women in front of auction sign
Toronto Rehab patient and auctioneer, Vicki Lavoie, (C), stands with occupational therapist Brianna Bourne, (L), and speech-language pathologist Daniella Vasilovsky at the auction podium. (Photo: UHN)

The setting was pretend but the achievement was very real for Vicki Lavoie.

Just five weeks after coming to Toronto Rehab following a car accident that resulted in an acquired brain injury, the auctioneer took one large step in the process toward returning to the work she loves thanks to her determination and help from her care team and fellow patients.

The dining room of TR's Brain Injury Rehab Inpatient Service was transformed into an auction hall, with Vicki the star of the show. As she took command of the items up on the block – including a watch, board game, and guitar – the excited participants, made up of fellow patients and staff, lifted their bid paddles and exchanged play money.

Watching Vicki on the podium, it was hard to believe that when she first arrived in rehab she could barely breathe, had memory problems, and difficulty speaking. But one by one, as the items were sold, her transformation took shape.

"Rehab gave me the confidence to actually say 'yes, the auction business is going to happen again for me in the future'," she says.

A unique approach to rehab

While Vicki marvels at how much she's improved in a short time, the opportunity to help her achieve her rehab goals is equally exciting for her care team.

"When patients come in and they have unique jobs or hobbies, we like to get creative with how can we turn it into a therapeutic activity," says occupational therapist Brianna Bourne.

To achieve her goal of returning to work as an auctioneer, the team broke it down into smaller, more attainable steps.

This approach relied on Vicki taking an active role in her own rehab journey, by identifying what needed to happen.

"Vicki taught us what goes into running an auction, from advertising the date, organizing the items, counting money, and of course, speaking clearly, and in front of crowds," says speech-language pathologist Daniella Vasilovsky.

Table of auction items
The available faux items up for bid included a signed photo of the Duchess Kate Middleton, a guitar, and more. (Photo: UHN)

Identifying meaningful rehab goals, and then working as a multidisciplinary team to help reach them, is the ideal way to help patients transition back to their communities, which drives the team's work.

It also reflects the team's commitment to UHN's new strategic plan, which includes partnering with patients to design a care journey fortified by seamless transitions.

Paying it forward

While Vicki's determination played a key role in the success of the auction, she was also fueled by the idea of paying forward to other patients the care she received.

The auction was a way to get the other patients on the floor involved and working toward their own goals.

"I liked the idea of being able to help others overcome challenges, such as being comfortable in crowded spaces and count money, while I overcame my own," she says.

Upon discharge, Vicki says she'd like to continue paying it forward, by visiting the unit and holding more auctions, as a way to help other patients achieve their own rehab goals.

"I'll always remember the special care I've received at Toronto Rehab," she says, "and if there's some way I can make a difference for someone else, the way they've made a difference for me, I'll do it."

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