Ottawa cyclist raising awareness about brain injury nearly 8 years after serious collision

Almost eight years after he was struck and nearly killed by a careless driver Robert Wein is still working around the clock to regain his strength and confidence.

Wein was at his peak physical fitness, running marathons and training for a triathlon when his life changed in an instant on July 19, 2009.  Wein and four other cyclists were riding along March Road when a careless driver veered into the bike lane and took off. The crash nearly claimed Wein’s life.

“He had internal injuries and orthopedic injuries, with breaks in his pelvis and he also had a severe brain injury. He was also in a coma for five weeks,” said Dr. Shawn Marshall, the division chief of physical rehabilitation at the Ottawa Hospital.

Wein lived at the Ottawa Hospital for a year and spent even longer in out-patient and in-patient therapy at the Ottawa Rehabilitation Centre. When Wein was discharged he was still in a wheelchair, a device he no longer needs to get around.   

“I worked hard, but it was effective. It was hard because I applied myself,” Wein said. “They were like family.”

The gains were slow, and challenging both mentally and physically. At times, Wein said he felt like his future was bleak.

“I had crashed emotionally,” Wein said. “I felt like I couldn’t do anything. I just couldn’t.”

But with hard work and patience, Wein re-learned how to stand, walk and even talk. Through that challenging journey to regain his independence and confidence came the idea for a walk to raise money and awareness for people living with a traumatic brain injury. The event, the Brain Injury Awareness Walk, is now in its sixth year and is run in several countries.

“I said I can raise awareness and I can raise money for charity. I wanted to make a difference because I felt useless,” he said. “So I started the walk to not feel useless and I don’t feel useless anymore."

Dr. Marshall said Wein's story serves as an inspiration to many. 

"When we have injury we expect to recover in a short period of time," he said. "Rob is an example of someone who has changed over the last few years and who has continued to make significant improvements ... He still has limitations, but he's clear, he's indepent and what he is trying to do for people with brain injuries is just exceptional."

Wein is hoping to he can get about 300 people to attend his Ottawa walk at the Ron Kolbus Centre on June 24th. If there is one message he hopes to share it’s that of greater acceptance and understanding for people with a traumatic brain injury.

“They are still who they are,” he said. “They may need some help and understanding but they are not a totally different person. It’s just injury.”