Budding scientist makes Bloorview his laboratory
Alex Coombs-Salmon has spent a fair part of his nine years in hospital.

But it hasn’t put a damper on his inventive mind. The budding scientist at Bloorview Kids Rehab plans to attach snow shovels to his new electric wheelchair when he returns home, so he can shovel the driveway for his parents.

Last week he convinced a Bloorview volunteer to conduct a basic scientific experiment with baking soda and vinegar. “We put it in a cup, put a lid on it, then watched it explode: pop, pop, pop,” he says. “He likes to investigate things, to understand,” says Alex’s dad Evan. “He loves science and technology.”

Despite repeat stays at Bloorview and SickKids for care of his spina bifida and an unrelated tumour, “he doesn’t tend to worry about his problems,” Evan says. “He accepts them as is because that’s all he knows.”

BLOOM interviewed Alex – sporting red happy-face slippers on his ninth birthday – to see if he could share helpful advice for other children.

What is spina bifida?
It’s just a disability. It makes things a little bit harder. It’s easier for me to use my hands and crawl.
What’s hard about staying at Bloorview?
Missing my family. I have a mom and dad and a sister and brothers. They come to visit me at nighttime or on the weekends.
What helps you not feel so lonely?
I talk to them on the phone. I would also like to recommend recreation therapy at Bloorview to other kids. They have lots of fun programs, like pet therapy. On Tuesday and Thursday, Ricky the clown comes to visit me. He calls me his president. I’d suggest bringing electronics.

I brought a video camera, a lap top and an iPod. I like laughing, so I like to watch Bugs Bunny on the TV in my room. Every night I’m so excited: Bugs Bunny, here I come!

What strategies have you learned to help you feel calm?
Playing with the medical dolls with the child life people is good because you can see what’s inside equipment closer up, so you know how it works and don’t have to be scared. I also carry walkie-talkies. That way, when I have to have antibiotics put in my port, I can still talk to one of my friends here and check on my buddies.

I like to hold someone’s hand and sometimes I take a deep breath and blow out on something – like the nurse’s hair. The nurses here give the best care in the whole wide world. If you’re having a needle, put on the Emla magic cream, so you can’t feel it. Sometimes I like to watch people do funny things to make me laugh.


Alex Coombs-Salmon, 9, shares tips to beat loneliness, anxiety during hospital stays
Photography by Yvonne Duivenvoorden








Bloorview Kids Rehab | Bloorview’s Resource Centre