It was a normal day on Galiano Island when the ground below Mitch Lepore’s feet gave way. He was out hiking with a group of friends who were excited about being finished their first year of university.
Lepore fell 50 feet off a cliff, sustaining a traumatic brain injury on the way down. Luckily, there was doctor, a firefighter and a member of a search and rescue team staying in the same campground who were able to locate Lepore and stabilized him, before he was airlifted to Victoria General Hospital.
Waking up after two weeks in a coma and drifting in and out of consciousness, Lepore describes the pain, anger and frustration of not being able to remember and having things explained to him daily.
“It wasn’t even days or weeks — it was months of that,” he says, crediting the CT scans he received with hurtling his progress forward. “To be able to understand what parts of me were damaged, what I lost and what I needed to work to regain … that literally changed the way I recovered. It changed my life.”
Lepore was part of a media tour for the Victoria Hospitals Foundation on Thursday morning, showing off some the imaging equipment that his team of doctors used to help make critical, life-saving decisions for his care and celebrating the launch of the Foundation’s the largest annual campaign — The Big Picture.
“The feeling of knowing, rather than the unknown; the unknown was the reason for so much anger and frustration,” says Lepore. “If you don’t know how to do something, but you don’t know why and you remember yourself doing it — there’s a lot of anguish there.”
Lepore has made massive strides in his recovery, graduating from university, playing hockey when he gets the chance and working in the digital marketing field. He’s found ways, such as writing and ranking his to-do list for the day either on his hand or a white board, to help overcome some of the cognitive problems that remain from his brain injury. He hopes his story encourages people to donate, adding that imaging equipment helped save his life and will help save countless others.
The Foundation aims to raise $4 million in order to purchase a new CT scanner, a 3 Tesla MRI and ultrasound equipment for Victoria General and Royal Jubilee hospitals. Donors from the community fund 40 per cent of all the equipment in local hospitals.
The Big Picture campaign is part of a larger goal to raise $11 million in new imaging equipment, thanks to the generosity of local donors, $7 million in funding has been secured. The campaign was officially unveiled at the Foundation’s signature gala, Visions, held on Nov. 16, where 300 guests and donors, 26 sponsors, 260 businesses and 60 volunteers came together to raise a record-breaking $1 million of the campaign’s $4 million goal.
Contributions can be made by donating online at victoriahf.ca/bigpicture, calling 250-519-1750 or mailing to Wilson Block, 1952 Bay St., Victoria BC, V8R 1J8.