Nelson’s arts community — and all its other parts, for that matter — came together after well-known resident Pat Henman and her daughter Maia Vezina were critically injured in a crash on Highway 93/95 near Skookumchuk.
They were travelling home from Calgary one weekend in June when another car crossed the centre line and struck their vehicle head-on. Police suspected alcohol was a factor.
Henman had just wrapped up directing a successful production of Cabaret. Despite many broken bones and internal injuries, her oldest sibling Jim reported she had turned a corner.
“We are so overjoyed but she still has a difficult path ahead of her,” he said. “Strong lady, my sister.”
Vezina, a recent L.V. Rogers grad, suffered similar injuries but stabilized sooner than her mother. Henman’s husband Larry Vezina and their other children, Zoe and Liam, went to be with them while Henman’s close friend and co-worker at Selkirk College, Joyce Buckler, set up a support fund for the family.
“It’s going to be a long road back,” she said. “We can’t be there to mend their bones but maybe we can help financially to east the burden a bit.”
The pair continued to make strides at Foothills hospital in Calgary and were moved from intensive care into the trauma unit.
On July 31, a who’s who of Nelson’s performing scene turned out for a benefit concert at the Capitol Theatre called Raising the Curtain for Pat and Maia.
“Pat has touched so many people over the years and is so very well loved, as is Maia,” organizer Karen Agnew said. “People are really keen to help out in any way.”
Pat’s old choral group Shenango reunited while Allison Girvan, Bessie Wapp, Lucas Myers, and many others also performed.
At the show began, the entire audience stood up and shouted “Hi Pat and Maia!” — it was recorded for them to watch in hospital. Larry, Liam, and Zoe took to the stage to express their gratitude. Between ticket sales, a silent auction, and donations, the event raised over $22,000.
By September, Maia had achieved her goal of returning to university, tackling three courses from her wheelchair. Pat was transferred to Kootenay Lake hospital to continue her recovery while friends built a wheelchair ramp at her home for the few hours a day she was able to spend there.
“It’s beautiful,” she said. “Every day progresses and I feel something new happens, more healing and feeling better, as long as I put that first foot forward.”
She relished simple things like baking banana bread and sewing buttons on her son’s coat.
In November, she was “jumping for joy” when an orthopedic surgeon finally told her she could lose her boot and back brace. “That really opened a new independence for me because I couldn’t even get out of bed without asking for help.”
Henman still feels the bolts in her left ankle and her back gets sore if she stands too long, but she can walk short distances with a cane and take longer trips in a wheelchair.
A stroll down Baker Street “took forever” because of all of the people who wanted to greet her, happy to see her back in the community.
She still many faces challenges, such as being unable to eat solid food, but she’s grateful she and her daughter survived. “I am just so proud of my family,” she says. “The other thing I’ve learned is don’t sweat the small stuff. That’s true to me now more than ever.”