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Meet Michael Coss

I was on cloud 9 when my injury occurred, a new father I was, to both a son and daughter who are twins, and also I was just promoted to field marketing at Molson Canada, the department that creates and designs programs which assist the sales reps sell more beer within the market place.
My children were just 6 months old at the time of my injury; they are my pride and joy. I have a picture of them on my nightstand and they are the reason that I work so hard at my rehab each and every day.
My injury occurred when I was driving up to Kelowna for a work function at 9 am, I was driving on The Coquihalla Highway to a Maxim Golf event when it was assumed that I veered off the highway to avoid a crossing animal. The vehicle that I was driving left the highway, rolled a few times and then came to a stop. My son was induced into a COMA for 10 days, my wife fractured her wrist, my daughter was uninjured, and I fell into a deep COMA for the next 6 ½ months. I naturally went into a total fatal position like I was in my mother’s womb.
After doing some research on the internet my parents decided that HBOT, or Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy was the route to take for my recovery. It worked, and after my second treatment of HBOT Oxygen Therapy I awoke from my deep COMA and I continue to make even more progress. I was on a feeding tube in the hospital. The tube was placed into my stomach which nourished my entire system, then I progressed to a puree diet and I can now eat almost anything. My beverages had to be thickened with a thickener and now my water must just need an ice cube in it, because the colder a beverage is the easier it is to swallow.
The first word I said besides my wife’s and children was STEAK and boy was that 1st STEAK delicious when I was able to eat it.

My family is the reason why I work so hard on my rehab each day. My wife and children, my parents and brothers and their families, my friends and my co-workers are the reason that I get up each day and work so hard.
I came out of my coma after my second treatment of Hyperbaric Oxygen treatment and I continue to make even more progress. There was only one facility that would accept me in the state or condition that I was in since I was in a COMA. My mother accompanied 5 days a week via ambulance and put a sponge with some water on it while I was in the chamber which would make me swallow and equalize the pressure within my ears. It worked and I awoke from my coma after my second treatment of HBOT.
I now would like to acknowledge and THANK the following people who have made a huge difference in my life; the 1st person I would like to THANK and applaud is my wife, ANN COSS, for raising my son and daughter for the past 2 ½ years while I’ve been re-covering since my accident. Hats off to her, with a huge round of applause. Next, I would like to THANK my parents who re-located to Vancouver from Quebec City, the day after my injury leaving family members, friends, and co-workers behind. My in-laws are who I would like to THANK next for assisting Ann with daily household chores like babysitting our children, taking our #1 son for a walk, “MURPHY”, helping prepare meals, bath our kids, mow the lawn, and supporting my wife through this nightmare.
Next I would like to THANK all my friends and co-workers for keeping in touch with me via e-mail and the telephone and provide me with regular updates especially two people, RACHEL DUMAS, and KEN ENDO.
Next I would like to THANK the person who hired me and trained me at Molson, Ronnie Paterson. He took me under his wing and taught me what it takes to be #1 in the beer business but more importantly I learned from him how to be a good HUSBAND to my wife and a good FATHER to my children. He was my mentor at work and also in my family life.
Next, I would like to THANK the members of my rehab team for helping me progress inch by inch and day by day, Janis Duvenstein, my OT, Francine Miller, Dan Carlson my speech therapist, Martha Rodriguez, my physio-therapist, the people who are employed by the group home that I re-side in who teach me the skills to be-come even more independent. I would also like to THANK Dr. Brown, Dr. Grant, Denise Cambiotti for working with me and moving the needle even further along.
I am not ready yet to run the Boston Marathon but at least I am training for it. THANK-YOU
I would also like to THANK SHANNON WHILLEY the BC Paramedic that you recently published an article about. She gives me the hope and determination that all is possible if you persevere.

