As It Happens

Why a B.C. man run over by a truck in Thailand is struggling to get treatment

Canadian David Connelly is in a Thai hospital as a result of a serious motorbike crash. His blood type is so rare in South East Asia that doctors are struggling to treat him.
B.C. man David Connelly is currently in a Thailand hospital, awaiting a blood transfusion. Earlier this month, Connelly was in a motorcycle accident when he suffered critical injuries. But because his blood type is rare in South East Asia, doctors are struggling to treat him. (PROVIDED)

David Connelly's life is in serious jeopardy. The Canadian man was in Thailand when he suffered critical injuries after a motorbike accident, and needs a blood transfusion. But his blood type is so rare in South East Asia that doctors are struggling to treat him.

Now, his family is urging donors in Thailand with Connelly's blood type — A-Rh negative or O-Rh negative — to step forward.

"Rh negative blood is common to 15 per cent of the Caucasian population. But in Thailand, there is only 0.3 per cent with Rh negative blood. And though there are many Caucasians in Southern Thailand, most of them are over 55, and Red Cross Thailand has a stipulation that blood donors be under 55," explains Karen Connelly, David's sister, to As It Happens host Carol Off.

Connolly says this rule excluded the Czech ambassador who offered his blood to help her brother. Furthermore, Red Cross stipulates donors must have been in Thailand for a minimum of six months. Again, when she tracked down some Western missionaries who were a match, they couldn't donate blood because they had only been in Thailand for half that time.

Karen Connelly and her brother David Connelly. Karen, a writer in Toronto, is appealing to blood donors in South East Asia who might have the same rare blood type as her brother, David. (PROVIDED)

"There is literally not enough of his blood type. They had two units of [Rh negative] blood after we spent lots of hours emailing people and liaising with the Canadian consulate, and encouraging donors across Thailand to talk to people to be potential donors," Connelly says.

David Connelly and his girlfriend, Mai, in Thailand. (PROVIDED)

On May 4, David Connelly sustained serious injuries while riding a motorcycle. His sister says the details are still unclear, but she believes he was run over by a 10-wheel truck.

"His injuries are all in his torso -- he has very few scrapes and bruises. He has a number of broken ribs, and a cracked pelvis," she says. Adding to that, his lungs were both punctured, his hip bone was crushed, and the muscles across his back were severely torn.

David Connelly, pictured in a hospital in Phuket, Thailand after a serious motorcycle accident. (PROVIDED)

Connelly says her brother was in Thailand visiting their father, Denis Connelly. They were reconnecting for the first time in years.

"My brother has had a really rough time in the last few years. He struggles with addiction, and he and my dad had fallen out of contact. It was time to go visit his dad and make up, and [David] had been turning his life around. And in fact, they'd been having such an amazing time in [Thailand] together."

David Connelly, right, stands with his father, Denis Connelly in Thailand. On May 4, David was in a serious motorcycle accident and he is now in hospital, awaiting a blood transfusion.

"It's pretty horrifying, and ironic that this has happened. But strangely, it has brought [our family] closer together, because we're really rooting for him and hoping that he'll get better." 

Connelly says the hospital is costing the family about $3,000 a day for care in addition to charges for any surgeries. She expects they will have to remortgage the house to cover costs.

"This is more than a cautionary tale about getting travel insurance. It's incredible how it affects so many people in his family...I would have assumed he'd have it. It was his first time travelling. He was just going to see his dad. He has a healthy respect for motorcycles and speed. I guess he just thought he would be ok."

Now, Connelly believes the best course of action may be to bring her brother home to Canada for medical care. She says that travel could amount to $162,000. The family is raising money through a GoFundMe page.

To hear more about David Connelly's story, take a listen to our full interview.


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