Chilliwack woman struck by train while trying to save man has partial hand amputation

Chilliwack woman struck by train while trying to save man has partial hand amputation

17 months after Julie Callaghan was dubbed a hero she fights for normalcy and against ongoing pain

When Julie Callaghan was hit by a train trying to save a man in a wheelchair stuck on the tracks nearly a year and a half ago, she was told by a doctor she could go back to work in three months.

But 16 months and 25 days after a CN Rail train travelling at 80 km/h hit her at the Broadway rail crossing in Chilliwack, she has now had a partial amputation done on her hand.

Julie Callaghan’s hand after treatment she received for being hit by a train on May 26, 2018 trying to save a man in a wheelchair on the tracks. (Submitted)

Part of her hands and two-and-a-half fingers were removed on Oct. 21 leaving her with, as the surgeon put it, a life-time project dealing with her right hand.

Callaghan struggles every day with financial woes, frustration dealing with the medical system, and physical pain, all things that in some way serve as a distraction from the trauma of what she endured and what happened to the man she and another woman tried to save.

It was precisely 5:33 p.m. and 27 seconds on May 26, 2018 when Matthew Jarvis rolled southbound in a motorized wheelchair on to the CN tracks at Broadway. Fifty-nine seconds later, after stopping between the two sets of tracks looking west and then east, he changed directions and the rear wheels of his chair got stuck in the tracks.

Eight seconds later, the crossing arms began to descend, lights flashing, bells ringing.

Callaghan and another woman were stopped at the crossing, saw what was about to happen, and sprung into action. They got the two rear wheels out, but they couldn’t move the wheelchair as the train was less than 600 feet away bearing down on them.

At 5:34:04 the train struck Jarvis, killing him. Callaghan and the second motorist attempted to jump clear, but Callaghan was struck.

She was immediately called a hero by many.

“This woman was a true hero,” Mary-Jane Warkentin wrote on a Facebook post. She was driving up to the tracks and saw what happened. “She ran from her car to try to save the man and ended up injured due to her heroic action.”

That label of heroism was later made formal when the U.S.-based Carnegie Hero Fund Commission recognized her with a Carnegie Medal, something awarded to individuals who risk their lives saving or attempting to save others.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack woman who tried to save man stuck on rail tracks called a ‘hero’

• READ MORE: Heroism medal for Chilliwack woman who tried to save man in a wheelchair stuck on rail tracks

That was all great, but Callaghan is now left with the physical and mental aftermath, the bills, but also some guilt.

“I’m not going to say too much about it because it makes me so sad,” she said, welling up with emotion in her Fairfield Island home. “It doesn’t take much to trigger it, but how can I be sad about this when I’m here?

“People say ‘you are so strong.’ No, I’m just so incredibly grateful that I’m here to celebrate my daughter’s engagement. How can I be anything but strong and appreciative and grateful when it could have been so much worse.”

Despite that often positive outlook, the pain is substantial, often working to distract from her mental trauma. For more than a year after the incident, part of her hand was stuck in a painful claw position. Now, two weeks after the surgery that removed part of her hand, she suffers from phantom pain. All along she has also suffered with a rare condition known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), a condition that is often associated with trauma and is considered a neurological condition, but is believed to be caused by damage to the peripheral nervous system.

A key symptom is severe pain that can be constant, a burning, pins-and-needles sensation. CRPS can also lead to, and does in Callaghan’s case, drastic changes in skin temperature and colour. The abnormal circulation can lead to vastly different feelings in her injured hand and her unaffected limb.

“When I have a flareup it can get really, really hot… and then goes corpse cold,” she said. “You don’t control your blood. My nervous system is messed up.”

And while the pain and the condition may be with her forever, given how expensive CRPS treatment is, what she is after is hand functionality in the form of a myoelectric prosthetic, something that costs between $80,000 and $100,000.

Her life has become consumed by medical appointments, surgeries, hospital visits and hand therapy, but she is really hoping she can fundraise money to pay for the prosthetic.

“This is what my life is like. It’s been absolutely all consuming.”

Callaghan is hoping to raise funds through a GoFundMe so she can get a sense of normalcy back in her life. She wanted to talk about her recent amputation, her sense of being now, and the road ahead, in part to spur on the GoFundMe but also to update those who have donated already.

“I feel an ethical and moral sense to show them where their money is going,” she said.

A couple of days before the surgery, she shared a video on YouTube to supporters announcing that the amputation was finally scheduled.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Chilliwack woman struck by train while trying to save man has partial hand amputation

Every five days a person dies in an accidental fatality on a rail line in Canada, according to CN Police. Matthew Jarvis, 40, died at this spot on May 26, 2018 when the wheelchair he used got stuck in the tracks. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress file)

Every five days a person dies in an accidental fatality on a rail line in Canada, according to CN Police. Matthew Jarvis, 40, died at this spot on May 26, 2018 when the wheelchair he used got stuck in the tracks. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress file)

Chilliwack woman struck by train while trying to save man has partial hand amputation

Just Posted

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Nelson Police responded to 802 calls last year they say had an element of mental health. File photo
Nelson Police: 802 mental-health related calls in 2020

That accounts for 12 per cent of total calls for service

Several large trees came down in the recent windstorm and destroyed a part of the building that houses Camp Koolaree’s showers and boy’s washroom. The camp has served generations of Kootenay families since 1931 as the Nelson area’s longest running children’s summer camp. Photo: Submitted
Camp Koolaree’s wash house destroyed by January windstorms

The camp is in need of donations to make repairs

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Most Read