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New site curates spinal injury information

Giants assistant coach hopes to give back after receiving overwhelming assistance

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Elmwood Giants defensive co-ordinator Ryan Dueck shows his new website, Six Degrees Freedom, on his tablet.

PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON Enlarge Image

Elmwood Giants defensive co-ordinator Ryan Dueck shows his new website, Six Degrees Freedom, on his tablet. Photo Store

When you’re racing against the clock to save your way of life from deteriorating, finding relevant information quickly is key.

When Elmwood Giants defensive co-ordinator Ryan Dueck was preparing for disc replacement in Germany last November, he was frustrated with how difficult it was to find information all in one place. The surgery, done to correct a neck injury Dueck sustained during a football scrimmage in February 2009, counteracted the weakening of his neck. With continued deterioration, the St. Vital resident would have no longer been able to hold up his head or use his arms.

However, after what ended up being a successful surgery, the 29-year-old was left with some time on his hands as he recovered. When in the hospital in Hattingen, just northeast of Dusseldorf, Dueck came up with an idea for a website called Six Degrees Freedom that would become a hub for those with spinal injuries seeking more information. The site launches June 5 at www.sixdegreesfreedom.com — with the name referring to the six degrees of motion a healthy neck and spine provide.

Dueck, who has a kinesiology background, said the website will be able to curate advice about dealing with various elements of injuries, which he said can help sufferers shave months or even years off the time it takes to find answers. Dueck noted here in Winnipeg, it can be difficult to find specialists who understand the surgery he went through to help him with his recovery.

"People can find a practical answer: how do I fundraise for my upcoming surgery, how do I deal with this kind of pain, how do I find hope and encouragement in this situation I’m in?" he explained. "If that can be accomplished, then I feel like I’ve done something worthwhile."

In addition to centralizing information on coping and recovery, Dueck also hopes to create a sense of community for those in need of inspiration. Dueck said because of media attention surrounding his surgery, including in The Herald last fall, he has had contact from people who have had similar experiences from across the province and as far away as California.

"Someone can go on there and browse five, 10, 20, 30 different stories of people who have had success or have overcome this or have a hopeful message," he said.

Dueck said with the number of people who helped fund his surgery to help pave the path to recovery, the site is just one way he wants to return the favour, as he plans to speak at several upcoming events and write a book to tell his story.

"Usually debt is a bad word, but I have a debt of gratitude, there’s something in me that says I have to give back," he said. "We were so blessed by so many people, and that’s what we wanted to talk about even in the tougher times of recovery — how do we give back?

"If I live my whole life, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do that, but I’m sure going to try."

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