Robert Cusinato is a long-standing physiotherapist member and dedicated volunteer who won OPA’s Outstanding Volunteer Award in 2019. We are pleased to feature him in our inaugural ‘Member in the News’ column, and share his words about his life, career and community.

“In June, 1997, my dream came true. I graduated from the University of Western with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy and within days I began my career as a physiotherapist at a local hospital in Windsor. Over the years I would have the privilege of assessing and treating individuals of all ages, in several settings and with various diagnoses. This served to strengthen my own knowledge base and more importantly my compassion for others.

In January 2016 my nightmare came true when I was diagnosed with a progressive, chronic condition- Multiple Sclerosis. Initially it was business as usual. However, the disease chipped away at me first physically, then mentally, then emotionally. I was defeated…until I accepted my reality and realized that I could still be of service as a physiotherapist to those in need. My clients and I shared a common link. As much as I was there to help them, they were helping me. We were pushing each other. In addition to maintaining full-time employment at the hospital and contributing to a family, I began to write. This was meant to be a therapeutic endeavour but it evolved into something else.

“Mending Nerves: An Empathetic Journey with Multiple Sclerosis” is my story. It follows the journey of an individual with a chronic and potentially disabling condition. The intersection of his worlds as both practitioner and as patient was unavoidable. Like his clients he needed to live in the present (“what is now”) and not in the future (“what could be”). I hope that the book will provide an avenue for others dealing with chronic diseases such as MS to relate. The main message is that, “you are not alone.”

Since my diagnosis I have become an advocate for those living with MS. I have joined a local MS community group as well as our local Beyond Disability Network group. My family and I have participated in the MS Walk sponsored by the MS Society of Canada where we formed the largest team and raised the most money as a team each year that we participated. I have had the honour of guest lecturing about MS at my alma mater, Western University, to first year Physical Therapy students. Most importantly I have become a resource not only to my clients but also to the clients of my colleagues, particularly those with MS. We are in this fight together. Finally, I have served as the Treasurer for the last 20+ years to the Windsor District of OPA.”

Thank you Robert for all that you do for patients, the profession and your community in Windsor District and beyond!