ESPANOLA – Anyone who lives on, or has visited Manitoulin Island will attest to the inherent danger of deer-vehicle accidents. For Chris Gillis, his recent accident with a large deer on Manitoulin is akin to the potential for a serious accident taking place as he was critically injured while riding his motorcycle on the Island and getting hit by a deer.
“On the sixth of September, Chris was enjoying a ride on his motorcycle on Manitoulin Island,” said Stacey Gillis in an interview with the Recorder last week. “As he was returning from the Island to Espanola a deer, an eight-point buck hit him.”
Mr. Gillis suffered a fractured back, a severely fractured arm and broken ribs, but he survived the terrible accident, which has left him a paraplegic. “He was lying on the side of the highway in a ditch for about 20-30 minutes, but thankfully he did receive help. It was a motorist, a young girl in her 20s, who found Chris. We are very thankful for her. She did the best she absolutely could, she did everything right and called the right people.”
Ms. Gillis, who lives in Kingston, said her brother was airlifted to Sudbury Hospital after the accident and has been there ever since. “Chris has use of his hands and arms, he but they haven’t said anything about his legs,” she said.
“Absolutely, 100 percent Chris is a very optimistic, pragmatic, upbeat person and he is looking at this as being lucky to be alive,” said Stacey.
Mr. Gillis is a very well-known and respected Espanola paramedic. He retired a year ago from the Espanola volunteer fire department. “He has been a paramedic for 31 years, all in Espanola, and about 12 years ago became a volunteer firefighter,” Stacey told the Recorder. “And he is the union steward for the paramedics’ union through OPSEU. He has been working as a supervisor for EMS in Espanola and during the COVID-19 pandemic has worked with the COVID-19 testing team at the Espanola Regional Hospital and Health Centre.”
He also served many years as chair of the police services board and when Habitat for Humanity came to Espanola to build a home for a needy family, Mr. Gillis served on their board of directors.
“And recently he started rescuing dogs, having made two trips to Texas to bring dogs home to Ontario,” said Ms. Gillis. “On these trips he has brought back 120 dogs who were all fostered out and adopted before they got to Ontario.”
Mr. Gillis will eventually be moved to Lyndhurst in Toronto for rehabilitation when his condition is stabilized. Ms. Gillis said Lyndhurst is affiliated with Sunnybrook Hospital and is known as a premier rehabilitation facility in Ontario. His months or possibly years of rehabilitation will include rehabilitation, medical equipment and travelling for family to assist and support him toward his recovery.
A GoFundMe fundraising campaign has been initiated by family friend Kathy Yusko to help ease the stress and worry for the family.
“The support Chris has received (n the GoFundMe fundraising campaign) has been phenomenal,” said Ms. Gillis. “Initially Kathy was looking to raise $35,000, but with the success of it she set a goal of $75,000 and with this campaign and private donations having been made to the family close to $48,000 has been raised thus far.”