Crash victim walks again after breaking 19 bones and contracting COVID-19
VANCOUVER -- Sept. 1 changed Brooke Erickson’s life forever.
The 28-year-old says she doesn’t remember much of the days leading up to the crash, only that she accepted a ride from a stranger she’d met that day.
“Little memories come back, but not the accident at all,” she told CTV News Vancouver in an interview Sunday.
Erickson hopped on the man’s motorcycle, and at the intersection of East Hastings and Columbia streets, the bike slammed into a bus.
Everyone on the bus was fine, the man Erickson was with died at the scene.
“That’s been a really hard thing just to comprehend,” she said. “I didn’t know him, so I can’t reach out to his family or anything.”
Erickson broke 19 bones that day. A C1 fracture in the back of her neck meant she was nearly paralyzed. She now has four metal plates in her body and has lost the use of her left arm. Her cheek had to be reconstructed and her vocal chords were damaged from being intubated.
Once Erickson was admitted to hospital, she also tested positive for COVID-19. Combined with her injuries and the coronavirus, she stayed in a coma for 44 days.
Her mother, Chrissie, flew out from Manitoba on the day of the crash.
“It was a phone call you never want to get and as soon as I saw that number come up at that time of the morning for us in Manitoba, my first question was, ‘What happened to Brooke?’” Chrissie said. “I asked, ‘Do we get on a plane?’ And they said yes.”
Chrissie could only look at her daughter from outside her hospital room. It wasn’t until day 34, after Brooke had received a negative COVID-19 test, that Chrissie could hold her hand.
Neither were prepared for the months of pain and rehab that would follow.
“I didn’t realize, when you’re in a coma for that amount of time, how much you have to relearn,” Brooke said. “It’s pretty much everything. You’re back to being a toddler. You have to learn how to sit up, learn how to eat, learn how to breathe, learn how to talk, like how to walk and how to get dressed on your own, how to go to the bathroom on your own. It’s just been a lot.”
Brooke was moved to the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre to get back on her feet. She says eventually her muscle memory started to return and by Feb. 4 she was able to walk out of the hospital on her own. She now wants to focus on living a normal life.
Before the crash, Brooke worked as a server and bartender – roles she physically can’t handle yet. The motorbike wasn’t insured, so Brooke and her mom have been relying on donations through a GoFundMe page.
“I can’t thank them all enough,” Brook said, getting emotional while speaking about the support she’s received from strangers. “I didn’t think that many people would step up for me.”
Her mother says the messages have pulled her through some tough times.
“They help give her a push and there are days she needs a push,” Chrissie said.
Brooke has a couple of weeks left in her rehab program, then plans to return to Manitoba for a few months to spend time with family. After that, she wants to return to Vancouver.
“I want to just get back to just regular life, being able to go to work and live on my own, stuff like that,” she said.