Meet the Team

Founders

Chelsea

My mother was pregnant with me while she worked in a spinal cord rehabilitation unit. I looked at her one day and the light bulb went off. “Of course!” I yelled out, “I was literally born to love someone in a wheelchair!”

James was the passenger of a car accident 23 years ago, leaving him a T6/7 paraplegic. He is an active, (sometimes too active), exuberant man and we have been together seven years. I am a 31-year-old independent filmmaker who loves the art of storytelling. A mountain girl through and through, I love adventure and the simple things in life.I never thought the man of my dreams would come with castors, catheters and wheels stuck to his butt…but here we are!

Some assume dating a person in a chair may be a big sacrifice; this is simply not the case. Your lifestyle DOES alter, such as: you look at stairs differently, dishes are no longer on the top shelf and you bend down to kiss ect. The hardest part for me was finding an outlet to voice my questions and concerns, or just finding someone to relate to. I found that outlet in Sam and it was such a relief to have someone to talk to. We laugh and cry together and realized very quickly how little support there is for family members or spouses of people in chairs.

I hope you enjoy our crazy, whacky adventures as we walk and roll through life and more importantly I hope that we can answer or provide support to anyone out there who is looking for someone to relate to.

Sam

Hi! I’m Sam. I was born, raised, and currently reside in the Okanagan Valley with my husband, Shawn, and our two boys, Oliver, who’s almost 3, and Eli, who was born in March. I’m 33 and work full time as a nurse, although I am currently on maternity leave. I’ve known my husband, Shawn, for over 20 years, most of which was spent as best friends. In 2009 he was the passenger in a car accident that left him as a T4 incomplete paraplegic. Shawn asked me to marry him in December of 2013 and I did on August 21, 2015.

I have always had a love of writing. What started out as “Dear Diary” entries when I was a little girl, quickly turned into a way for me to find clarity in situations and emotions as I became an adult. And after my husbands accident, there were a million new emotions and questions. I searched, and Googled, and read, and researched, but I found that there was a serious lack of resources and support for family, friends and loved ones of someone who has suffered a spinal cord injury. From there, Chelsea and I began to find support in one another and bonded over a love of expensive coffee and our men on wheels and in 2016 Wheel Love was born.

I believe that words are powerful. I believe that they can awaken something inside of you and open your eyes to a world that you didn’t know existed; that they can light a fire in your imagination, or lull you into a dream filled sleep. I believe that they can tell a story and change your way of thinking, or solidify already held beliefs. I believe that words can break a spirit, but that they can also heal a soul.

I also believe in love. The passionate, messy kind. Anything else would be boring. So I hope that here you will find powerful words, lots of love and maybe even learn something new as you join us on our journey.

Team Members

Andrea

Hi! I’m Andrea. I was born and raised in the Okanagan and I live in Kelowna with my wife, Cara. We’ve been together for nearly six years now and married for almost two.
Cara is a T6 paraplegic. When we first started dating I had so many questions! There really wasn’t anywhere online for me to get information or to connect with people that I could relate to. Whether you’re a spouse, parent, or friend of someone with a SCI, we hope that Wheel Love will help you understand their world (and ours) a little bit better. Enjoy!

Kendra

Hi internet world! My name is Kendra and this is my boyfriend Cam. Cam is a T4 incomplete paraplegic with a zest (stubbornness) for life like no other. I’m a PhD candidate (who oddly enough, researches spinal cord injuries), and Cam and I met on our local ski hill in 2018. Dating someone who has a spinal cord injury undoubtedly comes with a few obstacles: doing majority of the heavy lifting, changing all the light bulbs (even though ladders are a big fear) and encountering a lot of inaccessible locations that you both were excited to explore.

But- there’s also so many cool things that come with the same experience: learning how to fix vehicles (he’s the brains and I’m the manoeuvrable human), how to be malleable and roll with the punches, and how to communicate on a level you never thought possible. Cam and I spend our winters skiing together and our summers biking, wakeboarding, and hanging with our dog (Panther). Cam is the calm to my irrational, the communicator to my silence, and the thrill seeker to my caution. With all the quirks that come with being an inter-abled couple, comes a heck of a lot more love and laughter. 

Wheel Love is an incredibly inclusive community that provides a forum for love, compassion, empathy and understanding. We’re happy to have you here ❤️✌🏼💛

Emily

Hi, I’m Emily! I was born in Toronto and lived in Ontario for most of my life. In 2016, I moved to the Okanagan for grad school to pursue a master’s degree. My research focus was aging with spinal cord injuries (I had become interested in the topic after having volunteered for an adapted exercise facility); so I wanted to get involved in Kelowna’s SCI community to learn more. That led me to volunteering for the local wheelchair rugby team, which is where I met my boyfriend, Will! Will was in a car accident that left him with a C6-C7 incomplete spinal cord injury. We’ve been together for almost a year now and I honestly can say I’ve never been happier! 

