REGINA — A Paralympian says doing simple things like recovering from a scratch and making a bed have become immensely more difficult since an accident left her a quadriplegic.
Miranda Biletski is suing the University of Regina for negligence.
Biletski dove into a pool from competition starting blocks at the university during a swim club practice in June 2005. The then-16-year-old hit the bottom and fractured her cervical vertebrae, leaving her a quadriplegic.
The Paralympic wheelchair rugby player testified before a jury Tuesday that she got a scratch on her tail bone while transferring out of her wheelchair in July 2015.
A couple of days later, the scratch was a festering wound with black skin. The wound grew to “probably about the size of a hockey puck” and the tip of her tail bone could be seen, she said. It’s still healing, she said.
Biletski teared up on the stand as she talked about taking classes at Camosun College in Victoria. The college is in the same building as the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence, where she trained. Biletski said she thought it would be a good combination of training and attending class.
But she ended up having to leave the school on compassionate medical grounds.
“The straw that really broke the camel’s back with that one was one of my professor’s made me provide a note saying I missed class to have a bowel movement,” she tearfully testified.
Court has heard that Biletski has to put in her own catheter to go to the bathroom several times a day and that a bowel movement now takes her a couple of hours.
Biletski — the first woman on Canada’s wheelchair rugby team — can move her arms and shoulders, but has limited use of her hands.
She played with the largely male Team Canada rugby squad at world championships in 2010 and 2014, and at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where the team placed fourth.
“I’m never going to sit here and say I can’t do something. It’s not in my personality,” she said Tuesday. “But at the same time, sure I can say I can make my bed, but it also takes me 45 minutes to put a fitted sheet on.”
The university is denying negligence and blames the accident on Biletski and the swim club.
In court documents, it says that third parties were responsible for ensuring the contracted pool facilities were safe for club members and for determining whether the water was deep enough for safe entry from the diving blocks.
Under cross examination Tuesday, court heard that Biletski started going to swim competitions when she was 10. She was identified early on by coaches as being a strong swimmer.
Biletski was asked about her swim training first in the community of Assiniboa, Sask., where her family lived, and in Regina starting in May 2005.
“From the outset, you would be instructed and taught how to make your entries from the starting blocks as shallow as you could,” asked the university’s lawyer, Erin Kleisinger.
“Yes,” said Biletski.
Kleisinger asked if Biletski ever came close to the bottom of a pool when she was learning to dive from starting blocks.
“There’s no specific incident I can think of off the top of my head,” she said.
Kleisinger also showed court a photo of the University of Regina pool where water depths of four feet and 1.22 metres was laid out in the tiles. Biletski acknowledged that she could see the water depth marked beside the starting blocks.
The case is expected to last three weeks.
Jennifer Graham, The Canadian Press