Nfld. & Labrador

Young man traumatically injured is home, but family can't forgive drunk driver

A tragic crash took away all of 21-year-old Colby Duffenais' abilities and even though he is now out of hospital and home with his family, there is no peace.

Colby Duffenais is home from hospital, but will never recover from brain injury

Colby Duffenais, 21, smiles big now that he is home and out of the hospital. He suffers from a brain injury caused by an ATV driver who was drinking. (Colleen Connors/CBC )

A tragic crash took away all of 21-year-old Colby Duffenais' abilities and even though he is now out of hospital and home with his family, there is no peace.

I can't say I forgive him yet. But I'm focusing on Colby now.- Brian Duffenais

Colby was walking home from a Christmas party in 2015 when he was struck down and nearly killed by a drunk ATV driver.

He suffered a severe brain injury and almost didn't make it. 

After months in hospital, his father Brian Duffenais fought hard to bring his son home.

With 24-hour care and eight full-time home care workers, Colby was able to return to a customized bachelor apartment attached to the family home on March 15 of this year.

"His demeanour has changed. He's happier, which makes everyone around him happier I guess," his father said.

Quality of Life

Colby now smiles more, he sings or moans along with his favourite music on his iPad. He's more alert, but he will never be the same.

Brian Duffenais can't make peace with the man who's responsible.

The teen was driving his ATV drunk and struck Colby on Main Road in Piccadilly, throwing him 200 feet. 

Colby's father and his home care workers take him outside on a sunny day. His new wheelchair accommodates his tall frame. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

"I can't say I forgive him yet. But I'm focusing on Colby now, " said Duffenais.

Duffenais is determined to give his son a quality of life. It started with getting him out of the hospital room and home surrounded by family.

Then, Duffenais pushed for a new, stronger, longer wheelchair to fit his son's tall frame. The wheels are built for rougher terrain.

Colby's home care workers push him up and down in the back garden on sunny days.

The next step is to get him out of the house and in a proper van.

Right now he has to travel in the back of ambulance on a stretcher to all of his doctor's appointments in Corner Brook.

Friends in the community started a GoFundMe page to raise $25,000 for a new van that will properly hold his wheelchair. 

Duffenais' life has improved slightly since getting home. His full time home care workers take him outside for walks. He's more relaxed. (Colleen Connors/CBC )

"I think it will really change their quality of life. Because then he can get out and start visiting places that he hasn't been in a long time because he is in this situation. And, oh, it will be just be great," said Dorene Young, who's organizing the fundraiser. 

"The first place I'm going to take Colby is around the loop here on the Port au Port Peninsula," said Duffenais.

"He used to drive there a lot with his friends when he was younger. Yup. That's the first thing we are going to do."

Not happy with sentence

Duffenais will take his son on the same road where he was struck down by the drunk ATV driver two years ago. 

Judge Lynn Cole sentenced the driver to two years probation and 240 hours of community service, not good enough for Colby's father.

"His actions could be much better. I'm trying to fundraise to help Colby's quality of life. What better way, really? He has to do community service anyway. If you are going to get credit for his hours why not do something good? said Duffenais.

"At least to me it would be bridging the gap and make peace with what happened. try to make peace with us." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Colleen Connors reports on western Newfoundland from CBC's bureau in Corner Brook.

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