REGINA — A Paralympian who was left paralyzed after a diving accident says she knew the injury was bad the moment it happened.
Miranda Biletski testified Monday in Court of Queen's Bench in Regina, where she is suing the University of Regina for negligence.
"Even the night of my accident I knew, to an extent, that it was worse than some people initially thought," she said.
In June 2005, the then-16-year-old Biletski dove into a pool from competition starting blocks at the university during a swim club practice. She hit the bottom and fractured her cervical vertebrae, leaving her a quadriplegic.
Biletski said she heard paramedics initially thought it was a stinger — a term used when a player hits their head and it feels like their limbs go to sleep, though the feeling eventually returns.
"I didn't think it was that and I actually gave my mom a list of people in the ambulance that I wanted her to call to say that I was going to the hospital," she said.
Her lawyer, Alan McIntyre, then asked: "So you didn't think even then (that) it was temporary?"
"No," said Biletski.
Doctors said trying to repair her spinal cord would be "like trying to squeeze all the toothpaste out of a tube of toothpaste and then getting it back in without actually damaging the toothpaste."
Court was told how Biletski had to learn to sit upright without passing out, to feed herself again and to put in her own catheter to go to the bathroom.
"When I first started learning to do things, regular forks and knives and spoons were too heavy at the time — just with my lack of finger dexterity, I would drop them. So Mom actually brought me a Dairy Queen blizzard and the plastic spoon was the first thing I learned to eat with," she said.
"It was wonderful."
Court heard that Biletski — the first woman on Canada's wheelchair rugby team — can move her arms and shoulders, but has limited hand use.
"When it's not tired, sometimes I can wiggle one finger a little bit," she said of her right hand.
According to the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association website, Biletski swam and played water polo competitively before her injury.
She has 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.
Biletski filed her claim against the university in December 2007.
The university is denying negligence and blames the accident on Biletski and the swim club.
In court documents, it says that third parties had responsibility for ensuring the contracted pool facilities were safe for the use of the club's members and for determining whether the water level depth was sufficient to allow safe entry into the water from the diving blocks.
The case is expected to last three weeks.
Jennifer Graham, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story; an earlier version incorrectly referred to Biletski as a former Paralympian