MARYSTOWN, N.L. — Nearly a month after he was found lying unconscious in a parking lot in Marystown, Dustin Hannam is fighting to get better.
His aunt Amanda Hannam told The Southern Gazette on Tuesday, Nov. 27 that her nephew is a fighter.
“He has been fighting since this incident,” she said, “fighting for survival. There’s no doubt he is meant to be here.
“I keep telling that to my family from seeing him from day one to now today is day 27, he has fought every day to be here.”
Dustin was airlifted from Burin to the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s on Nov. 1 after being discovered by police unconscious in a parking lot near the Canada Post building in Marystown.
On Nov. 2 he underwent surgery to remove part of his skull to alleviate swelling on his brain as a result of severe head injuries, which included a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain. Following surgery, he spent 10-days in the intensive care unit (ICU) before being moved to the special care unit on the neurological floor of the hospital.
Amanda told The Gazette during a telephone interview from her home in St. John’s, that last week Dustin showed signs of recovery. He can breathe on his own, eat and walk with the assistance of others.
“It’s been such a blessing to see him make gains daily,” she said. “Of most significance is his improvement in mobility on his right side.
“During his stay in the ICU, Dustin was non-responsive on his right entirely, even to a pain stimulus. Now, we are so happy to report he has regained the use of his right hand and leg. With little assistance, Dustin can walk. This in and of itself is a miracle.”
She added, “We share in the joy with him every day in the little things that he is now able to do.”
Amanda explained that doctors first told the family that Dustin might never be able to speak or walk as a result of his injuries and that he may be significantly cognitively impaired.
“Based on the family's interpretation of body language, along with gestures and utterances, we do feel his memory is impacted, potentially significantly,” Amanda said. “Also, we do not know about his processing of information, his cognitive functioning, his thinking nor his ability to learn. This in itself could impact him for the rest of his life.”
Amanda described her nephew as an excellent carpenter who could build anything he put his mind to from scratch.
“He was very skilled," she said.
She noted he was also very musically and artistically inclined, as well as an avid reader.
Amanda said Dustin passed on his skills as an artist to his 13-year-old daughter Kayley Cheeseman. Amanda added that the young girl has not left her father’s side since he was admitted to the hospital.
“I could just cry thinking about her because she has stayed so strong for him,” Amanda said. “It has been unbelievable the maturity she has shown—the times that she has broken down she has come out of the room and sought comfort in us and regained her strength and then went back in the room to remain by her father’s side.”
She said Kayley often talks to and sings for her father, as well as colouring pictures to put up in his hospital room.
United for Dustin
Amanda said what happened to her nephew has brought the family closer together, “with a common goal to see him through this, and everyone is being so supportive of the other. This is hard on us physically, mentally and emotionally—the uncertainty of not knowing what happened to him is really hard for us to overcome, but our focus remains on him.”
Amanda has established a GoFundMe page to help family members with travel and other expenses while they are in St. John’s to be with Dustin.
“(So) we could just be here for him and support him without having to worry about the cost,” she said.
To date the GoFundMe campaign has collected $1,045. The page can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/the-dustin-hannam-recovery-fund?fbclid=IwAR2nnZz7GwnmHLtIHADe6ApVbxmSNreVYZmoCVMDStbb159NKvI2tCOkZhk
Amanda said the investigation into what happened to Dustin is ongoing.
“They (RCMP) have informed the family that there’s a six-minute period of time where Dustin is unaccounted for based on video surveillance in the area,” she explained. “They narrowed down the time frame, but unfortunately there are no leads in the investigation whatsoever—that uncertainty is so hard.”