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Hudson Mack on son’s recovery from Vegas one day after Sutherland

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22 minute read

Among the Canadians killed or wounded in last month’s massacre in Las Vegas, at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, is a 21 year old man from Victoria, BC.  Sheldon Mack is recovering after he was shot twice, in the forearm and abdomen.  His father, longtime Vancouver Island TV news anchor Hudson Mack, and friend to many of us in the media industry, updated Facebook followers on Sheldon’s progress Monday, just after news came of the latest mass shooting in the US. This is re-printed with his permission.

 So, it has happened again.  Sickening, but not surprising, sadly.   Not anymore.

The all-too-familiar first reports from Texas came Sunday as I was about to send out an update on our family’s experience with guns in America.  Yesterday marked five weeks since Sheldon was shot in Las Vegas, one of the hundreds of victims of that massacre.  His recovery is going well, and again we want to say thanks.

The complete inaction after Vegas on any move towards gun control in the US, the failure to do anything about the so-called “bump stocks”, not even a simple acknowledgement that the country has a gun problem, makes you realize nothing is ever likely to change.  The reaction of the president from Tokyo this morning is telling, “…not a gun problem, but a mental health problem”.  Yes indeed.

November arrived with a sense of disbelief.  Has it been more than a month already?  Is it really only five weeks?  Yes and yes.  And it’s is a good time to offer an update on Sheldon, and to once again say a sincere thank you.

What a journey this has been since Patty’s phone kept ringing on the night of October first.  It was Sheldon’s friend, Liam Seymour, letting us know in breathless bursts what had happened.  We couldn’t believe our ears.  A country music concert. A terrorist attack.  Sheldon and Cole hit.  It was the last night of their Las Vegas trip.  Sheldon had turned 21 a week earlier, Liam a few weeks before that.  For these boys, like so many others, hitting The Strip at legal age was a rite of passage.

Sheldon, Liam, and Liam’s brother Cole had arrived at the Route 91 Harvest festival not long before the shooting started.   When he called to tell us what had happened, Liam said they had become separated in the chaos, and that Sheldon had gone to the hospital, shot in the wrist.  His phone was losing power and he promised to call back when he knew more.

For years, in the newsroom, I would always rant at reporters and producers writing about “a parent’s worst nightmare”.  But what unfolded for us over the next several hours gives truth to the cliché.  Patty and I called Sheldon’s brother and sister to inform them what had happened.  Rachel was at home in Vancouver, and Hamilton was staying with her, going to the Nickelback concert that night.  We kept them on the line on one speakerphone on the coffee table, while on another, we Googled and called every hospital in Vegas.

We could not envision the bedlam at the other end of the line, as we called one hospital after another.  No list of names.  No time to answer questions.  Call back later.  We called Liam back again and again, straight to voicemail.

I am generally slow to panic.  But each passing minute added to the fear and dread.  I checked the news, CNN was in the early stages of coverage.  Late on a Sunday night it did little more at first than rebroadcast the live feed from various Vegas affiliates.  Patty couldn’t watch.  I turned it off.  I checked Twitter.  At first two people were confirmed dead.  When I looked again it was 20.  When I turned on the TV again, my heart sank, the chyron banner declaring “50+ killed, 100’s injured”.  And still we couldn’t find Sheldon.

You hear about the “fog of war”, and the killing field where country music fans had gathered was a war zone.  Some details of that night are hard to recall even from where we sat.  Finally we reached Liam again.  He and Cole were at a hospital, Cole was wounded in the buttocks but was okay.  They thought Sheldon was where they were, but he wasn’t.

Finally, mercifully, hours later we got confirmation that Sheldon’s name was on a list.  He’d been taken to Desert Springs Hospital and had come through emergency surgery to repair the gunshot wound to his abdomen.  His abdomen?  He had been hit twice, we were now told.  In the forearm and the stomach.  The nurse had few details but was able to take the phone to him.  He was groggy and barely able to speak.  But Sheldon was alive.

We booked Rachel on the first available flight from Vancouver several hours later.  Hammy would have to wait for his passport, arriving with us on the 7 AM ferry.  Stunned and sleepless, as we trudge to the taxi stand at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, another call from Las Vegas.  The same nurse we spoke to a few hours ago, but this time the call was not reassuring.  Sheldon has been rushed back into the Intensive Care Unit, after a dangerous drop in his blood pressure.  I can’t find the words to describe the cab ride to YVR.  Trying to stay outwardly calm to keep Patty from panicking, praying through tears as our driver sped to the airport.

When we got to the ticket counter our faces told our story before we spoke.  A kind United agent got us a faster flight than the one I’d found online overnight, with a three hour layover en route.  They must have bumped some people on the next Air Canada flight because we were on it.  At the gate we met up with Mike Seymour, Liam and Cole’s dad, on his way to his sons.

