Volume 12 Week 5

Sunday, Jan. 20


Posted Jan. 10

Posted Jan. 9

Posted Jan. 7


Orléans Ward
Matt Luloff

Beacon Hill,
Cyrville Ward
Tim Tierney




(Posted 7 a.m., July 31)
Family, friends band together to support Avalon family

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Michelle and Mike Earle with their children Josh, Jasmine and Jordan. Fred Sherwin/Photo

It is hard to say that someone’s been blessed after they’ve suffered a catastrophic accident that has left them paralyzed from the waist down, but such is the case for Michelle Earle who has been blessed with the support of her family and friends since falling down an embankment at a friend’s cottage two months ago.

The fall disintegrated Earle’s T12 vertebrae and severely damaged her spine. She was at the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus for two weeks before being transferred to the Ottawa Rehabilitation Centre where she has been staying for the past six weeks while work is being done to retrofit her house.

When Michelle’s husband Mike first heard the news that his wife had been in an accident, he rushed to the hospital. Nothing could prepare him for the news that awaited him when he arrived.

“They said that she broke her spine and that she won’t be able to walk again. We were devastated and very upset. I mean how do you react to something like that. But after the initial shock wore off, I told her we’d get through it together,” says Mike.

“She did make a comment about not being the woman I married anymore, but she’s still the woman I married and nothing has really changed. She’s the light of my life and we’re going to get through this together."

Michelle credits her husband for helping her get through those first few difficult days.

“It’s one of those situations that can either pull you together or pull you apart. And for us, it’s really pulled us together. In fact our marriage is stronger now than it’s ever been. When I’ve had those tough days, he’s constantly reminding me that we’re going to get through this no matter what and he’s not going anywhere. It’s going to be difficult, but we’re going to do it.”


Michelle and Mike Earle are joined by some of the people who have been helping renovate their house so that Michelle can return home. Fred Sherwin/Photo

Part of getting through it is making sure the house is ready so Michelle can come home to care for her husband and their three children Jordan, 11, Josh, 17, and Jasmine, 20. That involves extensive, and costly, renovations.

Most insurance policies don't cover the cost of retrofitting a house, it has to be born entirely by the owner and the “to do” list is extremely, long starting with the construction of am entrance ramp that must be built to code. Then there are the modifications to the bathroom including new fixtures that are wheelchair friendly, a hardwood or laminate floor, a chair lift for the stairs, and renovations to the kitchen.

The estimated cost of the renovations to the Earle household is over $100,000, but thanks to some help from some friends in the construction trades and the ability to purchase many items at cost, the Earles have been able to limit the financial hit to just over $60,000.

They have dipped into their line of credit to cover some of the costs, but there is a limit that any family can bear, which is why Mike and Michelle feel so blessed by the generosity of their friends and the community at large.

During a recent fundraising event at the Big Rig restaurant on Ogilvie Road, over $16,000 was raised. Close to $4,000 more has been raised through a Go Fund Me account at www.gofundme.com/xy8j5s.

Family friends, Chantal and Jason Nicholson. have been especially supportive, as have a number of close friends and family members. Chantal organized the fundraising event at the Big Rig, and Jason built the wheelchair ramp in his spare time along with Dave Bungay.

And while the fundraising effort will continue until they reach their $50,000 goal, the effort to bring Michelle home is in full swing. The ramp is in place and the downstairs washroom has been expanded and fitted with a new sink and toilet.

The last remaining hurdle to bringing Michelle home and having her stay is the stair-lift which Mike hopes to have installed in a week or two. In the meantime, the Earles are still learning how to cope with Michelle’s injuries both physically and psychologically.

The fitness instructor says she still has a long way to go to fully accept her new reality, but the good days are starting to out-number the bad and the support and love she has received from so many people has helped her overcome the darker moments.

“It’s been a roller coaster of emotions,” says Michelle. “It’s not an easy situation, so there has been days when it’s been really tough, but the support I’ve received from family and friends and coworkers has been just incredible. There’s no way we can ever thank them enough."

Mike Earle has been left pleasantly thrilled by the support they’ve so far received from people he hasn't seen or talked to in years, like the families of the kids he coached in soccer and football four and five years ago/

“It’s incredibly heartwarming to tell you the truth. I had no idea so many people would come out to support us and rally behind us,” says Mike.

The Cumberland Panthers Football Club has been especially supportive, reinforcing their slogan, “Once a Panther, always a Panther."

Michelle has also received support from her co-workers at the Youth Services Bureau and members at Good Life Fitness where she taught a spinning class before the accident/

Among her current goals are remaining active and returning to Good Life to not only continue her workouts, but teach a class as well. She is already touring around in a special bike that is on loan from the rehab centre and the family minivan has been modified to allow her to drive it.

If having a positive attitude and a strong support network is the secret to recovering from a catastrophic injury like a broken spine and permanent paralysis, than Michelle Earle is well on her way to a full recovery, if not physically than at least mentally.

And who knows, there is always hope that researchers will come up with a procedure to repair spinal cord injuries so that people like Michelle may one day walk again.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)


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