Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

MD's slip and fall agonizing, costly

Has safety tips for walks on icy streets

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He's the picture of perfect health and youth, with a dazzling career in medicine to boot.

But 36-year-old Dr. Paul Komenda had the surprise of his life after suffering a nasty fall on a Lombard Avenue sidewalk a year ago. It broke his jaw and fractured 13 of his teeth.

Komenda, a University of Manitoba professor and kidney specialist, was one of thousands of Canadians injured in falls on ice last year.

"I was talking to my friend. Next thing I knew, I was on the ground, dazed and spitting out teeth," said Komenda, adding he had fashionable running shoes on and had his hands in his pockets.

His misfortune is not unique. The Canadian Institute for Health Information said there were more than 7,100 people hospitalized after a fall on ice in 2010-2011, and that doesn't include people who died at the scene or received medical help outside hospitals.

"Having walked through part of the city earlier on my way to work, and the last several days, I can easily say that walking conditions are not easy," said Natalie Hasell, an Environment Canada meteorologist.

Hasell said people should be careful when walking throughout the winter.

"You could slip. Elderly folk could break a hip. That would be awful. And then for snow and blowing snow and windy conditions, the wind can actually push you sometimes off the sidewalk -- I have seen it," said Hasell. "Because of snow, blowing snow and reduced visibility, people can't see where you are, and you might not be able to see where other people are, either, so then your overall safety is reduced. (Because) people can't see where you are, it gets really difficult when you have to cross the street or something like that."

Komenda's fall meant he had his jaw wired shut for a month and lost 20 pounds.

"It's been a horrific year with recovery and repairing 13 fractured teeth. I've had to have two teeth taken out. I've had to have surgery to have dental implants. The whole thing is probably going to cost $20,000," he said. He said the moral of the story is wear practical footwear with a good grip and keep your hands out of your pockets.

"What I say to people (is that) it's not a fashion show in the winter, because we have icy sidewalks.

"It takes one second for you to slip and fall and hit your head. I was lucky, actually; I just broke my jaw. I could have broken my neck or my face or a lot of other things."

People concerned about walking outside can check surefoot.org for more information on walking conditions in Winnipeg.

The SureFoot initiative, launched last year by Safe Communities Winnipeg, bills itself as "the world's first program aimed at reducing injuries caused by falls on ice and snow through daily public bulletins."

It rates conditions each day as easy, moderate, difficult or hazardous. It is supported by groups such as the the Manitoba Arthritis Society and Active Living Coalition for Older Adults. The city's public works department posts the rating on its website. The Surefoot portion has received more than 4,000 page views since last February. Its ranking is based on a visual assessment by public works maintenance staff, said a city spokeswoman.

Daniel McIntyre Coun. Harvey Smith, who still uses crutches after he fell on Main Street last January, said there should be more promotion of SureFoot.

"I look out my window and I can't really tell how slippery the streets, sidewalks are, and so this program is very, very good in that way," Smith said.

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 11, 2013 A8

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Updated on Friday, January 11, 2013 at 10:48 AM CST: replaces photo, adds fact box

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