Lisa Ferenc (Canada) – Challenging The Status Quo
In this blog, Lisa reflects on how boccia has helped her to find freedom again after a life-altering fall and shares her sporting ambitions for the future.
Hi. My name is Lisa Ferenc. I live in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I got injured in August 2015, mountain biking. I was doing a mountain biking lesson and I had a very minor fall on what they call a drop. I was a trail runner amongst other sports, and my husband just secured a job in the very popular mountain biking industry, and I wanted to be a better mountain biker so I could be able to ride with him. However that fall in August 2015 proved to be very severe and life altering. The fall severed my vertebral artery, which is right beside the spinal cord, and delivers blood to the body from the brain. As if that’s not enough, the fall caused CSF (Cerebral Spinal Fluid) and blood to pool in my brain and they had to remove parts of my cerebellum and brain stem as it was creating way too much pressure in my skull. This minor fall has led to numerous further operations and medical conditions. To say life changed for me is a huge understatement.
I had 8 brain surgeries and I couldn’t talk or move. I had a tracheostomy, feeding tube and had to be transferred via a sling to bathe, go to the washroom, etc. I have a BSc in Chemistry and a MBA (Masters in Business Development). I lived in the UK for 9 years and I had senior roles in the laboratory testing industry both in the UK and in Canada, where I was the president of a massive laboratory that had laboratories in Canada and around the world. I was very worried that my self worth was tied to my career. It wasn’t!
I discovered Boccia in early 2015 during a meeting I had with a disability advocate in Vancouver, BC. He was telling me about the Paralympics and how he had won a gold medal. I recall being very impressed and intrigued by this sport and this athlete/advocate.
I was released from the hospital in late August 2016, spending over 1 year in the hospital. I was discharged not being able to speak, eat or move. Fast forward to the last couple of years. I got my tracheostomy removed, my feeding tube removed and I can speak, although it sounds like I smoke 10 packs of cigarettes per day!
Initially I didn’t really want to do anything with sport as I was still wrapping my head around being severely disabled. In the summer of 2017, I kept thinking about that Paralympic athlete/advocate that I had met, and after much deliberation and trying out the sport at the rehabilitation hospital that I regularly visited, I started Boccia in the Fall of 2017. I instantly fell in love with Boccia. I played with a group of athletes in Vancouver who had all succumbed to various disabilities. I loved playing as it afforded me freedom, and at the same time, I was able to use my brain as the sport is very strategic. I entered my first competition in the Spring of 2018. After a few competitions, I was classified as a BC2 player (Boccia athletes need to be classified in order to compete. If you’re classified as a BC1, BC2, BC3 or BC4 athlete, there are many competitions that are available to the athlete including the Paralympics). Since starting Boccia in Fall 2017, I have had both challenges and successes in the sport. I am now a proud member of Team BC with aspirations of being on the national team and being on the Canadian Paralympic team. I have some challenges with my vision and by my ataxia, but I am very motivated to make more gains through learning and training.
I know that I have significant challenges but I want to keep developing and challenging the status quo.
Sport has given me new goals and I have to thank so many people who have supported me on this journey.