Two words come to mind when describing CONNECT Lake Country resident Jules: Insightful and honest.
“Sometimes it actually makes me angry when I see people walking around so easily,” he says with a smile. “Because you have no idea how much you take it for granted. I would give anything to be able to walk like that again.”
Jules, 36, was badly injured in 2014 when he lost control of his quad outside of Kelowna at Beaver Lake and fell 75 feet down a cliff.
“I was wearing a helmet, but I stupidly didn’t do up the strap. I think about that so often. It’s such a simple thing to do up the strap. If I had just done that, things might be different.”
His helmet protected him from the initial impact but then came off and was found 10 feet from where he landed. He sustained a brain injury and a broken jaw and was airlifted to hospital. He was in a coma for five months.
“I have no memory two weeks prior to the accident and five months after. I just lost all that time.”
Lucky to be alive, Jules acknowledges that he is a walking, talking miracle. Surviving the accident was a miracle, waking up from a coma was a miracle, and regaining his ability to function, communicate and walk is a miracle.
Originally from Winnipeg, Jules left when he was 18 and moved to Jasper, Alberta. After more than four years there, he moved to Nanaimo, BC to pursue culinary arts. He participated in a competition in Vancouver where restaurant owner from Kelowna offered him a cooking job and a week later, Jules moved to the Okanagan.
His girlfriend at the time got pregnant, so Jules pursued a landscaping job, which eventually lead him to a job in the oil sands. His son, Jamon, is now 10 years old.
After Jules woke up from his coma, he spent a year and a half at Riverview Hospital in Winnipeg, where his brother, two sisters and mother still live. He moved to CONNECT one year ago. He says he has become much more independent during his time at CONNECT and particularly enjoys buying his own groceries and cooking for himself.
“At the place I was at before CONNECT, I ate three meals a day off a tray that someone prepared for me. I love to cook. It’s such an important part of my life. So that has been a big deal for me. To learn how to hold a knife with my new hands and cook for myself.”
Since his accident he tattooed both of his forearms with reminders to make him feel better on low days. His right arm reads, “Not a failure just a lesson” and his left reads, “Fall down seven stand up eight.”
“For a while I was really hard on myself. And I had this attitude that I would wait for my brain to heal and then I could try to do stuff. But something switched inside of me and I realized I had to work to get my brain to heal. I had to push myself to make those neurons fire again.”
Jules’ goals are to get into great shape, to live independently, and to do some volunteer speaking engagements to inspire others to focus on safety and teach them about brain injury. He says his son is the motivation behind all of his goals.
“Promise me something. Just try to be happy every day. Even if you’re having a bad day or you feel a bit down, just remember that it could always be worse and try to be happy anyway. And if you’re struggling with something, just remember, I promised Jules I would try to be happy.”