Kelowna woman’s loss fuels effort to improve the world for people with disabilities

I lost my daughter and all throughout my recovery I had the knowledge had I not been pregnant during my accident I wouldn't have survived...

A Kelowna woman who suffered incomprehensible loss and a life altering brain injury when she was still a teenager is now paving the way for others who struggle as she has, to move through the world with more ease.

Ellie Ennas, 23, has been chosen to take part in a one-day national forum for youth with disabilities and youth who have life experience, work experience or academic experience related to disability.

The event, which is in Ottawa next month, is part of the Government of Canada’s consultation process to inform the development of planned accessibility legislation and will be attended Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities.

“Apparently they liked my story and my desire to advocate for people with brain injury,” said Ennas.

“I’m going to be involved in the forum and leading a discussion with the president with Brain Injury Canada.”

Ennas was injured in a 2011 car crash that made the news across the city, for something completely different.

“Kelowna mom loses unborn child in car crash,” read headlines. Ennas was eight months pregnant at the time, and as the headline reports she lost her baby girl.

What didn’t follow, however, was news about the significant injury she suffered to her own body. That car crash also took her ability to walk and even talk.

That meant that at the age of 18, Ennas had to leave her husband, say goodbye to all her plans to be a mother and move to a facility where healing was the focus.

That facility was Connect, in Lake Country. It offers complex and specialized services for people living with brain injury and stroke in a nurturing and innovative community environment.

Through their Life Redesign Model, they empower their residents to reach their unique personal goals and build a fulfilling life for themselves. With their help, Ennas has done just that and she’s used her journey to help others, working as a mentor for Brain Trust Canada and now with the forum she’ll attend in Ottawa.

All of this forward momentum was pulled from the deepest loss.

“I lost my daughter and all throughout my recovery I had the knowledge had I not been pregnant during my accident I wouldn’t have survived —the extra blood supply and the hormone progesterone is very good for brain injuries,” she said.

“So my motivation is living for two.”

And as that life for two progresses, Ellie is keenly aware and grateful for those who have helped her, including family and friends and the people she met at Connect.

“Because me, I suffered a horrific injury, yes. But I did not have the courage on my own to move forward,” she said. “It’s my community that supported me and helped me all the way through.”

The forum takes place Nov. 1.