Nelson teacher touched by the legacy

L.V. Rogers biology teacher Jeremy McComb suffered a serious spinal cord injury and now uses his experience of recovery and Rick Hansen’s legacy as teaching tools. - Bob Hall photo
L.V. Rogers biology teacher Jeremy McComb suffered a serious spinal cord injury and now uses his experience of recovery and Rick Hansen’s legacy as teaching tools.
— image credit: Bob Hall photo

Jeremy McComb understands exactly how fragile a spinal cord can be.

“I never thought it would happen,” McComb says of his terrible mountain bike accident six years ago at Whistler. “It happened so fast… it’s not very forgiving when you are mountain biking and you land on hard ground.”

An enthusiastic outdoor adventure seeker, McComb and a group of friends were enjoying a fantastic summer trip to the coast and took in the mountain bike trails at the world famous resort community. It was there his life changed forever.

“I took a jump and got way too much air,” he explains. “I landed on my backside and had a compression fracture of the L1.”

McComb was rushed to Vancouver General Hospital by ambulance. It was there he spent the next four weeks rehabbing and learning to walk again. McComb says he feels fortunate the outcome was not much worse.

On Thursday, the 39-year-old L.V. Rogers’ biology teacher will be one of the chosen participants in the Many in Motion relay that is marking the 25th anniversary of Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion tour that brought the Canadian wheelchair athlete across the globe for spinal cord research.

McComb knows first hand the gift Hansen gave those who suffer damage to their precious spinal cords

“I got to reap the rewards of all the efforts he put in,” McComb says. “The service I received was phenomenal. Having to overcome such a serious injury myself, I thought it would be neat to get a chance to be part of it [in the relay].”

His rehabilitation in Vanvouver was not the first time McComb had been touched by Hansen. Raised in Nelson, McComb was in junior high when the Canadian legend came through the community 25 years ago.

“It was just so inspiring to see what he did and the money he raised for spinal cord research,” says McComb. “He was a hero of mine growing up.”

McComb’s life has changed significantly since his accident. Though he can still walk, the metal rods in his spine limit his ability to run. His right leg has partial paralysis because his crash crushed one of the nerve cords that branches off the bottom of his spinal cord. He also has internal paralysis on some of his organs.

Still, other than a slight limp McComb is able to remain active despite the permanent damage to his body.

“From looking at me, you wouldn’t know,” says the father of two young children.

In a community full of active young outdoor adventurists, McComb says he uses his injury and the story of Rick Hansen during his biology lessons to let his students know just how delicate the human body is.

“When I teach the unit on the nervous system I show them all my slides of my spine and my spinal cord, all my MRIs and CT scans,” he says. “I use the opportunity to explain to them what happened and we teach with it. At that point we talk about Rick Hansen.”

Having been touched by Hansen’s mission and his legacy, McComb says he will continue to keep the spirit of the Man in Motion tour alive in the classroom.

“We are entering a new generation of kids who are a little farther removed from it,” McComb says. “These kids were not born when Rick Hansen did his first tour. We still do the Terry Fox Run, so even though kids were not around in the ‘80s they have a pretty good idea about what Terry Fox was about. I feel there is a little bit less known about Rick Hansen, but I certainly share with the kids my experience with getting to meet him and everything else.”

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