Paralyzed in accident

Injured: Jake van Dongen is now in hospital in Vancouver being treated for a fractured spine.  - Photo contributed
Injured: Jake van Dongen is now in hospital in Vancouver being treated for a fractured spine.
— image credit: Photo contributed

Mary-Ellen van Dongen is a take-charge, capable woman.

Having to ask for help is very difficult, but one of her nine children has been paralyzed in a diving accident in New York State.

Jake van Dongen grew up in Salmon Arm where he was very involved in rep hockey as a goalie and as a referee for minor leagues, adult hockey and women’s hockey.

Jake, 25, and the youngest of van Dongen’s children, went to New York in the spring to help his sister, Charity, who suffered a brain injury in a car accident.

On June 27, Jake was swimming with friends and dove out of a tree, cracked his head on a rock and broke his spine.

Paralyzed from the chest down, Jake spent three weeks in an Albany, N.Y. hospital before being transported to Vancouver General Hospital on July 19.

The cost to transport Jake, who was on a ventilator and had a tracheostomy tube and feeding tube, to Vancouver General was $32,655. Jake is now breathing on his own, something that will mean he can be moved out of ICU and into a spinal cord unit.

“After that it’s GF Strong (Rehabilitation Centre); that’s where I wanted him to go,” says van Dongen, noting two surgeries have meant her son will have full use of his arms and that a GF Strong doctor has been in to see Jake and has informed him that his life is not over and that he will work and drive again.

“Jake knows the situation, he still has his sense of humour and he just wants to heal,” says van Dongen, noting as soon as she entered his hospital room, he wrote, “This is a no-cry zone,” on his chalkboard. “I’ve been through so much, if I don’t stay positive, I can’t expect my son to stay positive.”

And Jake has assured his mother he knows his life will be different and will make the best of what he has. He refused a TV for his room, telling his mom he wants to concentrate on healing.

Sent home by Jake’s doctor for a much-needed break, van Dongen expressed gratitude and amazement at the way the community has responded to the family’s need.

A fundraiser at a pub in Armstrong recently raised about $5,000, and funds have come from the SilverBacks.

“I billeted members of the SilverBacks team. They put out a donation jar and within half an hour there was more than $100,” she says, noting she wanted Jake closer to home so she and other members of the family can be with him. “I’ve had unbelievable support. I can’t even tell you, the support has been absolutely overwhelming.”

To help the van Dongen family, make a donation at that goes right to Jake’s page.


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