LETHBRIDGE – It was a simple walk that turned into years of pain and physical setbacks.
One sunny January afternoon in 2009, Sheila Westling decided to go for a stroll in her north Lethbridge neighbourhood. Almost immediately she came across a residential sidewalk covered in thick ice.
“I was walking with caution on the ice, I was wearing my good gripped work shoes, and even wearing those, I slipped and fell,” the 38-year-old said.
And when she tried to stand, she felt a type of pain she’s never experienced before.
“The shooting pain just went straight up from my foot to my hip and I knew there was something wrong.”
Friends rushed her to Chinook Regional Hospital, where she underwent emergency surgery for a broken ankle and two broken bones in her leg.
“There’s nothing worse than breaking a bone, it’s the worst pain anyone could ever feel,” Westling added.
The City of Lethbridge gives residents 24 hours to clear their sidewalks. If they do not do so, they will receive a written warning, and after that they can be fined from $50-$150.
“The city has a snow removal bylaw and it requires that homeowners clear the snow from the adjacent city sidewalk to their property,” said Dave Henley, senior bylaw officer.
So far this month, the city has dealt with over 100 complaint calls – which is more than they received in November and December combined – about icy sidewalks. Few of those calls have resulted in fines, as the warnings seem to be working.
The problem is not limited to residential sidewalks, as some pathways are also covered in snow and ice. The city is responsible for clearing 200 km of sidewalks and pathways within Lethbridge, but they are cleared based on a priority system.
It has been seven years, nine surgeries and over 30 physio visits, but for Westling the physical struggles remain.
“I’ve got arthritis in the ankle, I have zero cartilage left. I have to be caerful with everything I do just so I don’t have the same issues with re-breaking it and having to go through more surgeries,” she said.
She hopes her story might encourage others to keep their walkways clear and safe. “I don’t want this to happen to someone else just because someone can’t or won’t clear their sidewalk properly.”