Peggy Assinck, PhD’17, sustained a spinal cord injury. Now she conducts spinal cord research and plays on a national sports team.
I remember being in the hospital and being told from doctors and nurses that there was a lot of things that I could do yesterday that I wasn't going to be able to do in the future. But over time I really used it as a motivator.
My name is Peggy Assinck, and I do research looking at spinal cord injury. In my PhD what I looked at is two things: first, trying to understand how individual cells in the spinal cord respond to spinal cord injury and how they help to contribute to repair, but I also looked at whether or not transplanting cells after spinal cord injury might help result in improved recovery or repair in response to spinal cord injury.
I was born with spina bifida, and for me, when I was really young, that didn't affect me at all. I was an able-bodied kid able to play all the different sports. When I was 11 years old was when it really started to affect me. I became paralysed from my waist down, and I had no idea why.
I got rushed to SickKids hospital in Toronto, and at that point they recognized that I had sustained a non-traumatic spinal cord injury. For me, what that meant is that my function changed all the time, so some days I was a wheelchair user and some days I was able to walk and had more of an invisible disability.
Spending as much time as I did in the hospital, I became really interested in the science behind what was happening for me and how the injury was actually affecting the cells that were resulting in my lack of function. But there was another part of me that still wanted to get back to that athlete side.
A rec therapist introduced me to the sport of sledge hockey. At the time I really loved it, because I got to meet other kids with disabilities, and then, over time, I started to want to hone my skills and get better and be more competitive within a sport.
About 11 years ago, I was able to make the women's national sledge hockey team for Canada, and I've been representing them ever since. Now, a big part of my life is just helping to support other people, with and without physical disabilities, to become involved in the sport.
Essentially, it was important for me to find a way to help improve the quality of life for people who had similar disabilities as myself. I always approach things and recognize that I needed to do them a little bit differently, but that it was always obtainable, and that was a really important thing that has brought me to where I am today.