Campaign created for lake accident victim
Family members of a man who was critically injured in a Stowel Lake swimming accident are doing everything they can to stay by his side through his next few months of recovery in hospital.
Allen Lewis junior, who is known to most by his nickname Bebe, was on Salt Spring having a weekend mini-vacation with friends when he suffered a life-changing accident on July 13. His daughter Angie August explained Lewis incurred significant spinal cord damage after taking his last dive of the day.
Lewis was airlifted to Victoria and then moved to Vancouver on July 14. Surgery on July 18 involved inserting a rod to secure his skull to his spine. Breathing and feeding tubes were also installed. While doctors have warned the family Lewis may never recover movement in his arms and legs, they are holding out hope.
“The spinal team says that he won’t regain mobility but he has a large community and a lot of them are saying he will, and they know people who have,” August said. “Everyone is having a positive outlook for his recovery. We’re just hoping and praying all day, every day.”
Lewis has seven siblings and six children, and they all have spouses and kids of their own. The close-knit family rallied to be together at Victoria General Hospital and then moved on to the home of Lewis’ sister Vivian Jacob in North Vancouver.
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help recover some of those travel costs and to allow family to continue to be with Lewis as much as possible while he’s in Vancouver. All of his close family members live in Squamish aside from Jacob and August, who lives on the Sunshine Coast.
“During the first week we were all at Auntie’s every day but this week a lot of people had to go back to work,” August said Friday, explaining how people are taking turns to drive in and visit.
A well-known figure in the Squamish Valley, Lewis is Skwxwú7mesh on his father’s side and Nuu-chah-nulth from Port Alberni on his mother’s side. August said her dad is a lifelong learner who has studied computer programming and earth sciences. Even recently the 68-year-old was studying fibre optics for the second time. He also loves being out on the river or up in the mountains and has often broadcasted videos of his adventures on Facebook Live, which delights his many followers.
“My dad has a lot great friends, and a lot of them call him dad or uncle,” August said, adding that made things a little more difficult for hospital staff to sort out visitors.
“He’s just such a great person to be around, and he’s funny and understanding. He’s always very open and understanding and welcoming. He’s not judgmental. He always chooses to be happy,” August said. “And he’s hilarious.”
August said having family members nearby is especially important for someone like her father, who normally connects with many people during the course of his day. Now that he’s through his surgery Lewis is active, alert and doing a lot of talking, although not everyone can understand what he’s saying through his breathing tube. (One request that has been clear is he wants the family to bring a traditional medicine person to the hospital, so there will be more travel expenses to cover.)
As well as aiding Lewis’ recovery, being able to come together has provided crucial support for all those struggling to cope with the tragic situation.
“Being around family the last couple of weeks has helped me keep it together,” August said. “All my aunties and uncles came and all my sisters and brothers came. It really helped having my aunties and uncles; they just made me feel less scared.
“And we’ve had so much support form the community. Having those people constantly posting and praying and giving us love has helped me stay positive about this.”