“This is a terrible nightmare… but this is my reality.”

It’s been 10 weeks since Mike Hamill’s life violently changed when his guided fishing boat collided with a humpback whale in Haida Gwaii. The accident left Hamill, a former B.C. wrestling, powerlifting and bodybuilding champion, a paraplegic.

Hamill, along with two friends, had just finished four days of fishing and were headed back to their lodge when the boat hit a humpback that was breaching just outside Naden Harbour on June 25.

“We were sitting facing the captain at the bow of the boat when there was this hard hit. A wham,” the 61-year-old Hamill explained.

“I went straight up and did a flip in the air, came down and ended up as part of the console of the boat.”

Hamill was immediately flown to Prince Rupert and then taken to Vancouver General Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where following an 11 hour surgery, he stayed for five weeks.

While the fitness professional survived his injuries, his body was badly broken.

“My back was broken in three places. They had to open me up from behind and put a whole new chassis in my body. My spinal cord was crushed. I was an L2 [second lumber vertebra fracture] and categorized as a paraplegic.”

He has no feeling from his chest down and his body is still repairing. Along with damage to his spinal cord Hamill completely crushed his pelvis, broke both clavicles, both scapulae and all the ribs in his back.

“This is a terrible nightmare… but this is my reality.”

It’s been 10 weeks since Mike Hamill’s life violently changed when his guided fishing boat collided with a humpback whale in Haida Gwaii. The accident left Hamill, a former B.C. wrestling, powerlifting and bodybuilding champion, a paraplegic.

Hamill, along with two friends, had just finished four days of fishing and were headed back to their lodge when the boat hit a humpback that was breaching just outside Naden Harbour on June 25.

“We were sitting facing the captain at the bow of the boat when there was this hard hit. A wham,” the 61-year-old Hamill explained.

“I went straight up and did a flip in the air, came down and ended up as part of the console of the boat.”

Hamill was immediately flown to Prince Rupert and then taken to Vancouver General Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where following an 11 hour surgery, he stayed for five weeks.

While the fitness professional survived his injuries, his body was badly broken.

“My back was broken in three places. They had to open me up from behind and put a whole new chassis in my body. My spinal cord was crushed. I was an L2 [second lumber vertebra fracture] and categorized as a paraplegic.”

He has no feeling from his chest down and his body is still repairing. Along with damage to his spinal cord Hamill completely crushed his pelvis, broke both clavicles, both scapulae and all the ribs in his back.

“I’m re-learning how to move, grab, go to the bathroom, get into bed… simple things for most people but for me, it now requires skill and help. It’s the things that we all take for granted,” Hamill said.

“And I’m learning how to steer my new lifeline, my wheelchair. My chair is pretty much my life now.”
Irony comes calling

The last time Hamill was in G.F. Strong was about 15 years ago when he was installing fitness equipment in the facility’s gyms for their rehabilitation programs. The irony that he’s now having to use those same machines is not lost on Hamill.

“I’ve supplied a lot of equipment over 20 years. It’s more than surreal to have to come and see it from this position.”

While Hamill has already persevered through cancer, he says this accident is the most severe thing that’s ever happened to him. He’s hopeful that his fitness level, years of training and the support of his friends will help push him on his journey.

And he has one friend who knows, perhaps a little more intimately than others, the challenge ahead.

“I started supporting Rick Hansen’s work with his Man in Motion World Tour and worked in multiple events for him. I even got to run part way on his tour into the Lower Mainland with Rick. We went from Princeton to Manning Park,” Hamill said of his good friend Hansen, who is a former Canadian Paralympic athlete, activist and well-known philanthropist for people with disabilities.

“He’s been a phenomenal guy in my corner [since the accident] and it’s kind of come full circle. Here I was trying to help his cause and now he’s helping mine.”

While Hamill is remaining positive, he says there are things he can’t help missing about his life before he was paralyzed.

“I’m missing my dog [Sammy] right now, he’s a big part of my life… just the thought of not having him around… it’s going to be tough to take care of him. I can give him love but just being able to walk him around the corner will be hard,” he said.

“I also love my home and I may have to give it up because it’s not close enough to things for me to get to. I live right on the river [in Tsawwassen] and I may have to move somewhere better for shopping and accessibility.”

But along with worrying about his future, Hamill is also concerned for other’s safety when it comes to boats travelling in areas with humpback whales. He doesn’t want what happened to him and his friend, who also suffered serious injuries in the accident, to happen to anyone else.

Originally reported on Global News