Some friends and therapists' testimonials

My name is Don Davis; I met Mike in 1993 a few weeks after I got promoted to District Sales Manager at Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. In fact, I hired Mike to replace the sales position that I had just been promoted from. Michael worked for me for most of the 8 years he was at RBH. It was a sad day for me and RBH when he decided to leave RBH. I have a couple of short stories to share with all of you that will explain what type of person Michael is. When I was going through the interview process with Mike, he purposely did not inform us that his father is working for RBH in Quebec. In fact, it was one of our long term administrative staff employees that recognized the last name and phoned our HQ in Toronto to check on this. We were told that there is a Bob Coss working as a Supervisor in our Quebec City plant and that he has 3 sons one of them named Michael. The day that I was hiring Mike, I asked him if this was his father and why did he not reveal the fact that his father is working for RBH? His answer was what I would expect from Michael, "I wanted to get the job on my own merit ". My second story is a few years later when Michael won our Salesman of the Year award for Western Canada. The rest of Michael's family lived on the East coast and the award ceremony was to be at our National Sales conference in Montreal. As the winner of this award is a secret until the actual ceremony, I went to our Director to tell him that it would be a great moment if Bob Coss could be there to witness his son win such a prestigious company award. The arrangements were made and the result was a great moment to watch for everyone, a moment in time for a father and son. So you ask what word I would use to describe Michael............PROUD!!!!! Proud of his accomplishments, his family and the friends he is surrounded by.
Hey Mike hopes this works for you; I can still see you and your father embracing on that stage....what a moment!! Regards your friend,Don

My name is Joe Lozinski. I met Mike Coss (Cosco) in 2000 at a Slo-pitch tournament in Langley. My wife (Vanessa) and I went out to play for John Stone and we did not know anybody on the team. As it turned out, Mike and his brother Dwayne, over breakfast at the Golden Arches, had enticed Vanessa and me to come out and play more often. They were truly a great and fun bunch of players, so eventually we went on a few road trips with the same people; this is a good story of how friendships are built. Kelowna, Penticton, Abbotsford and Whistler were some of the more common trips that became part of our summer tour.
After a few road trips together, Mike encouraged me to start our own ball team; go figure, our team was called “Bad News Beers”. To this day Mike and I still discuss some of the road trips that we had been on. We’ve always had a special group of people on our team, and we never had any problem filling our roster when we required players. It did not matter if we won or lost, although it’s always better to be on the winning side, our team would usually enjoy a tall cool one after the game. Mike had orchestrated many of these good times and good memories.
I remember the time when our team was playing in Abbotsford, and Mike had arranged to take a power boat and go tubing at Cultus Lake. This was in between games, and it is a boating trip I will never forget. This is one of the many stories of how Mike would go out of his way for the baseball team, hockey team or workmates.
It’s tough to find one word that describes Mike. Mike is always fun to be around, he is very positive and cheerful, he is fierce competitor in his own way, but most of all Mike is very “courageous”. Joe Lozinski Coach

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Have you ever walked into a room of many people that you didn't know, and you find that you are drawn to one particular person? Maybe he is smiling, laughing, or maybe it's just his charisma? He seems to be the life of the party, the one that everyone wants to get to know. Well that's how I would describe Mike.
Hi, my name is Trish Martini, and I met Mike about 12 years ago while playing softball. Over the years we have played on the same softball team as well as the same ballhockey team. Mike is a great softball player, and with him on the team, it was always fun. He's an even better goalie - I would say he's the best goalie in the league, by far.
The one word I would use to describe Mike is life. He is full of life, and he is always the life of the party. I am privileged to be his friend.

Mikey! I associate Mike with anything fun, that is filled with laughter. The life of the party and the one to always reassure you with a quick yet warm smile. A dedicated business man, family man and friend. His perseverance is remarkable and his positive attitude throughout his life has inspired and touched all who have come in contact with him. I met Mike in 1994 when he started dating my cousin Annie. I in fact was the one who encouraged Annie to accept Mike's invitation to a date, when she was still unsure herself. (Not because Mike wasn't a friendly, hot sales guy for Schneider's!) Eventually they hooked up and the rest is history! I love Mike and consider him more of a brother than a friend or relative by marriage. He has always been the best uncle to Jacob and Makenna and they ask for him often. He is a special man who will always hold a huge chunk of my heart and my families. Koreen Carl

My name is Mary-Lynn Corpuz I am a Rehabilitation Care Worker. I work for one of Cheshire Homes Society group homes called Larkin House a home for people with traumatic brain injuries. It was 2007 February, when I was assigned to work with a thirty eight year young man with a TBI after being a MVA. I was told he was severely disabled and that he had come out of a six month coma and was able to communicate but minimally. I was excited to meet this young man but saddened to hear that the medical profession said that he would remain in his present condition with little or no progress. They obviously did not know Mr.Michael Coss.
When I met Michael there was a twinkle in his eyes that shone to his soul and told me this was not an ordinary young man. I could see beyond his disabled body a left side with contractions and very little movement a right side also contracted and a right leg that would constantly be kicking out. His sense of humor came throughwithin the first week of his stay with us when I told him that his right leg could kick his own behind to get him moving. He started to laugh and couldn't stop and that broke the proverbial ice. He has not stopped the mirth since and realized that all humility was balled up and thrown out the window as he took on the challenge of his life. Almost everyday there was some mark of progress that has defied his diagnosis. I could go on and on about his hurtles and his stumbles but he can best tell it in his own words.
What I have to say about Mike (which I can now call him) is that I have been blessed with not only working with such a wonderful human being but I am honored to sayhe has become a good friend and someone who has inspired me on many levels. I know he will always be reaching to meet the next challenge and will give everything is has to aspire to be the best he can. Thank you, Mike; you have taught me so much and I will always have you in my heart.

