I was a popular kid!. Sports was my life. In track I ran the 100, 200 and 1500 meter. Placed 10th in the Terry Fox run of 200+ runners, a shooting guard every year for the high school basketball team; MVP at basketball camps and a pitcher in competitive baseball during the summer months.
July 13th 2003.
At the age of 21, at my best mate’s cottage, I had a life-altering diving injury that took the use of my arms and legs. Life as I knew it was over. The spinal cord injury was the absolute WORST thing to ever happen to me for sure, but also to my family. I spent 33 days in ICU at the Civic Hospital here in Ottawa, fighting for my life every single day. A spinal cord injury usually requires one-to-three bronchoscopies maximum over the course of the entire injury. I had 17 in two weeks! It took everything I had to get off the ventilator, but I did it against all odds. Unable to move or even to speak, with tubes down my throat and up my nose, I would click my tongue at nights to get help from the nurses. And all I could think of were the words the doctor told me: “You are never going to walk again”.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, can prepare you for that reality or for the amount of pain, suffering and pure patience required to get through it all day in day out. I am forever grateful for the love of family, close friends, and the big guy above!.
9 Months of Rehabilitation.
Once stable, I was transferred to The Rehab Center at the Ottawa Hospital, where I spent the next 9 months learning how to live this new life. It was a scary time, with many challenges hourly – including a “code white” emergency tracheotomy – a fall in the shower two weeks in with the neck brace still on, suctioning of the lungs more times I can count and for hours on end. I was terrified of the future and the thought of possibly being in an institution my whole life.
Special Trip Home.
I can still smell the turkey coming home for Christmas after 9 months at the rehab. driving the wheelchair up the portable ramp with my head. my mom yelling MERRY CHRISTMAS WELCOME HOME!!!.
Just being home seeing the items I haven't seen in so long warmed my heart, it was extremely comforting. The smell of the turkey dinner, half frosted windows from the warmth of the hot stove and home, my injury disappeared for that moment in time.
Leaving the Safe four Walls.
Fast forward to my discharge day. My emotions were all over the place. My mom is a single parent of two, advised NOT to bring me home because I would need 24/7 care and it wouldn't be good for her health or her longevity. But my mom didn’t want me to be in an institution either, so she made the decision to bring me home.
Post (SCI) Injury.
The suffering continued in-fact it hasn't stopped. Daily catheter blocks due to kidney stone disease, resulting in numerous surgeries even to date with 3 large stones in left kidney and 2 in the right. Back to back urinary track infections, 36 + months confined to a bed due to a stage four pressure ulcer to the bone that had to be operated on, septic hip, 9 bouts of pneumonia a fistula, serval rounds of cellulitis, two falls in the shower, and the constant patience day in and out totally dependent for every need.
Life certainly hasn’t been easy, but we have been blessed by having so many wonderful people in our lives. After the injury so many people from far and wide some whom we had never even met – came to help our family. This was when I realized that wonderful things can happen when people come together for a special cause. A crew of my buddies, their dads, uncles, friends and Mr. Powers’ connections of contractors re-did my mom’s entire house, widening doors to accommodate my wheelchair and building a accessible washroom and roll in shower.
Wasn’t long after I was home that a friend of the girl I dated from Grade 7 until after my spinal cord injury completed a two-month 992 km walk, from Windsor to Ottawa, called The Road to Recovery, to raise funds for SCI and our family.
We had a big backyard, with mostly grass and a small deck, so we used the funds that Anne raised to build a accessible deck with interlocking brick all around. I still love my cozy little spot till this day.
'With love of so many people it was my turn to give back and pay it forward'.
I can remember thinking, “how though?” It hit me when I was getting dressed for a friend’s birthday party. I had bought a new outfit and was so excited to wear it, only to try it on the day of the party and discover it didn’t fit. A clothing line I loved and wore before my injury was no longer a clothing option. I was so disappointed and frustrated with the lack of fashionable clothing available for my new reality that I decided then and there to design and create my own clothing line.
A mentor had said “Oh, that’s great that you’re going to do cool t-shirts with funny sayings on them”. I said “No, I’m going to build an entire clothing line and accessories for people who are mobility impaired.
