Nova Scotia

Dillon MacMillan overcomes serious car crash to get welding certification

Dillon MacMillan survived a car crash that killed three of his friends and left him paralyzed, but he didn't give up his dream of becoming a welder and this week he completed his college course.

The crash killed three of MacMillan's friends and left him paralyzed

Dillon MacMillan has a modified wheelchair that allows him to work as a welder. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

Dillon MacMillan thought his dreams of becoming a welder were over 18 months ago when he lost the use of his legs.

But this week, with the help of a special wheelchair, the 20-year-old completed his welding certification.

“Looking back now, I'm glad I didn't shy away from it and that I went head first for it," he said. "After doing this course, it showed that I could stand up and be a man and get through it, and accomplish the goals that I set for myself."

MacMillan, originally from Port Hood, survived a 2013 car crash that killed three of his friends. It left him paralyzed and he spent six months in rehabilitation.

Dillon MacMillan says only minor adjustments had to be made at the NSCC workshop where he trained for his welding certification. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

He'd previously applied and been accepted to NSCC, but the accident put his plans on hold.

MacMillan didn’t slow down for long. While he was recovering, his father brought him a welding helmet and jacket. This week, wearing that same gear, MacMillan finished his welding certification course and earned the tickets he’ll need to work.

MacMillan welds using a wheelchair that allows him to stand. Modifications to the chair allow him to work around flames and use equipment safely.

“Whether it's welding, working with the torch, with the grinder, I've been able to take on those challenges,” he said.

He says the support he's received from family and his instructor helped motivate him to succeed.

'I really hope all my students progress the way he did'

Neil DeBaie, who teaches the welding certification course at NSCC’s Akerley campus, has guided MacMillan through the program. At first, he says MacMillan was nervous, but quickly buckled down.

"I really hope all my students progress the way he did," he said. "Once he understood he's part of the program, not just a figure put in there, he really started to flourish."

DeBaie hopes MacMillan’s example inspires schools and employers to make more accommodations for people with disabilities.

“Bringing people back into the workplace after injuries is a big challenge for all industry. Seeing [someone] strive like this shows what a person can really do when you put your mind to it," said DeBaie.

MacMillan’s next step is applying for jobs. He still has years of rehabilitation work ahead, but now he has a career and plenty of hope. He's already working on walking with long leg braces.

“Walking is where I want to be in five years, for sure," he said.

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