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Waiting to come home

Posted on 23/03/2009 12:00am

By Vikki Hopes - Abbotsford News

Cole Rutter was just looking for a way to cool off on a hot September day when he hopped on his ATV to take it for a spin around the track on his family's property.

He went to make his usual jump just off the track, when he lost control and his rear right tire hit a cement block where a pole used to be.

The quad flipped over and Cole's back was cut open on the cement block. The blow was so severe that it knocked the helmet off his head.

Now, six months later, the Grade 7 student of Clayburn Middle School is still in the intensive care unit at BC Children's Hospital (BCCH), where he has been recovering from a spinal cord injury. He has been diagnosed as a "ventilator-dependent quadriplegic."

His mom, Carol St. Amand, said he has made good progress and is ready to come home. He has had some movement in most parts of his body, including his hands and feet, but doctors can't say how that bodes for the future.

St. Amand said Cole, who was an avid soccer player, has been in relatively good spirits.

"I'm surprised. I thought he'd be a lot more depressed than he is. I've cried a lot more than he has," she said.

The next step is for Cole to go to GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, where the average stay is four to six months. He is on the waiting list for the facility, and in the meantime, he is permitted to go home, pending renovations to the home.

He can't wait to be there with him mom, dad and six-year-old brother, Brandon.

"I just want to go home. I'm tired of not seeing my whole family," Cole said in a story he wrote with one of his teachers at BCCH.

" . . . we would all like to be together and not in a hospital."

The family is now issuing a public plea for support. St. Amand said the 35-year-old two-storey home on Matsqui Prairie requires so many renovations to meet Cole's needs that it would be easier to build a new one.

Plans for the rancher have been drawn up, but the $250,000 cost is a drain on the family. They are already struggling because St. Amand has cut back her work hours since Cole's accident. She raises race horses, breaks colts and does drug testing for the Horse Council of B.C. Her husband, Dan, is a farrier.

St. Amand, 47, said selling their home and 11-acre property is not a viable option because it is how the family makes its living. She has been involved in the race horse business since the age of 17.

"I worked my whole life to get this property," she said.

Renovations needed for the existing home are extensive and costly. One quote totalled $55,000 for just the basics, but that did not include a wheelchair lift or a covering for the deck, St. Amand said.

A ramp cannot be properly installed at the front door. The only other option - to build it off the deck - would result in a 200-foot-long ramp with four switchbacks.

Cole's bedroom also needs to be enlarged to accommodate his wheelchair and ventilator, and doors need to be widened. Two bathrooms need to be enlarged and the plumbing and electrical upgraded.

St. Amand said a City of Abbotsford architect who looked at the home said it was in such poor condition that 75 per cent of it required renovations.

"He just shook his head and said, 'You need to build a new house.' "

St. Amand is in the process of applying for funding through the Vancouver Foundation, but the limit is $50,000 and approval is not guaranteed.

Some private donations and two fundraisers held to benefit Cole have raised approximately $65,000. St. Amand said if the family uses all their available credit and the Vancouver Foundation funding comes through, that total could amount to $150,000.

They have set up a trust fund at Vancity Credit Union in hopes of increasing that amount. Those interested in making a donation can do so in the name of the Cole Rutter Foundation.

For more information, send an e-mail to carolst.amand@hotmail.com.