Vancouver Island man copes with stunning diagnosis after logging accident

Surgery uncertain for father of three due to COVID-19 hospital closures

  • Mar. 22, 2020 6:00 a.m.

Jayme Johnson with husband Ryan in Vancouver General Hospital after Ryan was injured by a falling tree. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)

MIKE YOUDS

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

The wife of a logger seriously injured on the job now considers the accident a “godsend.”

Ryan Johnson, a faller, injured his back in the woods near Campbell River March 12 when a large tree struck him in the lower back, shattering part of his spine. He was initially flown to North Island Hospital in Campbell River before being transferred to Vancouver General, where he underwent back surgery the next morning.

Johnson is on heavy-duty painkillers but he’s mobile. He’s been able to get out of bed and move around, but there was an unexpected diagnosis made prior to back surgery.

“By chance, they found a large mass next to his adrenal gland,” said Ryan’s wife, Jayme Johnson. “It is so large they need to get it out as soon as possible.”

Now, the couple has switched from a spinal medical team to an oncology and endocrinology team for support. An oncologist has advised them that the potentially cancerous tumour—doctors haven’t determined yet if it is malignant— needs to be surgically removed as soon as possible. The surgeon wants to perform the operation at VGH.

“They want to send him into surgery, but there just happens to be a global pandemic and all the operating rooms are shut down,” Jayme said.

She is holding out hope that hospital authorities will be able to reopen an operating room for priority procedures. A biopsy has been booked for Monday to determine if Ryan’s surgery can be classified as an emergency.

“The hospital has closed all entrances. They’re allowing only some people in,” she said. describing it as a “crazy time,” though that’s not apparent from their immediate surroundings.

“The feeling over here is quite calm,” she said. “We’re here in the middle of it all, in a big hospital in the middle of the city in a pandemic. We’re staying calm.”

They’re riding a rollercoaster of emotions and uncertainty while holding it together in the face of adversity. In retrospect, the falling accident was almost a godsend, she said.

“He really was lucky.”

Ryan grew up on Cortes Island, but the couple long resided in the Alberni Valley and still consider it their home base, Jayme said. They have three young boys ranging in ages from 18 months to eight years.

Friends are helping to take care of the kids so that Jayme can visit with Ryan in hospital. One friend launched an online fundraising campaign — https://www.facebook.com/donate/200343554528765/ —to assist the family with transportation, temporary housing and living expenses during recovery. So far, they’ve raised $3,000 toward a goal of $5,000.

Proudly independent, Ryan initially opposed the charitable appeal, but grew to realize its necessity. Like many other forestry families, they just endured an eight-month strike when the accident occurred.

“We really need to lean on our communities — Campbell River and Port Alberni,” Jayme said. “It really feels heartening. It takes a village.”

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