Crushed Car Did Not Crush Her Spirit


2014-0427 Paper Bag

The inspiration for this post is an article written by Lisa Diebel titled “Crushed car did not crush Christine’s spirit,” which was published on the Spec website. Text under the heading “Article” is from the article written by Lisa Diebel.



Some people who receive a brain injury have a difficult time moving beyond their adversity. Christine Barness is not one of those people.  According to the following article, Barness has made significant progress since the event that almost killed her.


Christine Barness
Christine Barness

Christine Barnes was forced to reinvent herself after a devastating car crash almost 20 years ago left her with a brain injury and nearly took her life. Although Christine, 37, speaks slowly, and often searches for words, she loves chatting and communicates her thoughts very well. She relies on a walker for support, but she is able to walk on her own, and she works out five days a week at the Hamilton [Ontario, Canada] Downtown Family YMCA.

“Christine is among our toughest, hardest-working members,” said personal trainer Ben Devine, instructor of a strength training and conditioning class frequented by Barness who is also an avid swimmer.

“The full-body workouts in these fitness classes help Christine maintain the mobility, strength, endurance and co-ordination needed to preserve her independence while swimming provides a great cardio workout,” said Devine.

Without exercise, muscles tighten up which affects a person’s mobility, said Denise Johnson, registered physiotherapist with Hamilton Health Sciences’ acquired brain injury program. People with acquired brain injuries are also at higher risk of osteoporosis, which regular weight-bearing exercise can help prevent.

Christine’s passion for physical fitness dates back to childhood when, growing up in small-town British Columbia, she swam and played on her school’s volleyball team. Then, at age 18, her life changed forever when she was a passenger in a horrific car crash.

“Imagine a crumbled paper bag. That’s what the car looked like,” said her father Reg Barnes. It was so severely compacted, rescue workers thought they had removed everyone and were walking away from the scene when they heard a whimper coming from the wreckage. That’s when they realized Christine was still trapped under the twisted metal. She was rushed to a hospital where she remained in a coma for six weeks.

Christine was eventually transferred to a rehabilitation hospital, where she spent two years. After being discharged in 1998, she reached the point where she was able to live independently but her small B.C. town offered little in terms of services. So she moved to Hamilton where she had family, acquired brain injury services, bus service, and a YMCA near her home.

Christine first started visiting the Y 12 years ago using a motorized scooter but over time her strength and balance developed to the point where she could ride a three-wheeled bike. Her speech also improved, since she made friends at the Y and had plenty of opportunities to chat.

“I’m a work in progress but I’m doing great,” said Christine, adding, “Who knows what life will bring. Be grateful for what you’ve got.”


Lisa Diebel for writing the story; the Spec for dedicating its resources to share the story; Christine Barnes for allowing YMCA to share her story; YMCA of Hamilton/Burlington/Brantford in Ontario, Canada; Google for helping me find the story and the crumbled bag picture I used in this post; and all the other people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text I used in this post.



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