Even with the research knowledge I have, there are still so many things I don’t know and will never understand about spinal cord injury. I’m still learning everyday and am doing my best to build awareness among those around me. I’m excited to be part of Wheel Love – a great outlet for support and friendship among partners, parents, siblings, and friends who love someone with a spinal cord injury. 

Adele

My name is Adele. I was born and raised in Kamloops, BC. I was a restless and rebellious teen anxious to start out on a life of my own.  Problem was, I didn’t know what I wanted. I married at 21 and eventually, with great difficulty, I had 2 beautiful daughters. My marriage was never a great one and it eventually fell apart after 15 years. I was a single mom for the next few years, then I met Tyler.  We met through a dating site, as people do these days.  It was love at first chat. I was so hesitant to meet him at first, I had no idea what the chair would mean to me and my girls life. After many phone calls, the kind you had when you were a teenager and never wanting to hang up the phone, we agreed to meet. Well, that first date never really ended. The honeymoon may be over but the date is still going strong.

Tyler was a passenger in a drunk driving crash in 1989, a couple of weeks before his 20th birthday.  He is a T4 parapalegic, complete SCI. He has been in a chair now for the last 30 years.  He has done more things in a chair than I could ever dream of accomplishing and much more than most able body men I have known. 

Life in a chair has its challenges! I may not have been with him when he was hurt (ewww I would have been 13 years old at the time) but there are things that I have had to grieve because of it.  The world is not a wheelchair friendly place for the most part.  However, that hasn’t stopped this man from doing exactly what he wants to do! We have a full and active life together. We go kayaking, camping, boating, cycling, ride our Can-Am Spyder, traveling and so much more. The things that I love to do that he can’t, such as hiking, I have made it an activity reserved for my “me-time”.  We have been together 6 years this year, and I feel like I have finally come to terms with his injury.  I have grieved his injury; even though it was many years after it happened, it was a transition I never expected going into this relationship.

Tyler entered our lives and took a spot as not only my confidant but as a parent to my girls. He proposed to me last year in their presence and there couldn’t have been a sweeter, more romantic way of proposing. We are in love. We have our ups and downs just like any couple, but I feel that this time around I have gotten things right. Tyler has stepped up as a parent to my girls, he has provided the love, support and consistency our girls have craved and they have flourished because of it. Spinal cord injury is difficult but it doesn’t have to stop you, your partner or your family in life.  A few adjustments and you can be on your way to a world of possibilities and adventure!

Colleen

Hi, my name is Colleen and I joined the Wheel Love gang after my husband Dan sustained a T4 complete spinal cord injury from a gunshot wound in April of 2019. We live in Kamloops, BC, have been married for 29 years and have 2 children. With almost 28 years of marriage under our belts at the time of Dan’s injury, we had a lot to adjust to and a lot to grieve. Life changed in an instant and there was a period of time when Dan was a patient in a rehabilitation facility 4 hours from where we live and I had to go home without him to pack up our “old lives” and make modifications to make space for our “new lives”. This was a very difficult time and the future was more uncertain than anything I had ever experienced. Those days and tasks could not be avoided, but they were temporary and life and mood improved. 

Transitioning home at 12 weeks post-injury was, among many other emotions, both frustrating and exhausting. It was also a time of growth for both of us. Dan, a red seal carpenter, learned how to grind concrete, build cupboards and nail baseboard from a wheelchair and I learned how to use tie downs, caulk countertops, use a drill, order building materials etc,etc,etc.

In the midst of all of this, Dan’s Occupational Therapist, Shannon, connected us with Chelsea and from there we began meeting others who roll rather than walk and they soon became family. Thankfully, there was no time for Dan and I to get stuck in a rut of self-pity or despair because the dust never settles on this group of adventurous people. Oh, the stories I could tell – another time, another time.

Currently, our professional lives of being a Respiratory Therapist (Dan) and a Political Leader (me) are on pause while we navigate this new world of wheels, lifestyle modifications and the pursuit of a new normal.

Wheel Love has been a great source of information, encouragement and support and I am very grateful that Sam and Chelsea created and nurtured the group and for everyone who offered advice and freely shared both common struggles and impressive wins.

As Stu would say, “Don’t let being in a wheelchair stop you.”

~Roll on~

Kim

Hello, my name is Kim & this is my husband of 29 years, Anand. We have 3 amazing kids; Keeland 27, Kyle 26 & Shalayna 22. We met in 1986 working at our hospital in the X-ray department; he was an X-ray technologist & I worked in X-ray as a clerk (I’m still working there to this day). It took a few years, a lot of persistence & patience on Anand’s part, but I finally gave in and we started dating. Soon after, we were married in August of 1991. 

As a young family, if we weren’t at either a baseball, volleyball, soccer tournament or a dance recital, we enjoyed the outdoors & spent a lot of weekends camping, fishing, ice fishing, hiking, hunting, skiing…etc. Anand was quite involved with the kids’ activities, from being a Scout leader to a baseball & soccer coach. 

