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Looking Back: The Road Home - Colton's Journey


John Kinnear

May 10, 2023

I would like to share a story with you. 

A story of a game changing accident and a journey that has just begun for a young man named Colton Knowles. I thought it would be significant to let it unfold in the words of Colton’s mother who got the phone call where she heard the words every mother dreads.  “There has been an accident”. 

In this case it was a motor vehicle accident in Chilliwack, BC,  that had catastrophic consequences for Colton.  His mother, Kym Howse, is that remarkable person who transformed the old Coleman Catholic Church into a spectacular holiday home while maintaining most of this churches’ integrity.  So I would like to walk you through her postings as she was plunged into the world of a literally paralyzing event.  

Her first Face book post was on April 9 and reads as follows, “Things can change in an instant. I’ve really come to know this phrase intimately this last week. On Tuesday April 3rd, my Colton was in a devastating car crash in BC. He is in critical care in Vancouver general hospital. This was a phone call that I never imagined getting and still am processing. Colton had a major spinal injury, and a severed spinal cord, so he is now paralyzed from the sternum down. We are so thankful that he still has the use of his arms. 

He has a long road ahead of him. But Colton is a fighter, and he will be able to overcome this. Colton has no financial cushion, and has so many expenses ahead of him. @maxhowse has started a gofundme to help us provide for Colton’s care. I hope together we can show Colton that he can move on from these challenges and be his best version still. Please send your best vibes and prayer and Buddha chants… whatever you’ve got, we will take them! Thank you for thinking of my boy, thank you so much. Kym.”  

The GoFundMe was organized by Colton’s younger brother Max Knowles. Max reached out himself in a post with a plea and a link to the funding page. There I found a very cogent overview of what lay ahead for Colton that outlined the challenges physically and financially that he faced. Of course it was extremely important to Max that he be there for his brother in whatever way he could. Part of it reads, “Colton, who loves to skateboard and always strived to be physically active, will now be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Luckily, Colton retains full mobility in his arms, and with support and encouragement can learn to be self-sufficient and lead a healthy and happy life. 

 Colton has a long road ahead of him. Once he starts his rehabilitation he will have many new expenses; a wheelchair, adaptive equipment, physiotherapy, and more. Currently, our mother Kym is supporting Colton as he begins his recovery under the care of the medical team at Vancouver General Hospital. The travel and accommodation costs for Kym to be by his side already present a large financial burden. When Colton is well enough, the goal is to move him to Calgary, where his family and support system are based. However, Colton will face unique transport needs due to the nature of his injuries — presenting another cost to him and the family. As Colton begins his new life supported by his network of family and friends in Calgary, he faces more costs to pay for everyday living expenses, accessible housing, home support, and other ongoing therapeutical costs.

 Because of his injuries, he will not be able to return to his work in construction — a career where he had acquired great abilities, gained confidence, and earned the admiration of supervisors for his exceptional work.”  Max realized quickly that for Colton to have the ability to concentrate on his recovery and be able to retrain and find his new passion and place in this new world the fundraiser was critically important.”

 He went on to say that, “Colton deserves a chance. A chance to live a full and happy life and be a son, a brother, and a friend. If there is one person who is up to this challenge, it’s Colton. Growing up, Colton taught me the value of resilience in the face of adversity — and more importantly than anything, taught me the importance of being there for those you love.” 

 On April 11 Kym updated his condition with the following note, “Day eight. - Colton continues to show his strength. After a scary day yesterday where he suffered a pulmonary embolism, he spent the day and night being poked and prodded and having CT scans and an MRI to rule out any extra bleeding. He has not been stable enough to move from critical care, but this afternoon he was pretty excited about home-made BBQ and enjoyed a good dinner. He is very thankful for the support of everyone and is overwhelmed by the outpouring of love. He is focused and determined to keep improving. I would like to also thank everyone, I’m so grateful to have the ability to be here with him. I’m so proud of Max and Maybry who have just been so strong and focused on their big brother.  

