Napu Boychuk, an Inuk dance student who was born and raised in Yellowknife, is keeping a positive outlook in his Havana hospital bed after breaking his neck in a swimming accident in December.
"Napu is making the best of it," said his dad, Dan Boychuk by telephone from Cuba Thursday. "That's his nature in any event."
Napu was vacationing with his dad and sister on Dec. 13 when he was pulled underwater by a strong current while swimming at Varadero Beach. He drowned and was resuscitated, damaging his lungs and breaking his neck.
The 29-year-old underwent surgery to align two of his vertebrae. He now gets physiotherapy twice a day, but hasn't regained the use his arms or legs.
"We're finding a little bit of movement as the days pass on so it's promising," Dan said.
At the time of the accident, Napu was just a few months away from completing his bachelor in dance at Ryerson University in Toronto, focusing on classical ballet. Now it's unclear when or whether he'll dance again.
"Napu feels that he will dance again," his father says. "That's very important for him, to have that positive outlook."
'The hospital is unbelievable'
Dan has been with his son at Cira Garcia hospital in Havana.
"The hospital here in Havana has a lot to do with his recovery, both physically and mentally," he says. "They're very, very loving nurses and doctors and the level of health care at the hospital is unbelievable."
Dan says Napu will stay in Cuba even as he moves out of the hospital to a rehabilitation centre in the city.
"He'll stay in Cuba because the level of care is second to none in the world. In every way. In medical expertise and in a human, loving way.
"It's a world that we never knew existed here in Cuba."
Fundraisers in Iqaluit, Toronto, Yellowknife
Tuutalik Boychuk, Napu's sister, said Napu's care has cost about $40,000 so far.
Despite some complications and ongoing communication difficulties, she's hopeful the costs will be covered by insurance companies.
In the meantime, friends and family back home are helping out.
A fundraiser in Iqaluit raised $11,000 towards his rehabilitation. Fundraisers have also been held in Yellowknife, at Ryerson University and at the Toronto bar where Napu worked as a bartender.
"He's made a lot of friends in his 29 years and he's a role model as well," says Dan, "especially for aboriginal people, young people who might want to get into dance and other such things."
For now, Napu still relies on a tracheotomy to breathe, and sometimes needs help. He'll continue to be monitored in hospital for some time.
His father is willing to wait by his side.
"It's a real pleasure to be with Napu as a human being because he's always positive about things."