Shacarra Orr, who wears no. 4 for the Canadian indoor women’s sitting volleyball team, will celebrate her 20th birthday in Rio when she and her teammates take to the court for their Paralympic debut during the first week of the games.
Ever since a car accident left her with only partial movement of her right arm, Orr knew there was a target she was destined to reach.
“It was that light at the end of the tunnel, the goal that I was striving for even though I didn’t know exactly what it was. Everything I’ve done in the last five years is for this,” Orr said. “I’m so lucky to be able to experience this. I’m so excited.”
The fact that she gets to mark a significant milestone while at the Paralympic Games is just icing on the (birthday) cake. The Jaffrey, British Columbia native and her teammates made a special appearance at West Park Healthcare Centre, the Jane Street and Weston Road-area rehabilitation centre, Monday, Aug. 29, just days before their departure to Brazil. During their visit, the women demonstrated the sport of sitting volleyball, which several of the players weren’t even aware of before they got involved in the game.
A standing volleyball player since she was in Grade 4, Orr taught herself to play with her left hand.
“During a game, the coach of another team saw I was playing differently and asked if I wanted to try (sitting volleyball),” Orr said. “I joined the (national women’s) team a year and a half after the accident.”
A driver who had just finished his first night shift fell asleep at the wheel and crossed over into oncoming traffic hitting the car Orr was travelling in on the way to a volleyball tournament. When doctors told her she might lose her arm, Orr said she decided she would make the best of it. Although she is missing a bone in her elbow and experiences numbness in her hand and fingers, her medical team was able to save her arm.
Meghan Waffle, whose leg was amputated as a result of a car accident in late September last year, said she was inspired to see the team play. After spending five weeks in hospital – three of them in a coma – Waffle became a resident at West Park for seven weeks and is now an outpatient.
“They’ve really done everything for us – myself, and my family. We didn’t know what it would take to get my life back,” she said.
While she misses her old life, Waffle said each day is better than the last.
Janet Campbell, a physiotherapist at West Park who works with amputees, said the opportunity to watch the sitting volleyball team play is “fantastic,” particularly for those who are in the early stages of their recovery.
“Life might not look the same as it once did, but (losing a limb) could open up new opportunities,” Campbell said.
Janet Walker, vice president of strategy, innovation, and chief information officer, echoed Campbell’s sentiments.
“Our promise to our patients is to ‘Get your life back.’ This is an excellent example of someone in a similar situation succeeding within a new life,” Walker said.
In fact, four West Park amputation rehabilitation patients have gone on to compete for the Canadian Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team, which earned two Parapan Am bronze medals in 2011 and 2015.
The women’s team qualified for Rio with a bronze medal at the Parapan Am Games last year.
West Park Healthcare follows acute care. It provides specialized rehabilitative care for patients recovering from life-altering accidents and health challenges such as amputation.
Visit westpark.org for details.