It’s been a little more than two months since a devastating fire reduced a historic Hedley restaurant to rubble, destroying the owners livelihoods and home and leaving them with serious injuries.
Trisha Mills said she and husband Bill Carmichael suffered serious injuries after being forced to jump about 20-feet out of a second-floor window after the Hitching Post restaurant caught fire on Oct. 23.
“We’re focused on the healing part but we talk about things and we shake our heads a bit. We’re here, we lived and why? We just kind of go we are dealing with this because there are still things we need to deal with,” she said during a phone interview with the Review.
The blaze started around 2:30 a.m. and the 115-year-old building was quickly engulfed with flames. The cause is still unknown, Mills said.
The couple found themselves trapped in their second-floor living space. They were coaxed to jump from a window from friends and neighbours as the flames and black thick smoke came dangerously close.
From the jump, Mills suffered a partially broken back, fractured left foot and broken big toe, broken right foot, ankle and heel. While her husband broke his knees, tibia and ankles. They both have had a number of surgeries and screws were used to repair their broken bones. Mills even has a rod in her back. Both remain in a wheelchair unable to bear weight.
“We are so used to being go, go , go and then the next thing you know now we can’t do anything. That’s been hard,” she said.
For about six weeks Mills recovered in Vancouver while Carmichael was in Penticton hospital. The pair were reunited a few weeks ago when Mills was transferred to Kamloops and Carmichael rented a hotel room. Mills was released from hospital just over two weeks ago. They were reunited with their beloved dog Dexter who had been staying with friends and family since the fire.
“When he got to us he was just ‘oh my god my mom.’ He’s been glued to us ever since,” she said.
The couple and Dexter were living in a Kamloops hotel that is for the most part accessible until just before Christmas when they were able to maintain more permanent housing.
Mills said the couple has had an eye-opening experience realizing how difficult things are for people who are in wheelchairs.
“It’s everything. You go shopping and you can’t reach the things high on the shelves, sometimes you can’t reach the debit machine,” she said. “Even Christmas, we’ve had lots of invites, but we have to think about if their place is accessible. Can we get in, can we get through the doors in the halls, can we go to the bathroom.”
Both Mills and Carmichael are hoping the New Year will bring them back on their feet.
Mills expects to start doing rehabilitation work on learning to walk early in January while the plan is for Carmichael to start work later in the month.
The couple said the support from the Hedley community has been overwhelming. A fundraiser and gofundme campaign was organized that raised close $20,000 for the couple.
“The community has been amazing. We can’t thank them enough. We miss them all very much,” she said.
Mills said the couple is focussed on their recovery at this time and is not sure what the future holds for rebuilding the restaurant although they very much want to rebuild.
“Realistically the biggest hindrance is our physical abilities. For us it’s a matter of being able to do the workload. We both have to be able to function at a certain level,” she said.
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