While for many, this holiday season is disappointing because of the pandemic, for Squamish's
Marc Dandurand, it is a stellar year, because he is here, living it.
The 31-year-old co-owner of Squamish Finishing Solutions, literally died — at least for a brief period — on Dec. 16, 2019.
On that day, he was working late crafting wooden Christmas presents for his family and friends, when something went terribly wrong and he was electrocuted.
"We had been doing this wood burning technique, that is very, very dangerous, obviously," he said. Long-story-short, it involved jumper cables, a transformer cord and an extension cord. He plugged the wrong one in and was hit with 1,100 volts of electricity.
"It sent me flying back about four feet. I hit the back of my head on the workbench on the way down," he said, though he doesn't remember the incident, this is what he has been told.
Luckily, business partner Alaster Osborne was there.
"He heard the bang and the pop and he called out to me, I guess," said Dandurand. "He called out to me, but there was no answer."
Osborne ran down and performed CPR and was yelling for help, but no one heard him in the industrial area of Queens Way where the business is located.
He had to stop and go get his phone from upstairs to call 911. When he got back, Dandurand was purple.
"I was 100% dead," said Dandurand, whose father is a physician back east.
Osborne told The Chief he hadn't had much CPR training at that point — only Level 1 — but it definitely came in handy.
Paramedics soon arrived.
Dandurand was given three defibrillator shocks on the shop floor.
Two more were given in the ambulance on the ride up to Squamish Hospital.
"The fifth one got my heart started again," Dandurand said.
Later, he was transferred to hospital in Vancouver.
He remained in a coma for a few days.
"With a little to no brain activity," Dandurand said.
He had previously documented that he didn't want to be kept alive if there was no hope.
"My parents had that unfortunate talk with my brother, my sister, my girlfriend, and Alaster, my business partner," Dandurand said.
The day he was to be unhooked from the life-saving equipment, Dandurand woke up.
"I just opened my eyes," he said, his voice breaking with emotion. He knew something bad had happened but had no memory of what. "I just broke down. I just started apologizing. 'I must have fucked up big time if everybody is here. What did I do?"
He spent two more weeks in the hospital.
He was back to work within a few weeks, but it took six months to be back to a version of his old self, he said.
He doesn't worry about such an accident happening again.
"You drive yourself crazy if you live your life that way, wondering 'What if," he said.
He is also not allowed to do the same wood burning technique anymore, he said, with a laugh.
To thank the first responders and the medical personnel who saved him and took care of him, Dandurand and Osborne are making custom wood pieces for them.
They have made eight pieces so far.
The pair are also going to make custom tables, valued at $10,000 to $15,000 to be auctioned off, with the money going to charities such as Honour House, which supports veterans and first responders, and to Squamish Search and Rescue.
Asked what he has learned from all this, Dandurand said he still questions why he survived, but more than anything he said the accident puts things in perspective.
"Life is too short. Don't stress yourself out about everything," he said, adding that being a new business owner can be hectic and stressful, but he is learning to take things in stride. "Those little things seem to roll off my back a little bit more."
Though the accident happened when Dandurand was creating pieces on his own time, not for work, it isn't an uncommon workplace accident.
According to WorkSafeBC, there were 54 claims related to electric shock and electrocution injuries in 2019.
Osborne said he too values his time a little more since the accident and has put safety as a priority in every aspect of his life now.
"It definitely changed my perspective on actions I take today and the chances I take," he told The Chief. "Things that we do, that we potentially shouldn't do,...knowing there is a little element of risk involved," he said, adding that the woodburning Dandurand was doing wasn't something he would have thought much about before. "The reality is... a simple mistake can lead to a big accident. When we were doing it ourselves, we didn't really think too much about it."
One of the reasons Osborne wants to give back to the first responders is that not only were they there to save his business partner, but they also helped Osborne deal with the after-effects of being on the scene when the accident happened.
"It isn't just what they have done in saving Marc... it is also the things that the police officers have done that they didn't necessarily have to, but they do, which is look out for the ... other people involved with the situation, which includes myself."
To know more about the auction of the tables, contact Squamish Finishing Solutions through www.squamishfinishingsolutions.com.