Not long after, I rolled up to my desk, opened a new Word document, put on some really loud music, and began typing, using a HeadMouse that is attached to my glasses. I move my head to point the laser of the mouse at the electronic keyboard. I typed out each garment with fabric specs and unique adaptation features.
A few months later, with a very stiff neck and bloodshot eyes, I sent my mentor my work. Less than 5 minutes later, he replied with “Outstanding work, Travis!” and he submitted it to the Algonquin Applied Research & Innovation Project (ARIP), so I could pitch my venture idea.
Out of 30 other venture pitches, I was the last to present. They LOVED it, and I won. This is where the real traction for this project began. During the next 4 months I worked with the students and profs on a business plan, logo, and website.
Half-way through the four months, I got a call from CBC, who said they wanted to do a segment on what I was starting and they would be at my place in one hour. Unshaven after a sleepless night – not uncommon when the wheels are constantly spinning – we rushed to get me ready. Here is the CBC link to “Ottawa man unveils accessible clothing”
After the CBC segment aired, I got many phone calls and positive posts/messages, and a letter of recognition from MPP Yasir Naqvi. With the buzz still going at full speed, The Celebration of People Awards contacted me and said I was nominated and should go to the Gala. I was humbled when I heard the words: “The 2014 Accessibility Award goes to …Travis Iverson.”
With the win and with many still talking about my efforts to help other mobility impaired people look good and feel good, an international magazine called OutSpoken, which is dedicated to helping those with impairments, also did a story.
After I completed a winter, spring, summer and fall line, I wanted to do one garment for everybody, able-bodied or not. I received a few material swatches and fell in love with the temperature-regulating material called Coolmax. Most people with spinal injuries – myself included – CANNOT regulate their body temperature. I sat directly in the sun wearing a Coolmax black shirt and was as cool as a cucumber. When I went back in the house, I was expecting to be chilled, but in fact the material warmed me up right away! This was when I knew I had found the perfect material.
A friend of mine said I should sell to everyone – those in wheelchairs – as well as able bodied and give a percentage to help the cause – i.e., for a certain amount sold, I would dress a newly injured for free. The idea brought a smile of pure happiness to my face. I contacted the editor from the magazine and told her my new mission and she did another two-page article.
Today, I have many stylish, functional garments hanging in my living area and have many, many more unique pieces to go. For example, we are working on odour resistant, washable and stylish urine bag/tube covers as well as smart cushions that tell you in real-time (via smartphone, PC or tablet) how the air pressure is an air cushion, which is important in the prevention of pressure ulcers, a major health cost today and also a major setback for those with spinal cord injuries.
On my 35th birthday, I was out for dinner with my friend, mentor and business partner, Tyler, his wife Tiff, and a few close mates. It was the perfect first day of summer and we had a fantastic meal at the restaurant called SALT.
Not able to feel anything from my chest down, little did I know that my Roho cushion was out of air. When I woke the next morning, the big smile on my face from the excellent evening, quickly disappeared and my life was in tatters again after my helper turned me over to check the skin, and said "looks like you won't be getting up for a while." I was devastated. I had developed a stage 4 pressure ulcer to the bone due to the air loss in the seat.
I was completely confined to my bed for over 36 months. The ONLY thing that crossed my mind was I'm going to have to work real hard to pass the time. With my HeadMouse and a “Never Give Up” mindset – which is the only way I have been able to survive – I made it my mission to have as many people wearing my Coolmax dress shirts as possible. From the confines of my bed over 36 months, I sourced materials, tags, labels, and asked friends to ship them. I’m proud to say that to date, there are over 4,000 people wearing the shirts.
It cost 1.7B just to treat a pressure ulcer NOT cure, treat, annually and if I can lessen the pain, suffering and financial burden.
More here: http://puma.ibv.org/index.php/home/overview
Today, I'm working on many life changing pieces including the IF INC. T3 Smart seat where those who use air cushions can see in real time if the air levels are adequate with tilt alarms every 20 minutes so, nobody has to go through what I went through - ever again!.
Climb aboard and help me help millions suffering with spinal cord injuries from accessibility, renovations, care support, independence to education on how to live a healthy longer life even with a spinal injury!.
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The Sky's The Limit. Especially When You Never Give Up!