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Comfort. Care. Hope.


Meet Sara Kovac

"I came to HDS needing help for everything and now I am completely independent. It wasn’t only the rehabilitation I received, but the kindness I was shown by every person I encountered. I will forever be grateful for my time at Hotel Dieu Shaver."

“Miracles happen at Hotel Dieu Shaver.” 

When my health care aide shared those words with me, in the early days of my stay, I was unable to move or even sit up, I still had a feeding tube and I was constantly throwing up.  

As a professional volleyball player, who represented Canada in the Pan Am Games and competed professionally in Europe until 2021, I was in the best shape of my life. I was 24 years old and could run 10K with little effort. 

But everything changed in April 2022 when I started experiencing debilitating headaches, vomiting and numbness. I was diagnosed with Cavernous Malformations, which caused a brain bleed, and ended up in the ICU, requiring several procedures to drain fluid from my brain. 

Over the next month I continued to deteriorate very quickly – I spent weeks in the ICU with a tracheotomy and stomach tube… I could no longer swallow… I could barely move.

I definitely needed that miracle. 

By July I was stable enough to be transferred to Hotel Dieu Shaver (HDS). I felt like a wet noodle when I got there – I couldn’t move my arms or legs, or even touch my face.  It’s such a weird feeling to tell your brain to move your limbs and they just won’t.

I knew I was in for the fight of my life – to regain my health, restore my mobility and rebuild the life I cherished so deeply.

My activities for the first week at Hotel Dieu Shaver were just simple bed exercises as they figured out my medications and extreme nausea. I celebrated my first accomplishment by sitting on the side of the bed, all on my own, for 26 seconds!  Slowly and surely I started getting stronger and those 26 seconds grew to 5 minutes.

Throughout my journey, I was constantly reminded to be kind to myself and to be patient. On the days I was feeling frustrated and down my therapists allowed me the space to feel it and talk about it.

I knew I wasn’t going to get 100% better tomorrow, but I would try my best to get a little bit better every day.

I was familiar with physiotherapy because of my years playing volleyball, but this was very different. I was dealing with a brain injury and had to recognize that I may never fully recover. I had to accept where I was in my recovery each day – at least I was breathing.

Over the summer my inpatient therapy was very intense, and I had to relearn to walk – something I never thought I would have to do, especially at 24 years old.  My therapy team would get excited anytime I accomplished anything.

It was so nice to not only have my friends and family behind my back, but to have everyone at HDS behind me too.

In September I was discharged home using a walker, where I continue with outpatient therapy to improve my balance, endurance and strength. 

I am a living testament that miracles do happen.

I wanted to share my incredible journey with you so you can see how your support actually changes people’s lives.  I am not only grateful for the advanced tools and the extraordinary team at HDS that went above and beyond for me, I am also grateful for YOU – our generous community that ensures patients like me are getting the highest quality of therapy at Hotel Dieu Shaver.

Rebuilding Lives, Renewing Hope

Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Foundation raises and manages funds for patient-care equipment, education, specialty programs, and improvements to treatment areas to support exemplary patient care at Hotel Dieu Shaver, Niagara’s Only rehabilitation and complex care hospital.

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