My name is Candace, and I'm from Miramichi, NB.
After my first year of university, I took a summer job at a paper mill in my hometown. Before I went to work, I had to have my hearing and sight tested to ensure that I could properly hear and see warning signals. Next I completed a week of classroom-based training that consisted of videos, written information and discussion. I then moved into the mill, where I was paired with a current employee, who showed me the ropes.
My position at the mill was a "broke hustler. " I was responsible for picking up any slabs of paper on the floor and also for basic maintenance and cleaning of the work area.
One day, in my third summer at the mill, I was working around the floor when I decided to cross a conveyor belt system that ran throughout the mill. This was a frequently used shortcut. Supervisors, fellow student employees, regular workers, even tour groups used this shortcut without thinking twice. I crossed the belt, and put my foot down at exactly the wrong place, at exactly the wrong time.
My foot became caught at a point where the belt system collided. I fell to the ground, and the conveyor kept moving, drawing my foot further and further into a hole so small, a highlighter marker would not fit into it. A fellow worker heard me screaming and came to the rescue. There was no emergency stop on the system, but he was able to stop the belt and save my life.
I was too badly injured to get myself out of the belt. A maintenance crew was called in to disassemble the system and free my leg. I was trapped for 25 minutes, enduring the most horrible pain I had ever experienced in my entire life. I didn't go into shock or lose consciousness - I remember everything that happened.
After I was freed, I was transported by ambulance to the Miramichi hospital, where I awoke the following morning with my left foot in bandages. I was then taken by ambulance to a larger hospital, about an hour away, that was better equipped to handle more serious cases. It was decided that the lower part of my left leg was beyond repair and would have to be amputated.
I wasn't totally devastated upon receiving this news, as one might think I would be. I was so grateful to be alive; losing my foot didn't seem like such a big deal. I decided right then and there that asking why, wishing for a different outcome, and worrying about things I could not change, would be a waste of time and energy. Instead, I focused on trying to lighten the load for my mom and dad; it was much harder on them than it was on me.
We went ahead with the operation and my left leg was amputated below the knee. The pain I experienced upon leaving the operating room was like none I had ever experienced; it was even worse than being caught in the belt. I remained in the hospital for six days after the operation, to allow my residual limb to heal. The entire time I was in the hospital, I was shown amazing support and kindness from my friends, family, co-workers and neighbours.
When it was time for me to leave the hospital, I returned to Miramichi to stay with my mom and dad. The first week at home was a little rough, as I was experiencing a lot of phantom pain. Phantom pain is pain following an amputation that feels as if it's coming from the missing limb. But thankfully, as time went on, it became more manageable. I started getting out and around again, doing some of the things I normally did before the accident. I had to wait about two months before receiving my first prosthetic leg and beginning physiotherapy. After only one week of therapy I was ready to return home, walking with my new leg.
Receiving my new leg marked the beginning of a new chapter for me. Almost losing my life made me realize that there is no better time than today to do the things you want to do, because tomorrow doesn't come for everyone. Seven months after losing my leg I traveled to Mexico and then backpacked through Europe.
I have since completed my degree in psychology, and even worked for a time as the youth spokesperson at WorkSafeNB. In this role I traveled to high schools and workplaces around the province, using my personal experience to spread the message of the importance of workplace health and safety.
If you wish to send Candace a question, see her TV ads or to learn more about her experiences, visit: Passport to Safety.
My name is Mélanie, and I'm from Dieppe, NB. In 2001, on the eve of my 22nd birthday, I was involved in a serious accident at work.
My job, a part-time position, consisted of driving mentally challenged adults to social activities on Monday nights, using a 15-passenger van.
February 12th was a particularly cold night. When it was time to bring the participants back home, the other driver and I went to warm up the vans. The two vehicles were parked one in front of the other, about two metres apart.
Next to one I noticed a patch of ice near the door where the participants would get in. Thinking of their safety, I suggested the other driver back the van away from the ice. I went in between the two vehicles to direct her.
Suddenly I saw the van rushing towards me. I didn't have time to jump out of the way. I was pinned. The bumper crushed my upper legs, breaking both femurs.
I started yelling "Move the van!" banging on the back window. I still remember the yell. I didn't know I could scream like that.
The van moved, and I looked down at my legs. They were deformed in the shape of an arch. I panicked and threw myself on the ground; scared they would snap in two.
As I lay on the frozen ground waiting for the ambulance, my co-workers and the mentally challenged adults covered me with their jackets to keep me warm.
The femur is the biggest bone in the body. Usually, a person loses consciousness when it breaks. Both of mine were broken, and I wish I had lost consciousness. Instead I dug my fingers into the ground, thinking, "Will I be able to walk again?"
At the hospital, I had a 6-hour operation. Metal rods were put inside my femurs. Screws were put in both knees and hips. The incisions, some 20 centimetres long, were stapled closed.
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