Michael Coss – my part in his miracle recovery
by Dan Carlson, Speech-Language Pathologist
I first met Michael in early December 2006, when he was admitted to the convalescent ward of Eagle Ridge Hospital. He had been transferredfrom Royal Columbian Hospital where he had spent 7 months, mostly in a coma, starting to recover from the traumatic brain injury which he had sustained in a motor vehicle accident. On admission Michael exhibited a non-verbal communication status, in other words he had no speech at all. At that point it was impossible to tell what combination of cognitive, language or motor-speech difficulty was causing thiscomplete lack of speech. Michael opened his eyes, looked at people, and seemed generally aware of their presence, but overall appeared to be still in a semi-comatose state.
Communication abilities were near nil with the exception of somewhat unreliable movements of the thumb. His family and staff at the previous hospital had worked out a system whereby he would put his thumb up for “yes” and simply do nothing for “no.” This system was a bit shaky to start as Michael seemed to be answering “yes” for everything; later on, however, it became more reliable, and then eventually wasn’t needed at all.
I saw Michael for therapy approximately 3 times weekly during the month of December. As noted above we started with the yes/no response, and then moved to a letter board where Michael spelled words using his thumb response. This was done with the help of the therapist who scanned the rows and columns of letters. Early on with this system, our biggest breakthrough and emotional moment came when I asked Michael, “What is going to be your first meal once you get off the tube feed?” He was able to spell out the word “steak” using this method, and promptly broke into a flood of tears. It was at that point that his wife Ann and I really knew for sure that he was still in there.
This was great progress, however the miracle part was still to come. In recovery from brain injury it is generally accepted that most improvement happens in the first few months, with slower recovery occurring after that time. When Michael first came to ERH, his physical and speech abilities were severely impaired; this combined with the fact that he was already 7 months post-injury, led his health-care team to the conclusion that the prognosis for any further improvement was guarded. Thus I thought that we would be looking towards equipping Michael with an augmentative communication device; using real speech seemed out of the question! How wrong I was...
Over Christmas I took a few days off and when I came back I met Ann in the corridor outside Michael’s room. She explained joyfully that, guess what, Michael is now talking! I could hardly believe it, but found that of course it was true. His first attempts at speech were short, only single words and short phrases. His breath support was quite reduced and he was able to produce only word per breath. Michael’s voice was very weak and he had to be reminded constantly to produce a voice which his listener could hear. His resonance was hypernasal, meaning that too much air was coming through the nose, and his articulation was very slurred. The natural rhythm of his speech was quite disrupted due to all these factors. Nevertheless, with a bit of effort both on Michael’s part and on the part of his listener, he could be understood! A diagnosis of dysarthria of speech was made, a disorder in which weakness and incoordination in the body’s speech mechanism lead to disrupted processes of speech, including articulation, voice, resonance, breath support and the rhythmic flow of speech.
Michael continued to work at improving these deficits in therapy and was eventually discharged to Larkin House group home at the beginning of February 2007. I was asked by the house manager to continue seeing him at that location which I did until his eventual discharge from my caseload several months later. Goals of therapy carried on essentially as noted above, that is improvement in the areas of breath support, precision of articulation, clarity of voice and stress and intonation of words and sentences.
Michael made excellent improvement during this time and at the time of discharge, his speech, though still noticeably dysarthric, was functional in all situations, with the possible exception of when he was very excited!
I am very happy that my path crossed with Michael’s during the course of my career in speech-language pathology. Not all SLPs can say thatone of their clients has experienced a real miracle recovery, and I am pleased to have been a part of Michael’s. I am proud to have been his therapist and will continue to be his friend. My key word for Michael is: Miracle! Stay in touch! Dan - December 8, 2008

