As a patient, Dr. Alex Mihailidis learned a lot about the rehab experience and where he, as a researcher, could do better. (Photo: The KITE Research Institute at UHN)

Like many Canadians, I had planned to spend the 2019 September long weekend with family and friends at my cottage, just south of Bancroft, Ont.

On that Saturday, my then eight-year-old son, as he had done many times before, met up with some friends to wander the nearby paths and trails. I was taking some time to relax – I'm a Senior Scientist and research chair at Toronto Rehab's KITE Research Institute and a professor at the University of Toronto, so my weeks are busy – when I heard my son yelling.

When I walked over to see what was going on, I looked up and saw that he was stuck on a ledge on a cliff. I don't know why he lowered himself down onto this ledge, but there he was and he was panicking and couldn't get onto more solid ground.

I was at the bottom of the cliff and so I started climbing up to him. When I got there, I helped him go back up to a safe part of the rock base. I then tried to get to the same spot as him, but the little ledges of rock and dirt that I was walking on started to give way. I suddenly felt myself falling – I was up about 30 feet from the ground. I tried to grab onto a tree, unsuccessfully, and that's pretty much all I remember, other than flashes of panic and my wife and friends around me trying to get me out of there.

The next thing I remember is being loaded onto a helicopter, which flew me to a hospital in Kingston, Ont. I didn't know the extent of what was going on – I was on a lot of meds – until a few days later when my organs started shutting down. My whole body was crashing. Doctors had to intubate me and put me in a coma for a couple of days. There were moments where I was pretty much almost gone.

In the end, I had broken a lot of bones – my pelvis, ankle, several vertebrae, my sternum and I had a spinal cord injury.

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