A Prince Rupert man who survived a boat crash that left him lost and alone with a broken neck in the B.C. wilderness says he was forced to battle the provincial medical system just to get the specialized care he needed in Vancouver.
Cameron Culver, 48, and his friend Mark Desaultes were boating as part of a hunting trip on the Ecstall River, south of Prince Rupert on the North Coast. Desaultes, who was driving, had an apparent heart attack and the boat crashed into a log.
From his hospital bed in Prince Rupert, Culver told CBC News that when he woke up after the Sept. 17 crash, he was completely disoriented.
'Survival skills just took over and my body followed my brain around.' —Cameron Culver, crash survivor
"I woke up on the floor of a boat ...I didn't even know we were in an accident," he said.
Culver found Desaultes' body and did what he could to stop it from drifting away.
"I had to tie his body to the boat and I had to tie the boat to the log we hit," he said.
Neck broken in 2 places
Dazed and grief-stricken, Culver dragged himself out of the river to look for help. He wandered around for almost a full day with a broken shoulder and rib, and his neck broken in two places.
Adrenaline kept him from feeling pain and the will to survive kept him alive, Culver said.
"Survival skills just took over and my body followed my brain around... and I pulled it off... it's a miracle... honestly a miracle," he said.
"I had to stay in the bush for 20 hours during a rainstorm and I had to combat hypothermia and sing to the bears so they wouldn't come around and bother me," he said.
Culver was eventually spotted by other members of his hunting party and taken to Prince Rupert Hospital.
No bed available for special care
After fighting for survival in the wilderness, Culver says he then had to fight the medical system for the specialized treatment he needs to recover.
After his rescue, Culver said he was forced to wait for five days in Prince Rupert Hospital because he was told there were no beds available for him in Vancouver where he could get the specialized care he needs for his neck injuries.
Culver was transported to Vancouver late Tuesday.
"I'm in serious pain right now... I'm being treated very well here in Prince Rupert, but I don't think there's a neurosurgeon," he said late Monday.
A spokesperson with the Northern Health Authority would not comment on Culver's case, citing patient confidentiality, but said there are a number of factors that determine when a patient is transported.
In recent months B.C.'s government has come under fire for its health-care funding policies, which have forced many hospitals to cut back on surgery and other programs in order to meet their annual budgets.