what happens when your insurance runs out

September 7, 1984

Q-Cove Boatworks (1979), Quathiaski Cove

Quadra Island, British Columbia, Canada  

On Friday, September 7, 1984, at 4:20 p.m., I had finished cleaning up at the end of the week and looking forward to going home on Cortes Island.  I was helping Dick H. carry planking from the bottom of the marine ways up to the top platform at Q-Cove Boarworks on Quadra Island, British Columbia. 

 15 steps.  The planks from the hull that Dick was working on, were long and very slippery from marine growth, and there was a pile building up that I stepped over to drop the plank that I was carrying.  When I went to step back across the stack of planks, either my stride was too short or a board moved, but in any case,  my foot came down on a plank.  I lost my footing and fell off the platform, landing at the bottom of the marine ways.  A fall of roughly 12 feet; the fall should have killed me.  I was lucky.  

It's not like I didn't know that this could happen.  A similar fall had killed my wife's brother.  But in 1984,  with 12 years of experience working without a time loss injury as a shipbuilder and heavy-duty mechanic.; I thought that I was insured.  The entire crew was present.  Everyone saw what happened.

I thought that: I heard something snap as my right shoulder hit the deck of the marineways at Q-Cove Boatwork!  Stunned, I thought that I had broken my right arm; but my arm seemed OK. I recall Dick H saying over and over, "That was a bad Fall! That was a bad Fall!"  

I had worked with Dick in Namu in 79.  Nice smile; needed a haircut.   Dick was a good guy who had a fish boat that I almost set fire to in 1986.  But that's another story.  

I remember saying I'm OK, I'm OK!  Someone helped me to my feet.  The welder drove me to the Herriot Bay Ferry so that I could catch the last ferry to  Cortes Island.

I remember sitting by the fire that weekend, unable to work up the energy required to make the three-hour trip to Campbell River for medical help.  I sat by the fire.  The warmest place in the house.  Susan remembers that my entire back was black and blue.   I tried to go to work on Monday, but something was wrong.  I stopped at Q-Cove and told Steve A (owner & first aid) that something was wrong and that I was going to the Campbell River Hospital.  Thanks for nothing, Steve.  

 I hitchhiked into Campbell River, walked into the Campbell River emergency and just stood there, unable to decide what to do.  A nurse approached and asked me what was wrong.  I told her that I had fallen and could not feel my right arm and passed out.  Apparently,  she caught me.  

I woke up on a gurney on the way to X-ray.  Dr. Kenneth Duncan told me that I had suffered a cervical sprain, and I was sent home.   Travelling from Cortes Island to Campbell River, it took all day to see Dr. Duncan.   Dr. Duncan would not send me to physiotherapy.  He told me to work it off.  Canada was in recession. 

Eight weeks later, my insurance ran out.  

I tried to return to work as a heavy-duty marine mechanic, but the pain was acute and chronic.  I found a job in an office but could not sit in a chair.  The WCB adjudicator said that the compression fracture reported by Dr. Ralston at T-9 was a shadow on the x-ray.   She said that there was no record of me complaining about my back.  

In September 1985, welfare moved us off Cortes Island.  In 1986,  Workman's Compensation determined that I had a preexisting condition.   I did not work full-time again until 1990.  Then, with acute, chronic back pain, I worked away from home, with a second rent, second car, and second occupation, in an office in Woss, BC, teaching myself geographic information technology while sitting in a chair.

In 1994, the federal government took up to court demanding $30,000 for $13,000 in unpaid student loans.