On April 17 Kym’s post revealed how tricky Colton’s recovery was and her thoughts on moving forward. It reads, “Colton continues to heal, it is a slow progress, it’s tough, as so much of it is internal, and with broken ribs and cracked sternum etc any little move, even breathing can be extremely painful. We are hoping this week he will transition out of critical care. They are keeping a close eye on a spinal bleed around his neck, as he is on blood thinners to protect him against another embolism, but it is stable, and not showing any sign of change. All good news.

Our family has been advocating for Colton to be flown back to Calgary, as he has no supports in Vancouver. While the medical team does agree that Colton’s recovery would be more supported in Calgary, neither the Alberta health ministry nor B.C’s will cover the cost of transport. The quotes we have received to this point are about 21k. This being the case, and the medical facility in Vancouver being of an equally high calibre, we’ve decided that rather than spend Colton’s “go fund me” trust on transport, it makes more sense for me to relocate for the duration of his rehabilitation, and then move him back. (The trust will be much more valuable in helping him set his new life up) We are still focused on facilitating the transport, as Colton will likely still be in hospital for at least two to three more weeks, before he moves into a rehabilitation program.  

At one point Kym flew back to Calgary for a break and shared some very profound thoughts regarding community, “It was very hard to leave Colton. Colton has been overwhelmed by everyone’s support and the kindness and generosity of people he may never have even met. He hasn’t processed his injuries entirely, and we know it’s a long road ahead, but it has given him an opportunity to feel hopeful. I, maybe even more, have felt so grateful to all of you. I was so touched by so many people reaching out with words of encouragement and kindness. I have certainly felt buoyed and strengthened by all of it. 

Bad things are ubiquitous, they happen all the time. There is no plan, or reason… I certainly understand this, spending eight hours a day on a spinal injury wing with multiple rooms, all full. The world tends to stop turning when it’s you or your family or loved ones that have been affected. How dare someone be running along the sea wall… or celebrating a birthday in the park? 

As the days go by, I am able to realize we’re all just trying to get through it. This life. We don’t know everyone’s story. And the people we love, their stories, we are lucky to be able to step in and participate. Raise a glass, offer a shoulder, or walk with them in grief. I know the reasons and the sentiment behind some of the donations, both large and small; they are equally as heartfelt and important. I don’t know the stories of the majority of them, but I know they all share one common belief, Community. And that is what we have created. Max laid the cornerstone and all of you created a community. A place that shows Colton how important he is and that we believe in him. For this I have no end to my gratitude. We go onward; we learn to live with our new normal. And perhaps most importantly, we continue to pay it forward. 

April 26- There was no support from Alberta to get Colton back home where he needed to be and of this Kym writes, - “I am so proud of my boy. He truly is a champion. He is trying so hard. You can see his drive. He gives 100 per cent in his daily physio. This 26 year young man is on his journey back from a catastrophic spinal injury that has forever changed his life. 

His surgeon and rehabilitation doctor, as well as the psychiatrist, have all written letters saying he should be in Alberta, where his home and family are. This is a key component to his successful recovery. In fact they have all said if he remains here, a place where he has nothing,  and knows no one, it will impede his recovery, (one of the team wrote),  “I am convinced that this initial, relatively small financial outlay, will pale compared to the enormous financial, emotional, physical and societal cost of inaction.

 Kym goes on to say, “We continue to work on getting Colton back to Calgary. And we have so much support and encouragement from so many people I know it will happen. This month, amongst other things, has certainly taught me patience, anthe importance of just going day by day. So we wait. Onward! It’s truly inspiring to see how a life can be changed and a community can be strengthened. My gratitude is endless, and I am overwhelmed to think of how Colton’s life will have this foundation to start from, truly, where there was nothing, roots are taking hold. It’s a beautiful thing, and you all have done this.”

On May 6 the break came that they needed. Vancouver General agreed to cover half the transport and a bed was found at Foothills and that very day Colton was loaded onto a medical transport plane and brought home. So there will still be a tremendous amount of personal cost for the family moving forward and it is heartening to see that so many (145 so far) have pitched in to the fund, which now has about 20 per cent of its goal. The Recovery Fund link is.  

Remember, as Kym said, bad things are ubiquitous.  It brings to mind something that an 8-year-old girl said to me years ago,who raised, by herself, $45 towards a new swimming pool fund in Fernie. She said, “I can’t do everything, but I can do something and if everyone does something, everything will get done”

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