By Brian Ross
In July 2008, Orillia teenager Tyhme Thompson suffered a serious spinal cord injury, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. After being airlifted to St. Mike’s Hospital in Toronto, she underwent extensive surgeries on her spine, and was fitted with permanent titanium rods and plates, which restrict her body movements.
The incredible story of this former swimmer, swim instructor and lifeguard touched many hearts, and ultimately inspired members of the pool and spa industry to give Tyhme the pool of her dreams.
An inspiring story
As the reality of their daughter’s limitations was sinking in, Tyhme’s parents needed to make their home as accessible as it could be. Like all parents, their first consideration was to get the best medical care for their child, and then get her back home.
Although learning to cope in a wheelchair was required, Tyhme is determined to work towards some degree of recovery. She puts herself through exercise programs every day, and attends daily therapy sessions in Barrie and Orillia and has travelled to California for intensive month-long rehabilitative muscle-regeneration programs. Progress is painfully slow, but it’s progress nonetheless.
With her history in swimming, Tyhme has always known about the benefits of water-based exercise. Unfortunately, given her condition, she requires a water temperature of roughly 33 C (91 F), or her back muscles go into spasms. These temperatures are obviously not available in public swimming pools. While she is allowed one hour per week in the therapy pool in Barrie’s Royal Victoria Hospital, it is not enough for any real degree of recovery. The Thompson’s backyard pool could be adjusted for temperature, although Tyhme could not access it on her own and the depths and slopes did not work for therapy purposes.
Finding a new home
It is rare to see a house readily able to accommodate a wheelchair, and the Thompson house was no exception. Alterations included ramping, doorways, accessible washrooms and bedrooms and countless other small details. These modifications were completed in 2008 after the accident, to allow Tyhme to get around the house, but the changes were limited by the home’s architectural specifications.
A very independent woman, Tyhme is determined to become more self-sufficient. To this end, her parents came to understand their home would never help her realize her goals. They began to look at moving to a house that would allow the creation of an apartment, one that could be fully accessible. After much searching, a house was found that would meet these needs. However, there was no funding for the therapy pool that Tyhme would need.
This is when Pool Spa Sauna Showroom (PSSS) in Orillia, Ont., decided to step up and lend a hand, putting together a coalition of suppliers, local trades and its own construction staff. The result was a $60,000 therapy pool, built entirely free of charge for this amazing young lady.