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Kamloops steps up to help Australian couple after son's life-changing accident

Stephen and Sue Lewis from Australia stand in the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops where their son is recovering from a traumatic brain injury.

A tragic accident has landed an Australian couple in Kamloops for an unknown period of time and the community is stepping up to help them. 

Stephen and Sue Lewis are spending most of their days at Royal Inland Hospital watching over their son Sam, 23, who is in an induced coma in the ICU with a fractured skull and a traumatic brain injury.

“He’s starting to recover quite well, the doctors are happy with his progress so far, he can communicate with us now, he can squeeze our hand,” Stephen said.

Sam was on a two-year working visa snowboarding and working at the Revelstoke Mountain Resort when he fell down some stairs and fractured his skull beginning of January. 

Stephen and Sue were travelling and had stopped in Revelstoke to spend Christmas with their son and daughter – who had just arrived - before continuing on to Vietnam. Less than two weeks later, they received a life-altering phone call.

“We spent Christmas with them, we hadn’t seen Sam in over a year,” Sue said. “We flew to Vietnam to travel and had been there for 12 days when we got the call from Sam’s best mate to say Sam had an accident and hit his head really badly.”

The couple got on the first plane to Kamloops where Sam was in the ICU in an induced coma at Royal Inland Hospital.

“The flight was horrific,” Stephen said. “We didn’t know if we’d have a son when we got here, that’s how serious it was.”

Weeks later, the couple is still watching over their son, looking for signs of communication and not knowing what the outcome will be for him. Despite the harrowing circumstance, the pair said they are uplifted and full of gratitude because of the immense amount of support they’ve received from the community of Kamloops.

“It couldn’t be better as far as the people we’ve met and how Sam is being looked after,” Sue said. “It’s nice to meet people from the community because you sort of get their energy as well and people are genuinely nice.”

Upon their arrival the couple had nowhere to stay and no vehicle to get to the hospital. They spent the first ten days at the Sandman Hotel where Sam’s friends working at the ski hill in Revelstoke were able to get them a special deal.

During that time, Sue posted about the ordeal on social media, looking for a longer-term place to stay.

“We got an amazing offer from a fantastic couple that have this house on Battle Street,” she said. “They said we could use it for a month free of charge because they were doing a bit of work on it and it was empty which was amazing because we needed something within walking distance to the hospital.”

The house wasn’t furnished so members of the Royal Inland Hospital Foundation gathered a list of people who could help, while one of Sam’s nurses offered the couple her truck to pick up beds and mattresses.

“We have a house full of mattresses which is great because our daughter is with us while Sam is sick and then his best mate and his mate’s girlfriend are here, and every now and then we’ve got Sam’s mates coming up from Revelstoke to visit because Sam really needs that. The house is perfect, it looks a bit like a frat house at the moment.”

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The couple expressed gratitude for the people working and visiting at the hospital. 

“The hospital staff is unbelievable, they give amazing good care and are very kind,” Sue said. “We’ve met lovely other people in the family room at ICU, you have to sit and wait so you go in and meet others which is really nice.”

It isn’t clear how long the couple will be staying in Kamloops as it depends on their son’s progress which isn’t known.

“We’ve never experienced a brain injury before, the doctors are preparing us for the worst,” Sue said. “With any brain injury it’s going to take time and patience. He’s coming bit by bit.”

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The couple said their son has always been active and into sports and nature, and is very fit. He stared surfing on the coast of Australia just after he could walk.

“He started responding three days ago,” Stephen said. “He opened his eye halfway and started to move his left hand and left leg, he’s not doing anything with his right side yet.”

The couple is extending their visas and will need somewhere to stay after February as tenants are moving into the house they are in. They plan to return the furniture and give unwanted pieces to charity, or take it to their next temporary home if needed.

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“We need somewhere else to live but the problem is we don’t have an end date, we need flexibility which can be a problem because we can’t sign a six or 12 month lease,” Sue said.

For now, they are taking things one step at a time.

“We have so many people sending prayers for our son from all over the world, we’re so thankful for the supportive people here.” 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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