and left arm, two badly broken legs, and heavy blood loss.

He was rushed to Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton, and then transferred to the trauma centre at Saint John Regional Hospital for almost two weeks, before returning to the Fredericton hospital. In all, he was in hospital for three months.

While his arm has healed well, the leg injuries were far more serious. Leroux needed bone grafts in his right and left femurs. He couldn’t even stand until four months after the accident, and then only with aids. Six months after the accident, he gets around in a wheelchair or on crutches, and is undergoing therapy at Chalmers Regional (where his wife Meghan, coincidentally, is a physiotherapist).

“It’s really intensive physio, five days a week, 9 to 3. I put weights on my legs, I stretch, and the physiotherapist will bend my knees back until I can’t take it anymore. There’s a lot of manipulation of my joints. And it’s painful.”

In the summer, Leroux reached one milestone when his knees finally bent enough to let him get into a car (as a passenger – he can’t drive yet). One long-term goal is to take part in his annual Christmas hockey fundraising tournament, even just to get on the ice and skate for a bit. “I still have a long way to go – but I am making progress,” he says.

His accident and rehabilitation have given him a new appreciation for the efforts of orthopaedic professionals. In May, he did some media interviews to help promote the local “Hip Hip Hooray!” walk for the Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation, which raises money for much needed research, treatment and education.

“People can take their orthopaedic health for granted,” says Leroux. “But when you have a lack of mobility, it’s amazing what’s taken away from you, and how debilitating it can be. It’s critical that we have people training in this field, and that the techniques keep improving.”

He remains hopeful about his own road to recovery. “Every day, you make small improvements,” says Leroux. “That’s what keeps you going, that’s what matters.”