words: Troy Dashney, photos: Andrew Wright, @wright.of.way.photography
Editor’s note: This article originally ran in the Q4_2020 issue of quattro Magazine. If you would like to subscribe to quattro Magazine, join Audi Club here.
In 2002, after nine years as a paratrooper for the Canadian Armed Forces Infantry, Brian Cale was released from duty for medical reasons due to a kink in his back and chronic back injuries. Having always been into competitive cycling, and not having had a chance to do that during his years with the military, Brian returned with the intent to rekindle his relationship with the road.
It was not long after getting back onto the bike that the now 42-year old began training and competition in road races. Fast forward to May 17, 2015…it was a cold morning in downtown Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Brian was the current points leader going into the final stage of a three-stage criterium road race. He was feeling fresh as he was leading the pack. This race would change Brian’s life forever. Going into a corner, his back tire washed out, causing him to lose control of the bike and hit a tree head on. After regaining consciousness and not realizing how injured he was, Brian’s first reaction was to try to get back onto the bike. Various bystanders came over to help him get back up. One of the fellow racers, a surgeon, stopped and took control of the situation. Checking out Brian’s back, he told everyone to stop and had an ambulance called.
Being taken to the hospital along with his wife Shoneen, Brian was made aware that he had a complete T5 fracture. After waking from surgery, at first, he didn’t believe the situation as he was still on a high from the medications and sedation. In disbelief, he told friends and family that he would be walking again in six months. At that point, he spent the next ten days in the ICU. After an additional three weeks, he was airlifted to the Leduc Community Hospital where he stayed for about one month while he waited for an opening at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton.
“Things don’t slow me down too much. I don’t think I’m the type of person that wallows in the mud when things happen.” Brian states . “I just got on with things. I went to Glenrose Hospital, they told me when I was there that I would probably be there for three or four months. I think I was there for six weeks when they came and told me I was being released.” They said there was no point in being kept there any longer as he had completed everything he was expected to do, and they felt he was more than capable of carrying on with his life.
Throughout his years, including his time in the infantry, Brian was always enthusiastic about his cars. He was President of Jeep Jamboree Canada and member of Eco 4-Wheel Drive Club.
It was his relationship with the Jeep community that first got him back into driving. Various members of that community assisted in helping Brian get his Jeep outfitted with hand controls for throttle and braking. However, over time, Brian realized how difficult it was for him to get himself in and out of the Jeep due to the height of the vehicle.
Fortunately for Brian, his wife Shoneen had a previous working relationship with Southgate Volkswagen Principal Jim Allan that would prove fortuitous. They started the hunt for a hatchback, something that would carry his wheelchair with relative ease. Jim indicated to Brian and Shoneen that Volkswagen Canada had the Adaptative Vehicle Program where they would cover the cost of supplying and installing a left-hand throttle and brake controllers into the vehicle at no cost to the Cales.
While this was amazing, Brian always loved the Audi TT ever since his first encounter with a TT MK1 while on military rest and recuperation leave in Greece. One day, the Cales were at Southgate Volkswagen and decided to wander into Southgate Audi. There in the showroom was a 2018 TT RS. For the heck of it, they decided to see if Brian’s wheelchair would fit in the back, and much to their surprise, it did. So, what did Brian get? By now you have already figured out it was the TT RS. Knowing that Volkswagen Canada had the Adaptative Vehicle Program, Allan reached out to Audi Canada to find out the same program was not in place; however through discussions between Allan and Audi Canada, an agreement was made and the new car was sent to Eco Medical in Edmonton to have the car outfitted with the same hand controls for brake and throttle as his previous vehicles.
So how does it all work? How does Brian stay independent and how does Brian drive? It’s much simpler than imagined. It is a low-tech, low maintenance system. A left-hand control is mounted to the steering column. From there, levers and rods connect from the hand-control to the brake and throttle pedals. Like a joystick, when Brian pushes the hand-control forward it applies break, and when he pulls back, it applies pressure to the throttle pedal.
But how does Brian get into and out of the car you ask? Using a transfer board, Brian gets parallel to the driver’s seat and places the board like a bridge between his wheelchair and the driver’s seat. From there, he maneuvers from chair to seat. Then he disassembles his wheelchair and places it into the passenger seat. And what a sweet wheelchair he has. It is a fully carbon, magnesium and titanium wheelchair that is super light and can be disassemble and assembled by himself.
For nearly two years, I have had the pleasure to see Brian at many events and his spirit is truly amazing. I recently noticed that Shoneen’s Audi Q3’s license plate says “GIVEALL”. When I asked Brian what that meant, he stated, “It comes from a military slogan. All gave some, some gave all. The “give all” hashtag refers to the many people who gave their lives in the military.” Brian continues to push and persevere and never sits back and wallows. Despite his accident, he had a chance to continue to live. He never wastes a day or the gift he has been given.
On behalf of quattro Magazine and Audi Club North America, thank you Brian for sharing your story and for inspiring us all to do what we love and Give All.