Shianna Wedrick, a student in the Occupational Therapist Assistant/Physical Therapist Assistant (OTA/PTA) program at Medicine Hat College, was in a lab when she received a call that would change the trajectory of her, and her family’s, life.
Her father and brother were in critical care in Calgary after battling wildfires outside of the small towns of Tompkins and Gull Lake, Saskatchewan.
“They had helped to go fight the fires at one of our neighbours’ places and got caught up in the blaze. They were trying to leave, veered off the road and into the ditch where the truck was engulfed in flames.”
The two were able to escape thanks to a safety app used by her father’s employer and a passerby who saw the reflectors on his coveralls. Unfortunately, the two had been severely burned.
Wedrick spent many weeks at Calgary Foothills Medical Centre supporting her family, and confesses that had it not been for the incident, she may not have continued on her career path.
Merely two weeks prior to the accident, she questioned whether the program was a fit for her. It wasn’t until her education and personal struggles intertwined that she re-established a passion for occupational and physical therapy and saw first-hand the importance of the professions and the role of the OTA/PTA with patients.
“You think something like this will never happen to someone you know, but this accident was a rude awakening. It was eye-opening, but it felt good to be able to interpret and understand a lot of the information the doctors were saying. I could explain the devices being used and the next steps being taken because of what I had learned in class. I was able to answer questions that my mom and sister in-law had.”
Wedrick was there when her father started to walk again and saw the impact physical therapy had on his recovery.“I’m no longer thinking that this is my job, I’m getting paid to do this. I am going in thinking I get to help someone, to see a smile on their face when they are able to do something they weren’t able to do before. It might be the smallest improvement that they make, but how much it means to them and how excited they get – I really enjoy that.”
Wedrick mentions that she is thankful for the support of her community and the college.
“It was crazy how much our community supported us. They were driving up to the hospital, even to just sit in the waiting room with my mom or sister-in-law, just to be there in case we needed something or someone to talk to. It was incredible.”
Wedrick’s instructors were also very supportive during this difficult time.
“When it happened, I was in Calgary for two weeks, but my instructors were really good. They told me not to worry about exams or assignments, that they could be rescheduled. When I returned they pulled me aside to make sure I was okay. I was just one of the students they were teaching but they really did care. They showed they cared and were willing to help in any way possible.”
Eventually, with her brother and father’s blessing, she returned to Medicine Hat on weekdays to finish her education. Although the back and forth was difficult, Wedrick persevered and did what it took to complete her courses.
“It was tough some days to concentrate and finish my assignments, but when I sat down and thought about why I wanted to do this job and what motivates me to be in this career, I was reminded that it’s a week and I can do it. I can get my assignments done, push myself to do my best, and strive to do everything I want to do.”
Wedrick reports that her father is home, and brother is out of the hospital in Calgary doing physiotherapy. She is currently finishing a practicum in Saskatchewan and looks forward to using her experience to better the lives of her clients.