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Mike Coss – The Original
My first day in the beer business I met Mike Coss. I was 22 years old, fresh out of school and was a Field Marketing Assistant for Coors Light. My job that day was to work the computer for a presentation that several of the Molson reps were doing for a customer. Mike Coss was one of the presenters. I remember looking up at him thinking, ‘man, this guy can talk’. The customer was clearly impressed with Mike, and I think it helped that he said her name every 20 seconds or so, ‘So, you see Sue if you were to reassemble for cooler doors, here are the potential profit outcomes Sue.’ I was impressed too. He was very convincing and likable from a first meeting.
I worked with Cosco that summer and the summer after. I worked with him more than anyone else as he always presented a case as to why he needed more help than the other reps. That was fine with me because Cosco always treated me like a friend. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t shy to ask me to work, and work hard. And even bring him a ‘Double Double and an Old Fashion Plain’ every morning. I cleaned out his notorious lockers, filled sky high with Molson wearables and swag. I well understood his nickname ‘Cosco’. It wasn’t the most glamorous of jobs but I was always rewarded for my efforts. Cosco always showed everyone, including me, his appreciation. I watched in awe as he turned some of the most incredulous of customers into believers. Of course, the doughnuts helped and so did Cosco’s charm.
From a professional standpoint, Cosco is one of the best salespeople the beer business has ever seen. He holds closely the human qualities that draw people to him, to trust him and ultimately make them want to buy whatever he is selling. I looked up to him for this and still work to emulate some of these qualities that came so naturally to Cosco.
As much as I admired Cosco for being such a great salesperson, I really admired his incredible love of family. Cosco is a family person. He would talk about Annie all the time and would share with me his dreams to have a family. I remember the day he told me that Annie was pregnant, and, with twins! He was thrilled. And as we sat there and watched the game together I looked at Cosco and saw a whole new happiness that radiated from within. In all his happiness however, he still worried about his dog Murph being jealous as Murph was treated as good as a family member would be.
When Cosco got hurt, I, along with everyone else who knew him was devastated. Admittedly, I had to muster up the courage to go and see him at the hospital. It was very difficult and unfortunately I was only able to do it once. While there, I watched Annie and saw her smile and put on a brave face. She would talk to Cosco, touch him and do anything in her power to create a reaction. I have never seen a woman fight so hard and be as strong as Annie. She is amazing.
Now that Cosco is on the long and difficult road to recovery, I see a relentless determination from within. He has resolved to achieve his goal of walking again. I believe that if anyone can do it, it’s Cosco. I know that Cosco will keep up his driven spirit and will find success in all he does. He is a winner and a fighter and most importantly a wonderful human being.

Michael will not remember our first meeting.
He was in a coma. I was working at Royal Columbian Hospital and treated Mike during my weekend rotation. I would come up to the 6th floor and give chest physiotherapy to prevent him from getting pneumonia while he was attached to a tracheal tube. Sometimes I performed range of motion exercises on his arms and legs, or helped adjust the splints he wore to help prevent his muscles and joints from tightening up. Sometimes I got out the wheelchair that the nurses used for Michael to sit in, to help change his positioning and decrease the abnormal muscle tone.
Some months later I was asked to come and work with Michael at Larkin House. I officially “met” him for the first time. Michael was sitting in his wheelchair, talking, joking, laughing, and very determined to participate with his recovery. This was the man I was going to work with over the next few months. What a change already!
I started coming to Larkin House twice a week for Mike’s one hour physiotherapy sessions. We initially used a mechanical lift to carry him from the chair to the rehab bed, and practised sitting balance as he could not sit up by himself. He performed exercise after exercise, repetition after repetition, to improve his core, range of motion, and motor function. Pretty soon, I had to be creative to keep things new and interesting, using bands, balls, and weights for exercises. Mike was also starting to practice “standing” on a tilt table. This was a machine that started off flat, onto which Michael was strapped at his chest, hips, and knees, and then the table was slowly straightened into a vertical position. One can imagine what it felt like to be putting weight through the joints that have not had any weight put through them in over a year. Needless to say, Michael tolerated about three minutes the first couple of times. A lot of preparation for such a short time! However, this paid off.
Michael was soon able to sit up on the bed without any support. He could push himself up from a lying position, and shuffle himself sideways, roll onto his back, and onto his side. We worked on getting him able to transfer from the chair to the bed, so that the lift was no longer required. Every new challenge was met with optimism and determination. I have never heard Mike say “I can’t do it”. He was always willing to try, and every challenge was met with success. On the tilt table Michael was tolerating longer and longer periods of time, stretching out his body, and loading up the bones and joints that we take for granted.
The next step was for Mike to practice standing on his own without the tilt table. It took two of us standing on either side of him. He brought his center of gravity slowly over his toes and stood up from the low bed! He got so excited that he let go, dropped right back onto the bed, and pumped his arm in the air. “Success!” he yelled. I think we had to repeat that stand about five more times to show everyone at Larkin House that day. From then on, the rehab session involved “standing practice”, with one person, two people, or using the wheel chair for support. Michael practiced endlessly, never complaining.
Our time came to an end when I had to go on maternity leave. However, Mike continued on with his physiotherapy, working up to three or four sessions per week, going to the hyperbaric chamber daily, and many other therapy sessions as well. I learned a very important lesson from Michael. Never rest until you have reached your goal. Then you just create a new one. For whatever the future holds, Michael has hope and determination on his side.
By Anne Wong, Physiotherapist

