It was pouring rain, 3 a.m. on our first night in Courtenay/Comox. Horrible sounds from outside could only mean a collision — and a big one.
A night owl by nature, Christopher Hamilton was tinkering with a wood-carving project, his pet bub (pet rat), Onyx on his shoulder; while I, his longtime soulmate, was leaving a voice-mail for a friend in Vancouver.
Christopher quickly dropped Onyx in her cage, plunked his feet in boots and was out the door like a shot as he shouted for me to follow him.
I arrived across the North Island Highway, my pajamas already soaked, to see a vehicle completely upside-down, orange flames visible inside despite the deluge. Christopher was inside that wreck so quickly, it was as if he had vanished.
Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion.
Neighbors milled about. Two fellows who had been weekend partying came on the scene.
Christopher freed a trapped man. One of the partiers helped lift him away from the tonne of twisted metal before it went “kaboom!”
Both of us had nightmares about that incident — and wondered if the gentleman lived; if so, we hoped he was OK.
Nothing could prepare us for the nightmare that was about to happen — bizarrely — right across the street from that crash.
It was several months since, and it was Christopher’s birthday. Since we had had a tough year — losing my mom and grandmother to cancer and Christopher’s own scary diagnosis, he had really wanted to plant a rare white sunflower to symbolize a clean, fresh start.
That morning, he bicycled to the garden centre to buy the seeds.
By nightfall, I knew something was very wrong.
Brrriinnggggg! Call display showed St. Joseph’s Hospital calling. My heart plummeted.
When I arrived at the hospital, a nurse rushed over to hug me. I joked that “it must be really bad, if I get a hug!”
That’s when I found out that my Christopher had fractured his C-2 vertebrae — broken his neck.
So, here we are some months later.
In the interim, visiting at the ICU, I caught back-to-back bouts of some type of “uber-flu.” When Christopher’s father heard the news of his son, he had a fatal heart attack. A dear friend of ours suddenly passed on. A longtime beloved pet “croaked.”
I, normally a friendly and outgoing individual, fell into a numb, withdrawn “phone-phobic” ennui.
Then, there was the matter of no witness and no insurance money.
Going back and forth/back and forth to Vancouver has practically bankrupted us.
Neither of us was aware of any funding for medical travel (in fact we were told there wasn’t such a thing).
Some doctors said Christopher he would never speak again — that he would be trachea-tube dependent for the rest of his (very short) life; but he came off “the trach” after a couple of months. “They” said he would never be able to sign his name — wrong, again!
The strength that propelled him into that flaming wreck to rescue a total stranger is the same moxie inside him that is forcing a recovery.
So, this Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., we’re having a fundraising sale.
Christopher needs so much. We need so much. Our helper/friend, the precious Diane is helping me sell a locker full of great goods to aid our medical transformations and our reunion. Christopher needs assistive devices that aren’t covered by the Ministry of Health.
Just a seemingly simple thing — an upgrade to a wheelchair that can be used outdoors — is over $6,000. If he’s ever to be able to come back to the Comox Valley to live and do so enjoyably, that is the kind of assistive device he’s going to need.
He also needs a standalone external hard drive and a mid-range “fairly powerful” computer that’s capable of running voice-recognition software.
We thank storage owner Pat Bell for generously allowing us to stage the big garage sale in the parking lot of McPhee Mini Storage at 907 McPhee Ave. (at Cumberland Road) in Courtenay.
We’ve got tools big and small; men’s coats; leather purses; a baby stroller; clothing for men, women, kids; brand new men’s boots & women’s shoes; art in frames; books; CDs; jewelry; electronics; home building supplies; gardening equipment; stuffed animals, games, toys; vases; Christmas decor; Halloween costumes; unopened toiletries; a TV; furniture and more.
One last thing — thanks to Tyler Burgess Smith for finding Christopher hidden in a deep trench along the highway and thereby saving his life.