From 2018-07-10

A year after suffering a serious head injury, Christine Elliott marvels that, not only has she achieved a full recovery, but she is helming the health system that helped make it happen.

An accident at her cottage left her with a broken temporal bone at the base of her skull and saw her hospitalized for a month and a half. She had to undergo months of rehabilitation to fully regain her ability to walk and speak.

“It struck me that I was sworn in on June 29 and it was June 30 last year that I had my accident,” remarked Elliott, Ontario’s new health minister.

“Within a year ... I feel very fortunate to be able to do this job and I really am very grateful to all the health-care professionals,” she said in an interview on Monday.

Elliott, 63, said her experience as a patient will inform her in her new role.

So too, she said, will her experiences as Ontario’s first patient ombudsman and as the Conservative party’s health critic.

Elliott’s accident occurred in the middle of a rainy night when she went to check whether any water was leaking into the Haliburton cottage, which was still under construction. A step on a temporary staircase gave way, flinging her hard against a wall.

The force of the impact fractured her skull and knocked her out. She lay unconscious on the floor until she was found the next morning by her sister.

“I was literally a bloody mess. I had a huge black eye,” she said.

Elliott said she doesn’t remember anything about the ordeal, but has since learned about what rough shape she was in. An ambulance took her to Haliburton Highlands Health Services, but had to stop twice because her vital signs were unstable and paramedics needed to work on her.

From the hospital, she was transported by Ornge Air Ambulance to the trauma unit at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. She spent four days in intensive care.

After 10 days at Sunnybrook, she was transferred to Bridgepoint Active Healthcare, where she spent the rest of her hospital stay. She received rehabilitation services at Bridgepoint, first as an in-patient and then an outpatient.

“I could hardly walk. I was on a walker for the first week,” she recounted.

By the end of her hospital stay, she was running on Bridgepoint’s outdoor track.

Elliott said the most challenging part of her recovery involved speech-language pathology therapy: “I had real difficulty retrieving words and speaking in full sentences. I had a lot of pauses and word recall was really difficult.”

When the accident occurred, Elliott was about a year into her role as Ontario’s patient ombudsman, a job that saw her advocate on behalf of patients who had complaints about the health system.

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