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The Courage To Come Back
Michael was in a motor vehicle accident in the summer of 2006. Without warning and without his permission, Michael’s life changed forever.He sustained a brain injury and has for the past two and a half years been involved in extensive physical and cognitive rehabilitation. Hehas demonstrated a remarkable recovery and has overcome many challenges.
No two brains are alike therefore no two brain injured brains are alike. Brain injury is not black and white. There is not an easy fix program and adjusting to change requires the confidence to let go of what was and the courage to explore what is still to come.
None of us are exempt from experiencing a sudden life change regardless of whether change is forced on us or whether we choose it. Jobs end, companies re-organize, children grow up and leave home and accidents happen. In Michael’s situation he experienced a sudden life change after his motor vehicle accident. Michael knows firsthand about the painful process of accepting change. Michael is learning practical strategies to help him to let go of his fears, eliminate his resistance to change and to move forward in a positive direction. Michael is learning step by step strategies to gain physical strength to walk again.
Michael arrived in one of our community based group homes in Feb 2007. He was just emerging from a coma. He was unaware of his surroundings. He required total care support and had extensive contractures of all his limbs. He was not expected to recover beyond his present condition, to be independent or to walk again. Michael went through various stages of recovery from awakening to the vital person he is today. His rehabilitation program has been comprehensive providing a wide array of services from a multidisciplinary team which include physical therapy. The physical therapy program has been designed to identify problem areas and to develop strategies for Michael that would produce positive results such as a new way to walk or to be mobile.
Michael is a fighter and he has worked diligently on his physical rehabilitation every day which has included strengthening, stretching, balance and gait training, bed mobility, transfer training, coordination and as a result is regaining physical strength and endurance and is, much to the surprise of most professionals, walking today. The process has been slow but progress steady and he is deserving of recognition for the demanding and tedious work he has done to get where he is today. He has accomplished his goal of walking again and just needs to continue to practice his new skill to make walking more habitual.
Physical Rehabilitation is hard work and the rewards slow and difficult to see, however, Michael is making the most out of life after his brain injury. He gets up every day in a positive frame of mind and dedicates his day to his rehabilitation. He does whatever it takes to hold on and to regain back his physical ability. He keeps positive and motivated and in believing that tomorrow will be better. Michael uses a wheelchair which serves as a reminder that the injury occurred. He is not accepting the fact that he will not walk again and is working hard every day on his physical therapy rehabilitation.
Michael is living testimony to how a successful man can be knocked down but not out and how to overcome and succeed no matter what life throws his way. Michael is working on accepting the new person he has become, with a whole new outlook on life and knowing that he is a vital member of his community with much to offer. I am so impressed with his courage, his attitude, his perseverance and his positive outlook for each challenge he faces every day. I have been touched by his determination and motivation, his playful spirit and his positive outlook on life. Michael’s personal experience translates into lessons we can all learn from. Never lose hope, never give up, stay positive and make positive change for yourself. I believe that Michael transcends the following message: change the changeable, accept the unchangeable and remove yourself from Unacceptable. One day Michael wants to be a motivational speaker to share his experiences with others and to help other survivors and I believe he will accomplish this and in doing so will definitely be giving back to his community.
From the first time you meet Michael, your life will be transformed in a positive way. His life is intertwined with hope, courage and is an inspiration to other survivors. Mike has overcome some major obstacles since his car accident and has made a choice to make the best of some really tough situations. He does and will continue to make an impact on people’s lives with his continued story.
Sue McCrimmon, Cheshire Homes Society of B.C. (2009)

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