Family needs help after string of tragedies

Meagan Lewis and her son, Kaleb Descoteau, have experienced more than their share of tragedy in recent years.

Kaleb was born premature in 2010, and trauma during delivery led to hospitalization and further treatment. Kaleb has been seen by several professionals at the Clements Centre’s Sundrops Centre for Child Development in the course of his young life, and is now on a long waitlist for an autism assessment, which is more than a year away.

Last September, Kaleb’s father, Dustin Descoteau, was killed when his truck rolled off the Coquihalla Highway on his way back from the Island to work in Castlegar.

Lewis began taking accounting and business courses full-time in Nanaimo, hoping to better support herself and her son.

This past February, Lewis was driving to school in Nanaimo in a heavy downpour when her car hydroplaned. She was able to avoid colliding with a semi truck, but her car crashed, and Lewis broke her back and damaged her spinal cord, causing severe nerve damage.

"If this were not enough, after she awoke from her surgery, she received a lay-off notice from her employer," said the Clements Centre’s Terri Stanko. "She had been working part-time while attending full-time school and raising a child with extra needs."

Doctors initially thought that Lewis might never walk again, but she took her first steps in the hospital, and began to walk before she was discharged in mid-March. Since then, she has alternated between using crutches and a wheelchair.

"She is still in pain, has numbness in areas of her lower body and has to wear a back brace," Stanko said. "She is progressing with her recovery, but she is not able to care for Kaleb."

While she was attending school, Lewis was sponsored by a local agency, but being unable to attend classes, she has lost her sponsorship, which included living expenses. Since she was discharged, Lewis has been living on her own, while Kaleb has stayed with her grandparents.

"They have been caring for Kaleb since the accident and although happy to do so, they find it difficult and tiring at times given their age, certain medical conditions as well as Kaleb’s extra needs and exuberant personality," Stanko said. A trust account has been opened for Kaleb to allow him to take part in activities and camps, and to help pay for private autism testing, which would happen much sooner and provide the family with more support.

"This is time for the community to rally around this mother and son," Stanko said.

The trust account for Kaleb Descoteau is set up at the Island Savings Cowichan Commons branch, account number 2349397.