Woman left in wheelchair following serious crash wants changes to spinal rehab coverage by MPI

WINNIPEG — A Manitoba woman is calling for a change to legislation to allow for more therapies to be covered for spinal rehab after she was in a serious car crash in August 2020 and is now wheelchair-bound.

Brianna Seewald, who is from Mitchell, Man., was involved in a car crash on Aug. 17, 2020, which she says almost took her life.

She suffered a broken neck, six breaks in her back, along with other injuries. Due to the severity of her injuries, she says she has been in a wheelchair ever since.

“It has been an extraordinary few months,” she said.

Seewald had to be in a halo brace for seven months to ensure her neck healed properly and now that it has been taken off, she said she is in the rehab phase of her recovery with the hope of one day being able to walk again.

Brianna Seewald

Source: Brianna Seewald

“Most people do get formal spinal rehab after these types of things. However, given the nature of COVID, I needed to be transferred out of HSC and I was moved to a rural hospital closer to home to start their therapy program. Keep in mind, it was not dedicated to specific spinal rehab. I was given what was available at that time,” said Seewald.

Seewald, who is a nurse, said she has never received spinal rehab and she had applied to have her rehab covered at First Steps Wellness Centre in Winnipeg by Manitoba Public Insurance but her initial request was denied.

She said MPI asked if a proposal could be written up explaining why this specific rehab was needed and then it would be reviewed from there.

“So my family doctor, my current athletic therapist, and the owner of First Steps Wellness all wrote in with my proposal saying why this is going to give the best chance of being a functional human being again and a real shot of walking, and it was denied.

“I was so shocked. I was so shocked that we have the capability here in Winnipeg. We have the program here.”

Seewald said she has had athletic therapy covered by MPI but not specialized spinal therapy. She added she was denied the treatment because MPI doesn’t cover exercise-based therapy programs.

MPI said Seewald will receive all benefits that she is entitled to, based on its protection plan.

“Decisions involving clients’ benefits are made after careful analysis of the client’s current condition and their expected recovery moving forward,” a spokesperson for MPI said in an email to CTV News.

“Such rehabilitation programs must have in-house medical oversight in order for MPI to fund rehab programs that are directly administered by a licensed physiotherapist, occupational therapist, athletic therapist chiropractor or medical doctor.”

Seewald said her own doctor wrote that they would oversee her therapy but it was still denied.

She added she has filed an appeal with MPI but noted an appeal can take a long time.

“I have already been out of this for nine months. If I had to wait another three months, that would bring me up to a year. A year of non-specified spinal rehab, that’s a long time to go sitting on these injuries,” said Seewald.

She said she isn’t trying to criticize MPI in any way but she thinks there is a chance to improve things for Manitobans in the future.

“I think this is a program that can benefit not just me, but other Manitobans. We have the capabilities here in our province in our own community to make this happen.”

Seewald said she will be contacting MPI’s legislation office as well as the Ombudsman to try and bring change for what is covered.

CTV Winnipeg reached out to the province for comment, and a spokesperson said they wouldn’t comment on the situation.

Brianna Seewald

Source: Brianna Seewald

WHY HAVING HER REHAB COVERED IS IMPORTANT

Seewald said she is planning on starting rehab at First Steps Wellness within the next few weeks. She feels this is the best program to help her one day walk again as they design rehab programs specifically for the problems she faces.

“They can help with neurological injuries, help re-fire those nerves and get them working at a more functional level.”

She said she can’t feel one of her legs and she can’t feel the floor underneath her.

“So they can help with my gait, my balance, with those other injuries that I sustained… Right now my body thinks it’s not safe to even try to walk so it doesn’t allow me to do so.”

Despite the benefits of the program, it is expensive.

“It would be five days a week, anywhere from two to four hours at a time, at $100 an hour. So if you do the math, that is anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000 a month.”

She added there isn’t an actual timeline for the rehab and it all depends on how her body reacts to it, so the price could climb quickly.

Seewald said this would be more than rehab; this would be her life.

“This is my chance at walking down my wedding aisle. This is a chance at dancing at my wedding, running and playing with my future kids, returning to my job as a nurse.”

While she waits to hear about a decision on her appeal from MPI, a GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay for the rehab.

As of Friday evening, more than $52,000 has been raised. Seewald said it has been amazing to see all the support she has received.

“I think I knew that we would maybe be able to raise the funds for a month of therapy, which is more than we could ever hope for, and within a matter of days, we have raised enough money for five months of therapy. It means more to me than I think anyone would be able to realize.”

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