Not much stands out from the flight except a moment of black humour, something I’ve worn like armour over the years.  “Vegas, baby,” Hammy declared with a fist pump as the Strip came into view on our final approach.  More than two hours in the air with phones turned off, we didn’t know what news awaited us in Las Vegas.  What was waiting on Twitter was the best Tweet we will ever see.  From @Smack_era:  “So much evil in this world, thanking god for watching over me.  Sustained 2 gunshot wounds, a ruptured colon, and a broken forearm.”

He’d dictated it to Rachel, already at his bedside, and she texted us a photo of him while we were on the cab-ride to the hospital.  It’s the picture that was on newscasts and newspaper front pages all week.  When we got to his room and finally saw him in person, the relief was indescribable.

Sheldon had undergone emergency surgery for the gunshot wound to his abdomen.  Doctors removed a portion of his colon and were able to keep it intact.  His right forearm had been shot clean through, just below the elbow, shattering the radius bone, leaving his numbness in his thumb and lack of mobility in his fingers.

The next ten days at Desert Springs Hospital were a rollercoaster.  One or all of us stayed in his room each night, and all five were there throughout the day.  It didn’t take long before his hospital room looked like a hotel room on a Led Zeppelin tour.   His condition improved by the day, but not without setbacks.  An elevated white count revealed pockets of infection, not uncommon in a wound to the stomach like his.  And an alarming drop in his red count was a sign of internal bleeding.  He would be back in ICU again before he’d improved enough to finally be cleared to return to Victoria, but was cleared to leave only after confirmation of a bed waiting for him at Victoria General, and only flying home on an air ambulance.

After 35 years in the news business, this experience has given me a fresh perspective, from the other side of a news story.  The media interest in Sheldon’s story was intense and we did our best to accommodate as many requests as we could.  On the day after his surgery he agreed to an interview with a CBC National crew (Briar Stewart and Chris Corday, whom I had hired at A-Channel years earlier).  My proviso was that they pool the material with other media, so he’d only have to do it once.    The following day, ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir interviewed Sheldon, among others, and it was thanks to that coverage we located the man who helped save his life.

Jimmy Grovom is a paramedic in Orange County California.  He had lived and trained as an EMT in Las Vegas and his parents now live there.  He and his girlfriend and brother were in a group of about a dozen people at the concert.  When the shooting began Jimmy told his brother Matt to get his girlfriend to safety while he helped other victims.  Jimmy had also been shot through the calf, but kept working to assist others.  One of them was Sheldon, who himself had been hit helping a woman in the melee.

Jimmy was in the first aid tent with Sheldon, plugging the holes in his arm and stomach, kneeling on him to try to stanch the bleeding.  Jimmy even had to fend off a veteran military medic, a Marine corpsman who insisted he was using the wrong technique and put him in a chokehold to stop him.  Finally, after breaking free, Jimmy got Sheldon into a pickup truck and stayed with him until he was triaged as a priority patient and prepped for the OR at Desert Springs.

On the Muir broadcast, Sheldon talked about this guardian angel, and how he would love to meet him and say thank you, maybe buy him a beer.  A friend of Jimmy’s saw it, and knew that Jimmy was also trying to find the Canadian kid he’d helped.  The reunion is unforgettable.  Jimmy and his brother and their parents, and us, crowded around Sheldon’s bed, two families who’d never have met had it not been for the forces of good in the face of such evil.  Later we also reunited with Erik Frazier, the man with the pickup truck, and Melanie and Jeff, two of the EMTs in the tent that night.

The heroism of first responders and bystanders was matched only by the community support and kindness we received during this ordeal, from authorities and the people of Las Vegas to our friends at home and people we have never met.  Naming names is risky because we don’t want to inadvertently leave anyone out.  But, we want to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has been there for us.

Thank you to the people of Las Vegas:  the doctors, nurses and administrators at Desert Springs Hospital; the FBI Mass Casualty Victims’ Services Unit; the Red Cross; staff from the Canadian Consulate, for their support and arranging a Thanksgiving Dinner for Canadians far from home; hotels and casinos that provided accommodation to families; Uber, which waived all charges on hospital trips for a week; food truck owners who showed up outside the emergency room each night, the pilots and nursing crew onboard Flying ICU; and the many volunteers who did whatever they could to help victims and their families.

And thank you to the people here at home:  our family and friends, colleagues, and strangers in Victoria and elsewhere in Canada and the US; the medical staff at Island Health, at Victoria General and Royal Jubilee Hospitals, and community health clinic; people we’ve never met who have reached out with support; amazing Grace for her great care of our home and pets, and for taking the initiative to launch the GoFundMe page in Sheldon’s support.

To the many people who have given so generously to the fund, we simply say “Thank You”.  This will be a long recovery, and the money raised will help Sheldon covering treatment and unfunded medical expenses, and we are so very appreciative.  We are all so fortunate to be part of a caring community.

We are grateful for so much.  And always mindful of the other victims of this tragedy.  The families of those killed and wounded, including the four Canadians who died, Jordan McIldoon, Jessica Klymchuk, Calla Medig and Tara Roe.  We are so sorry for their loss.

