Perseverance, dedication – just a few of the phrases that adorn the walls at Tsawwassen Springs Fitness.
It’s fitting because these words couldn’t describe owner Mike Hamill any better.
As reported last September by the Optimist, Hamill, was seriously injured in a freak boating accident during a fishing trip near Haida Gwaii in June 2017.
With serious injuries, including a broken back in three places and a crushed spinal cord, Hamill was flown to Prince Rupert and then onto Vancouver General Hospital where he underwent an 11-hour surgery.
He was rendered a paraplegic as a result of the accident.
Hamill’s long road to recover saw him spending weeks at VGH’s intensive care unit and its acute short-term stabilization program before he was admitted to G.F. Strong.
“I got home in March and really it turned for me in October,” said Hamill. “October was a turning point for me. I was told I could use my right shoulder again and start to get back into the gym and work with people.”
Throughout his recovery Hamill said the support from family and friends was the needed motivation to push him to get better.
One of those friends was Dr. Jack Taunton who Hamill has now worked with to build the new fitness centre at UBC's Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Clinic.
“Jack was there almost every day in the hospital. I could hear him coming down the hall,” recalled Hamill. “I was released March 1 to go home and was back in the hospital almost every day with some complications. But this community has been awesome. The support I have received and continue to receive, has been amazing. I couldn’t have done it without Jack and Ron [Toigo] and Rick [Hansen].”
Hamill said the first day he was able to get back into the gym and start training people again was life changing.
“I’ve been a personal trainer for four decades, so for me to come back into what I know is me is fantastic,” he said. “It feels great to be able to help people and I’m opening my arms up to all those people at home who don’t think they can work out, who think that it is too late, well I’m here to motivate them because if I can do it then they can.”
Hamill said Toigo’s support through several fundraising ventures for the UBC clinic and other projects has been incredible.
“Mike has always been positive and willing to help people, so it’s been great to see so many people be there for him. It’s not unexpected, but it’s nice to see. We have a great community here,” said Toigo. “It was an unfortunate accident, but he’s making the most of it. Some would say this is it and go down a bad path, but he was never down even when I saw him in hospital he was upbeat. It was just a new challenge in life and he was going to take it on and figure it out. It’s not easy by any means.”
Taunton said Hamill has always come through in any capacity or project that he has worked on. The two have developed a close friendship.
“He just comes through,” said Taunton. “If he comes through for us, we have to come through with him.”
Hamill also credits his relationship with Hansen as another factor in getting him back.
“We have known each other for decades. He was one of the first major sponsors for the Man in Motion. He came and ran with me on the last leg of the tour,” said Hansen. “We’ve also been engaged in a number of projects throughout the years including getting access to adaptive sports equipment. It’s not surprising that Mike has equipment here in his gym.
“He is now in his new world and thinking more broadly and he is building a facility for all. But most important, as his friends we are all here for him. This accident changed his life. He was there for me, so we’re here for him and we all can celebrate in the success of Mike’s comeback.”