October 16, 1998 – by Kerry Powell
Legal Affairs Writer
Edmonton – When Margaret MacCabe raced out to warm up for a high-school gymnastics class seven years ago, she didn’t know it would be the last run of her life.
Minutes later, she tried a back flip off a box horse and came straight back down on her head, slipping off the edge of the crash mat and on to the floor.
“She called out right away,” a fellow student recalls. “She knew that something was wrong. She said that she couldn’t feel her arms, she couldn’t feel her legs, was she paralyzed, was she paralyzed — and she just kept repeating that.”
The injury to her spinal cord left the athletic 16-year-old a quadriplegic, with some use of her arms.
This week, an Edmonton court awarded her an estimated $4 million in damages against her teacher Darcy Romanuik and the Westlock school district, now part of Evergreen Catholic Separate Regional Division No. 2.
The award looks big, MacCabe says, but it has to last a lifetime.
“I’m quite healthy now, but I can’t forecast the future. It will be a little less stressful to know I can lead a comfortable life and be able to afford the care I need, not just the bare bones.”
Now 23, MacCabe lives in her own apartment near the university, where she’s working on a master’s degree in health promotion.
She needs attendants every day for 6 1/2 hours to help her get ready for school and for bed, with cooking and cleaning and with her bathroom routine.
MacCabe’s often tired and in pain, but you’d never know it. She works out at the gym and wheelchair races, though she says she’s “more of a wheeler than a racer.”
She’s active on committees and was recently appointed to the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
MacCabe has a boyfriend and plans to have children one day. And now, she can afford to build a wheelchair-accessible house.
She says she didn’t feel much animosity toward Romanuik, until the trial. “His assertion that this whole process has been traumatic for him seemed very interesting to me,” she says carefully. “He goes home every day to the same life as he had before the accident, but I live mine very differently.
“Before, I knew exactly what I was going to do with my life, but after, it was hard not knowing what the future would hold.”
– Edmonton Journal