As Sheldon and the thousands of other victims of the Vegas assault move from victim to survivor, the outrage at what has happened to them is difficult to contain.  How can US society let this kind of thing keep happening?   If a massacre of concert-goers by a man armed to the teeth with modified military weapons, who turns a high-rise hotel suite into a sniper’s nest, doesn’t bring change, what will?  Five weeks later it is families in a tiny community, shot to death at a Sunday church service.  Will anything change?  Probably not.  Nothing happened after Sandy Hook either.

Many Americans wrap themselves in the Second Amendment, their constitutional right to bear arms.  They overlook the fact that its interpretation, in this modern era of military weapons in civilian hands, is entirely out of context, and that it was written at a time when even an expert marksman couldn’t reload and fire a musket in less than 30 seconds.  But of course, now isn’t the time to talk about gun control, is it?  No.  Once again the time isn’t right.  Maybe next time.  How different might the reaction have been if the Vegas gunman had flown an Isis flag from the broken hotel window?  Then, I suppose, it could be safely referred to as a terrorist attack.

This is the worst massacre in modern US history.  For now.  Until the next one claims even more victims.  The fact is, unless and until enough Americans, and the people they elect, are willing to stand up to the NRA and the gun lobby, nothing will change.  For many Americans, Las Vegas, like Newtown and Orlando and Aurora, and now Sutherland Springs Texas, is a simply a call for more arms.  Better security in churches is what I heard someone suggest this morning.  More guns.

As Canadians, it’s none of our business.  At least for our family it wasn’t until October first.  Now it is, but what can we do?  Economic sanctions?  Money talks and maybe it’s time our vacation dollars tell the US, “We’re not coming anymore”.   I’m told about 65 per cent of the visitors to Las Vegas every year come from Canada.  I’m sure it’s a similarly high number in Maui and Manhattan, and on Main Street USA.  If our 21-year old son isn’t safe from automatic rifle fire at a Sunday night country music concert in America, then maybe we’re better off staying home, or vacationing somewhere else.  That might get their attention.

What really matters, to us of course, is that Sheldon is okay.  He has incredible strength and courage and this ordeal has shown the character of his brother and sister, his mom (and me I guess).  I’m so proud of our family. His recovery is going very well.  Busy days of outpatient treatment since he came home from the hospital are now winding down, and we’re on to rehabilitation.  It’ll take a while but he’s going to be fine, and we will too.  And none of it would be possible without the help of so many of you.

From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU!

Read more stories from Todayville.

 

 

President Todayville Inc., Honorary Colonel 41 Signal Regiment, Board Member Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award Foundation, Director Canadian Forces Liaison Council (Alberta) musician, photographer, former VP/GM CTV Edmonton.

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Crime

Ontario doctor alleged to have killed 4 people around same date in 2021: documents

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HAWKESBURY, Ont. — Court documents allege an eastern Ontario doctor killed four people around the same date in 2021.

Dr. Brian Nadler was initially charged with first-degree murder last year in the death of 89-year-old Albert Poidinger at the Hawkesbury and District General Hospital.

At the time, police said they were investigating the doctor in connection with several other deaths at the hospital.

Ontario Provincial Police laid three additional charges of first-degree murder against Nadler on Wednesday, in the deaths of 80-year-old Claire Briere, 79-year-old Lorraine Lalande and 93-year-old Judith Lungulescu. But they declined to provide details on the new charges, including when and where the three died.

Court documents allege Poidinger was killed on March 25, 2021, and the three others “on or about” that date.

The documents say Briere, Lalande and Lungulescu also died in Hawkesbury, Ont.

Nadler’s lawyers have said their client maintains his innocence.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Brian Greenspan, David Humphrey and Naomi Lutes said Nadler provided “excellent palliative care” to the four patients, who they said died from COVID-19.

The doctor was released on bail in July of last year, and his lawyers said he was released again under the same conditions after his arrest this week.

Those conditions include that Nadler remain in Canada, reside at an approved address and notify police of any address change. He is also forbidden from practising medicine and from communicating with employees, patients and relatives of patients at the Hawkesbury hospital.

The case is set to return to court on Sept. 7.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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Human Interest

Wolf missing from Vancouver zoo found safe, returned to pack

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ALDERGROVE, B.C. — A wolf missing from a British Columbia zoo has been found safe and returned to its pack.

The Greater Vancouver Zoo says in a statement the discovery of the one-year-old female canine known as Tempest puts an end to a three-day search and rescue operation.

It does not say where the wolf was found or elaborate on her condition, but it says the zoo in Aldergrove, B.C., will re-open Saturday.

Menita Prasad, the zoo’s deputy general manager, said Thursday that nine wolves escaped after a perimeter fence and their enclosure were deliberately “compromised.”

Workers and conservation officers began searching for the wolves after the escape was discovered Tuesday morning, while the RCMP is investigating the incident as a suspected case of unlawful entry and vandalism.

A three-year-old female wolf called Chia was found dead on a roadside, while all others have now been accounted for.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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