June 16, 2016 is a harrowing date etched in Cheryl Young’s memory.
That’s the day the founder and executive director of the Langley-based Fibromyalgia Wellspring Foundation — who was taking part in the Just One More Step awareness trek —was struck by her own motorhome.
The journey on foot started May 24 from outside the foundation’s thrift shop at 20631 Fraser Hwy, and ended 38 days later, June 28, in Banff, Alta.
Those who walked from start to finish covered 1,100 kilometres with a goal of raising awareness about several invisible illnesses, including fibromyalgia, which is described on the foundation’s website as “a medical disorder characterized by chronic widespread pain and allodynia, a heightened and painful response to pressure.”
“We started with 100 [walkers] and then our core walkers were 10, at the end,” Young said. “Ten core people did the whole walk.”
Young’s personal journey ended violently, and abruptly, when she was knocked momentarily unconscious.
She spoke about her experience during a Christmas event at the thrift shop, with appearances from Santa and Mrs. Claus, and Langley City Mayor Ted Schaffer.
“When you’re walking, even how careful you are, there are outside conditions, and they’re called speeding drivers,” Young said. “We had everything covered: we had a pilot car driver plus the motorhome which was my safety vehicle.”
The accident happened at roughly 11:45 in the morning, 1.5 kilometres west of the Craigellachie Historic site in Malakwa, B.C., on Highway One.
According to Young, a young man behind the wheel of a GMC truck drove around the pilot car and ended up ramming into the driver’s side of a 33’ motorhome belonging to Young and her husband, Nigel Thom.
The impact pushed the motorhome toward the walk’s photographer, Michael Rubin, and Young.
“I heard the explosion, and I hit the brakes,” Thom recalled. “He pushed me eight feet with the brakes on, and I knocked her over.”
Young added, “I pushed the photographer out of the way. He would have been killed because he would have been under the tire.”
This put Young was in harm’s way. Instinctively, she held her hands up to cushion the blow and was struck by the motorhome.
“What I said to myself when I saw it [the motorhome] coming and I saw Nigel’s face was, ‘There is nothing I can do, it’s in God’s hands,” Young shared.
She careened backwards, the back of her head hitting the concrete.
Young doesn’t remember losing consciousness, but the gash in the back of her head resulting from the fall required 27 stitches.
Young said she “hit four hospitals,” including Salmon Arm, Golden, Revelstoke, and twice in Canmore because “the bleeding wouldn’t stop in my head. And I’m still dealing with it today.”
Paramedics arrived within minutes of the accident, Young said.
She was transported to Salmon Arm hospital by ambulance.
After being released, Young said she suffered “serious vertigo.”
“I was not allowed to walk at all,” Young said. “I was told to go home and stay home. Well, I wasn’t going to do that. And I didn’t.”
Young said “Band-Aids and duct tape” were used to keep the motorhome together, because it was the main support vehicle. This led to a careful drive home to Langley because the vehicle’s axle was broken, Young noted.
After getting hurt, Young spent the rest of the trek in the passenger’s seat of the motorhome.
Reflecting on the walk as a whole, Young said, “beside tragedy, miracles happened.”
“We had people who never walked before that couldn’t walk, and they decided to take on my goal,” she said. “I was walking 25 clicks a day, that was seven clicks an hour, and all of the sudden their main walker could no longer walk. They all stepped up to the plate and they did whatever it took — they shared that challenge to do it. We weren’t going to quit.”
However, money dried up, which meant the group wasn’t able to cover the costs for gas and food during the trek.
Corporate support turned out to be crucial.
“Save-On-Foods, Overwaitea, and Cooper’s [Foods], they stepped up to the plate, and they fed us,” Young said. “Juices and fruit, they gave to us because they knew our budget was low.”
As well, Enderby Mayor Craig McCune gave the group a $250 gas card, and Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz donated $175 because one of his employees has fibromyalgia.
Closer to home, Schaffer donated $100 as a personal challenge to other mayors.
The foundation is now raising funds through a GoFundMe page.
The page notes that, “We are in the process of writing a book with chapters from participants of the walk.
“We are making a documentary from all of the footage of the exciting walk with its tragedy, the wedding plans, the laughter and the sorrows.”
Visit the foundation’s website here.
A YouTube video can be found at justonemorestep2016 on the video sharing site.