On November 8, 2008, Anand went for a ride on his ATV to scout out some spots to take the boys hunting the following weekend for junior season. He went up a small hill, his front tire hit a rock and the ATV flipped over on top of him which broke his back. This left him with a fracture/dislocation @ T10/11 & he is now a T7 complete paraplegic. Luckily, he had his cell phone on his belt & he was able to call 911 & me.

Over the years, we have been able to do most of the things we loved to do before & have even tried some new things we didn’t think were possible. The highlight for us as a couple was doing the Bowron Lakes; 8 days, 7 nights of kayaking & sleeping in tents.

Being the spouse of someone in a chair isn’t always easy but you just have to “roll” with it. I now have quite the list of job skills & for the most part, can decipher the “mansplanning”.

Thanks Sam & Chelsea! Thanks for letting me be a part of such an amazing team of creative, intelligent, independent, loving, gifted, hard working spouses, partners, girlfriends, moms….Hope I can give just a little insight into what our life has been like after spinal cord injury.

Janene

Hi, I’m Janene. I still remember my first date with my husband, Pierre, as we hiked up a mountain together almost 30 years ago. It was then that Pierre casually mentioned to me that he had been living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for many years already. 

I was confused and a bit nervous about what this diagnosis entailed but I also knew I wanted to continue dating this very fun guy, so I spent the following weekend at the UBC Medical library trying to learn everything I could about MS. (yes, I am a huge science nerd 🤓 ) 

In short, MS is a very complex disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) and each person has their own unpredictable and unique course of symptoms that can change daily.

When there is spinal cord involvement, many symptoms can present in a similar way to a spinal cord injury and after 20 years of mostly “invisible” symptoms, Pierre now has many lower level spinal symptoms, officially making me a proud Wheel Love!

In hindsight, I believe that having a spouse with MS has taught me the very valuable lesson of living in the present because tomorrow is never predictable nor guaranteed. This fact combined with a LOT of humour, humility and a willingness to live life as fully as possible even with adaptations, sort of describes who I am as a person in general.

We are so blessed to have had some amazing travel opportunities over the past several years and plan on many more trips and adventures in the future. Close to home, we can usually be found trying out a new winery or adopting an odd assortment of stray animals to our family.

Our lives have been tremendously enhanced through the support of both the Accessible Okanagan and Wheel Love communities. If I can give back in any way with my perspective and/or experiences to date, I am pleased to do so.

Thank you Chelsea and Sam for creating such a unique, positive and inclusive community. 

Kristen

Hi! I’m Kristen. I was born and raised in Squamish, BC. I had a short time in North Vancouver from August 2002- July 2003 where I went to Capilano University and got my Early Childhood Care & Education Certificate. I started working right after I completed the program at a daycare just a few minutes from where I was living. Three weeks later, on July 27, 2003 I was in a car accident and chipped my C5 & C6 vertebrae and shattered C7, pinching my spinal cord at C6/7. I was instantly paralyzed. I spent 24 days in ICU at Vancouver General Hospital, then 5.5 months at GF Strong learning how to live with my new body.

I started getting back into childcare a couple years later and then in January 2010 I started my Mary Kay business. I quickly saw how much more flexible it was for me and worked towards being a Sales Director within 9 months. This is my full time business now and I absolutely love it. I teach skin care and makeup application as well as educate, mentor and support women to reach the goals they set for themselves – big or small. I have had a lot of success, personal growth and made many wonderful friendships.

In August of 2014 my girlfriends made a Tinder profile for me which I was not wanting to do at all. On August 5th I got a message from what seemed to be a really down to earth guy named Brandon. We had our first phone call August 10th, our first date August 13th and the rest is history! He did not have anyone in his life with any sort of disability so was completely new to a spinal cord injury. He was curious about a few things and as I’ve been open since day 1, I told him he could ask anything. As we sat in Starbucks, after coming down from the Sea to Sky Gondola where we had a sushi picnic for the first part of our date, he asked, “can you have kids?” Talk about getting right to the point – that’s Brandon! 

I knew right away that he was “the one”. He moved in a couple months later – I had never even had a roommate in my life. I was living happily with my cat Creo in my brand new condo in Squamish. We have had an amazing time with our two cats (fur babies).

We got married in August 2017, it was a magical day and definitely my dream wedding. We have had many amazing adventures together including travelling with my Mary Kay business, two trips to Mexico and many other fun trips around beautiful British Columbia, plus always trying fun and exciting things.

We were very happy not having children. In 2018 we decided to try to have a baby, almost a year later (March 2019) we were expecting! It was quite a surprise even if we had been planning for it. I don’t think you’re ever ready. I had an amazing pregnancy up until October 3rd (2019) when my blood pressure was dangerously high so I was admitted into Lions Gate Hospital. What an amazing hospital with the most incredible nurses and staff. On October 16th I became the first quadriplegic to deliver a baby there. She was 4lbs 13oz, born at 35 weeks and 5 days and spent the first 13 days of her life in the NICU. She came in fighting and it was another opportunity for my resiliency to shine through and for Brandon to be amazing as always. Rylee made me a mommy and Brandon a daddy and, well, this is our craziest adventure so far. And it’s just beginning!