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#284310 - 06/12/08 03:55 AM Long recovery for former Kap man
SimonB Offline
Long recovery for former Kap man
Vacation in Belize almost deadly for Denis Turcotte

Mark Gentili
Wednesday June 11, 2008



Back to main page — They were supposed to enjoy their time in Belize diving with whale sharks and looking for a place to spend a couple of months next winter.

But that vacation nearly turned tragic for former Kapuskasing resident Denis Turcotte and his 36-year-old son Alden. On April 21, while snorkeling Mr. Turcotte was struck by a boat in the leg and the head.

What was to be a 60th birthday present to himself turned into a nightmare for the retired x-ray technician, who worked with his wife Alrae at both Sensenbrenner Hospital in Kapuskasing and Notre-Dame Hospital in Hearst before relocating to Tillsonberg some 30 years ago.

Mr. Turcotte is still in University Hospital in London, Ontario, recovering from a fifth operation to his leg.

“He is doing fairly well. He is still in bed,” said Kap resident Ron Turcotte, Denis’ brother.

On April 21, Mr. Turcotte and his son went snorkeling and fishing with a cousin and a friend. Later on in the day, with Alden remaining on the boat nursing a headache, the three went into the water in an area designated for diving.


A boat came racing through the area. It missed the other two men, but struck Mr. Turcotte, slicing into his brain and shattering his leg.

Strangely, here is where the injured man fell into an extended period of luck -- if it can be called luck.

The divers managed to wave down another boat, which just happened to contain a doctor and two nurses. CPR had to be performed on him as they raced to shore.

Nearly two hours later they arrived at the nearest hospital, where a British helicopter just happened to have landed, ensuring a fast flight to a major hospital in Belize City.

At that hospital, there just happened to be one of the country’s top neurosurgeons. Such a good job was done in Belize, that only one surgery needed to be performed on Mr. Turcotte’s brain, save for installing shunts to drain fluid and relieve pressure on his brain.

“He had guardian angels with him from the moment he was struck,” Ron’s wife, Helen, said. “He does have aphasia. He can speak, but what he says doesn’t make sense.”

Mrs. Turcotte clarified that, actually, saying he could say “yes” and “no”, as well as two favourite curse words.

After being airlifted from Belize to Miami, where he underwent two more surgeries on his leg, Mr. Turcotte was flown to London on May 7. Last Friday, a surgery was done to graft muscle and skin from his right thigh to his left leg.

Doctors expect he can be transferred to a rehabilitation hospital in London in a month or so. Months of rehab will follow to get him back on that leg, which is actually over an inch shorter since the accident.

A speech therapist is working with him as well, and Mrs. Turcotte said his doctor has told the family that it could take two years for him to recover from the aphasia.

The community of Tillsonberg has rallied around the family. Volunteer firefighters organized a boot drive. The Knights of Columbus and other organizations in the community also contributed to the cause.

The family hopes he will be home by Christmas.

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#284331 - 06/12/08 05:48 AM Re: Long recovery for former Kap man [Re: SimonB]
pedro2
Do we know where this happened? Somewhere down south I imagine, given the reference to whale sharks.

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#284356 - 06/12/08 02:48 PM Re: Long recovery for former Kap man [Re: ]
SimonB Offline
The article is a follow up to an accident that happened back in April down South.

This one is more about the level of care he received in Belize.

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#284359 - 06/12/08 03:14 PM Re: Long recovery for former Kap man [Re: SimonB]
bywarren Offline
A good friend of mine from Dangriga accidentally ran over and killed a young boy earlier this year as he was coming from South Water Caye back to Dangriga. The young boy was swimming and was not seen by my friend. Now my friend is a very experienced boat driver and this points out the danger of swimming where there is boat traffic. A word of warning to those on the board asking about swimming off shore.

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#284382 - 06/12/08 04:44 PM Re: Long recovery for former Kap man [Re: bywarren]
Amanda Syme Offline
When snorkeling or swimming, if you hear a boat you need to pop your head out of the water and wave and do your best to ensure that the boat captain sees you. He really can't see you when your head is in the water. Of course, if you are not in a designated snorkeling area that has mooring buoys (such as Hol Chan) then you should be towing a snorkeling buoy and have "snorkel cover." Snorkel cover is having your boat captain monitoring your progress and it is his job to make sure other boats are aware of your presence. If your captain is also your snorkel guide then definitely one of you needs to tow a buoy to make you more visible to boats. Remember the glare of the sun, the waves and floating debris can make you less visible to boat traffic. Although a boat captain must keep a keen eye looking for swimmers, the swimmer must take steps to ensure safety too.

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#284387 - 06/12/08 05:03 PM Re: Long recovery for former Kap man [Re: Amanda Syme]
pedro2
A long "safety sausage" or SMB, such as divers use, can help a lot. Preferably bright orange/red or maybe yellow. Pre-inflate it and tow it on a short line - it will give virtually no drag. Then if a boat approaches simply wave it in the air. It is very visible, which otherwise you certainly are not. But keep watching the boat and be prepared to duck dive to the bottom. Don't try swimming sideways as you won't be able to move fast enough.

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