David Branigan started off the new year in the worst possible way: with the police at his door telling him his 22-year-old son, Joshua, had fallen off a cliff and was now in the hospital in critical condition.
“Before the officer even finished his sentence, I was running down the road in a panic,” he said.
After arriving at the hospital, he was told he couldn’t see Josh because they were working on him. Based on the information he was given, he went down in a heap, sobbing in anguish, terrified his firstborn child wouldn’t survive the day.
He waited frantically for hours, praying his son would make it through. Josh remained in a coma for the next 24 days as his family and friends clung to the possibility of a miracle.
If it hadn’t been for Joel and Wendy Black walking their dogs earlier that morning, those three weeks would have been spent grieving his tragic death, rather than praying for his survival.
Josh had been walking home in the dark after celebrating New Year’s Eve when he was caught up in a mudslide off the eroded Kye Bay Cliffs in Comox Valley and fell over 100 feet to the rocks below.
The Blacks, who had decided to go on a longer walk than usual, found him laying unconscious and all twisted up after their dogs picked up Josh’s scent. His breathing had slowed down close to zero since his body had been laying in the freezing cold for up to eight hours. Battling hypothermia, he was rushed to the Victoria General Hospital in a helicopter where his massive contusion and broken wrist were treated.
Initial assessments indicated that his brain injury was so severe that he may never come out of his coma, and if he did, he could be unrecognizable.
Not able to keep up with the amount of people asking how Josh was doing, David created a Facebook page called the JHB Recovery where he could share Josh’s journey and keep people informed.
“His writing was so emotional and raw, my heart was completely invested,” my Facebook friend Leisa Howell told me about her old acquaintance. “He quit his job in Comox and put his life on hold to be by his son’s side in Victoria. And then he shared their gripping ordeal with us on Facebook with such honesty and courage, calling in prayer circles and describing a father’s guilt. He gave other people, who have felt the same, a voice.”
Twenty-four days after the accident, Josh thrilled his family, friends and the thousands that were following online by coming out of his coma, and was soon reminiscing about the Iristani Princess, a big, beautiful boat in Kelowna he once lived and worked on with his dad in 2006 and 2007.
From that recollection, and his wish to be on it again, Leisa and Captain Kirk — David’s previous partner on the boat — came up with the idea to have a Father’s Day fundraiser for Josh.
“After 125 days in the hospital, this horrendous accident has put a huge financial strain on the family,” Leisa said.
“Josh now lives with a life-altering brain injury and since this is Brain Injury Awareness Month, we thought it was the perfect timing to help them somehow.”