Shawn Burnett’s story is the story of an 18-year-old who loses the use of both legs after a bad landing during a parachute jump.
Posted at 5:00 am
It was June 6, 2021 in Farnham. For a friend’s birthday, Shawn was going to make his first parachute jump.
Statistically, skydiving is safe. Although, as Shawn’s father Mike says, the sport involves this inescapable fact: you have to jump out of a plane mid-flight.
There were five jumping in the group, including 17-year-old Dania, Shawn’s little sister. She was the last of the group to jump out of the plane. Mike was there with his girlfriend Caroline, the children’s mother.
They looked at the sky, the plane dropped the five points in the blue immensity: Shawn, Dania and their three friends. One, two, three, four and five parachutes opened.
Mike thought, looking at the sky where his two sons floated: “Ugh, now they’re out of danger…”
But the statistics are clear: most accidents occur when skydivers land.
And on that day, June 6, 2021, a beautiful day, hot and humid, clear skies as the future can be when you’re 18, just as Shawn’s tandem and an instructor approached the ground, a storm disrupted the landing of the duo. . Bad reception, very hard landing.
After the shock, on the ground, Shawn could no longer feel his legs. He was serious, everyone knew it instantly.
Shawn’s first words? “I’m better than Dania.” »
An ambulance transported Shawn to Montreal General Hospital. Emergency surgery, nothing changed: he was paralyzed, spinal cord affected.
You are 18 years old, life ahead. Two weeks before the jump, your parents rented your apartment in Laval for your admission to the Quebec Fire Protection Institute (IPIQ), the last stop before fulfilling your dream: becoming a firefighter.
You are 18 years old, life ahead, you are a ball of energy, sport, you eat it. Life is beautiful like this day June 6, 2021. But it is this beautiful day that will lead to foggy days, weeks and months.
At Montreal General Hospital, dizzy Due to the morphine, Shawn alternates between sleeping and waking phases.
He woke up, he was crying. She looked at me: “Mom, my life is over.” And she fell asleep crying…
Mike and Caroline watched over Shawn. The first few days, at Montreal General Hospital, then at the Lindsay-Gingras Rehabilitation Institute. Every day they traveled from McMasterville to Montreal.
Hospitalized, Shawn battled a spleen, measured the vertigo of a brutally changed life. In an interview, he remembers those days, the fog of the early days. Fear, too. And despair: “If I could have reached the window of 12me floor, in the hospital, he told me, I would have thrown myself down…”
Shawn Burnett’s story is thus the story of an 18-year-old whose life is turned upside down by a gale.
But this is where Shawn Burnett’s story becomes so wonderful. This is where some light will begin to shine.
Therefore, Shawn is still bedridden, it is the month of June 2021. Around him, his relatives do not want him to lose his morale. People are working to make Shawn’s story known, to get messages of encouragement.
His story has been shared by several people, including Martin Gendron, a particularly challenged family friend.
And Shawn starts getting dozens, then hundreds of messages of encouragement. His tragic story is going viral. Something is happening inside him: it gives him strength. The mist still envelops Shawn and his family, but each message of encouragement acts on him like a ray of sunshine.
Shawn’s parents are still in shock. They suffer with him, they would like to suffer in his place, they mourn in silence the possibilities that it will not be. Caroline and Mike have difficulty thinking about the “after”: adapting the house for a young adult in a wheelchair, for example.
Mike: “I’ve never had the same pain. I was huddled in the corner, crying. »
The wave of digital love grew and grew. Thousands of messages began to flood Shawn’s Facebook messenger: “I was glad I wasn’t alone,” he says, a year later.
A friend of the family launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs of this new life, an adapted life. Because adapting a house for a person with a disability is complicated. and it’s expensive
But there, the fire started, if you will, because of one of those mysteries of human nature: construction contractors, plumbers, electricians, a concrete mixer landed at the Laberge-Burnett house. Dozens of people collaborated to prepare the adaptation of the house, the return of Shawn, the beginning of his new life by donating time, goods and money. He came from everywhere.
Mike: “From July to December, the solidarity chain was incredible. We know we are lucky. Us… ”
The father’s voice breaks.
“…we know that not everyone is so lucky. »
This wave of solidarity stirred Mike Burnett. He felt confronted: would he, before, have had this breath of generosity towards others, before Shawn’s accident? “I wondered if, apart from my family, he had given enough to others. Maybe not. Sorry for not taking the time. The people who helped us went way beyond their needs…”
Another cat stirs at the family man’s throat.
The kindness of the people… I can’t believe it.
I wrote down Mike’s words as I silently searched for a popular expression that would fit perfectly with the union described by Shawn, Caroline and Mike…
Coudonc, what is this expression again? Mike beat me to it when he said, “There are still a lot of good people out there.” »
In rehab, Shawn was struggling, but he was also overwhelmed with messages of encouragement, thousands of messages of encouragement from strangers touched by his story. Among them, people with disabilities, like Shawn, wrote to him: You like hockey. Do you know parahockey?
It’s hockey, sled. We play sitting down, propelling ourselves with sticks.
Otherwise, well, it’s hockey…
Well, less than a year after his accident, Shawn has become an elite parahockey player: He’s a member of the Quebec parahockey team, which won the Canadian championship in June. Shawn found parahockey to be a passion, his parents found a supportive community.
Good news: Shawn has been invited to the Canada team selection camp, which takes place in two weeks in Calgary.
Shawn’s parents have a thousand thanks to offer. They asked me to list a few, while apologizing if they forgot any names.
So here it is…
His extended family, his friends, Sarah-Eve (Shawn’s girlfriend), Habitations Raymond Guay & Associés as well as their suppliers, André Joseph and Martin Lepage as well as the golfers of the tournament organized by this duo, Luc Meloche and Cantine La Cravings, donors from GoFundMe, neighbors, co-workers, the parahockey community and the fire community…
Caroline observes: “It takes a village to take care of a child. »
And for Shawn, the virtual and real village responded. It’s not just ugly on Facebook.
The morning of our interview, Shawn was changing the exhaust pipe on his car himself, with the help of his father, who was moving the wheelbarrow that Shawn was lying on under the vehicle.
A year later, Shawn is fine.
But put the word in quotes. Let’s just say Shawn is “fine.”
“It’s still cr… of m… that he has to deal with,” Mike Burnett said. It is quite a change of life. »
Shawn smiles looking at me:
“My father talks too much! »
After the interview, we all headed to the parking lot and I thought about this windblown life. It doesn’t depend much, life, sometimes. Seeing Shawn bravely riding in front of us, back straight, I thought of this John Lennon song, the one where he talks about how life doesn’t always work with our projects…
before crossing the street
Take my hand
Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans
I greeted Shawn, Mike and Caroline asking me: coudonc, what is the title of this song where Lennon evokes this bitch of life that sometimes makes legs with our certainties?
And he came back to me in the car: Handsome guy…
Exactly, you’re beautiful, Shawn Burnett. Thousands of us think like this: don’t give up.