Dubreuilville’s Eddy Lefrançois has been bedridden in hospitals for the past two weeks after an indoor skydiving accident left him without use of his arms – it’s just one more item checked off his bucket list.
At 22, Lefrançois was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and his doctor gave him 3-5 years to live.
In April, the now 47 year-old man commemorated 25 years since that diagnosis.
Since then, Lefrançois has been going through his ‘bucket list’ of adventures.
He has travelled to the Swiss Alps, been to see the Edmonton Oilers, World Junior Championship, and NHL Stanley Cup Finals hockey games, conquered the Las Vegas strip, and, as of just a couple weeks ago, been skydiving.
The original plan was to have Lefrançois parachute from a plane but when he was told they couldn't accommodate him because of his disease, his buddies took him to an indoor skydiving location in Oakville.
Lefrançois' ALS has left him a quadriplegic — he can't move his arms or legs — so before the skydiving experience they agreed that if anything went wrong he would start blinking to the flight instructors.
Lefrançois’ condition also means that his arms don’t have any muscle resistance and as soon as he entered the wind tunnel the air current shot his arms straight back and he says within about seven seconds he fractured them both.
He had the vague impression something was wrong so he used the blinking signal but the fractures weren’t discovered until later in the day when the pain got worse and he was pulled in for X-rays.
The incident has left Lefrançois somehow even more immobile than before.
Regularly, Lefrançois is able to maneuver his hand within a two-inch radius to control a computer mouse.
He has now lost that ability and the fractures mean that his helpers can’t lift him in and out of his chair like they used to.
To solve this Lefrançois will soon be getting a mobility lift and he is lined up to get an Eyegaze eye-operated communication and control system which will give him computer access again.
Throughout all this Lefrançois has remained in good spirits, joking and speaking positively about the ordeal.
“Eddy’s like that. He says, ‘If you live in the past you’ll have stress, if you live in the future you’ll have anxiety, so you better live in the present and live your life to the fullest,” said his sister Lise Michaud, who spoke to SooToday on behalf of Lefrançois who was beside her in a phone interview from Toronto General Hospital recently.
Lefrançois' doctors have told him it will take him 3-5 months to heal from the skydiving incident however he is already almost getting in and out of the chair after just a couple of weeks.
“It’s like when he was first diagnosed with ALS, the doctor said three-to-five and he said ‘Yeah right’,” said Michaud.
Lefrançois's personal catchphrase is ‘Let’s Roll’ - the phrase Todd Morgan Beamer uttered on Flight 93 before he and other passengers tried to reclaim the plane from 9-11 terrorists.
On his website, Lefrançois writes that the phrase ‘shows no matter how bad your day may be, someone out there is having a worse day.”
Well, the 'roll' also relates because he's in a wheelchair, he writes.
Lefrançois’ determination, spirit, and joviality are all the more impressive when weighed against his descriptions of what he is going through with ALS.
“It’s like being buried alive. Everyday you are standing in a hole and every day somebody puts a shovel of sand on top of you and it gets heavier and heavier and you can’t move. You see everything, you hear everything, but you can’t move. It’s like you are a prisoner of your body,” said Lefrançois recently to an ALS focus group.
From August 2016 – June 2017 Lefrançois is raising money for ALS awareness with his ‘25 for 25’ campaign.
The goal of the campaign was to raise $25,000 for the 25 years he’s been diagnosed with ALS however he's already accomplished more than that amount and expects to raise well over $30,000 before the campaign ends.
Lefrançois will celebrate the end of that campaign at the Walk for ALS in Sault Ste. Marie on June 3.
If you're wondering what’s next for Lefrançois, well, he still has items left on that bucket list.
The list, publicized on his website, states he wants to meet Stephen Hawking, Oprah, Catherine Middleton Duchess of Cambridge, and Ellen DeGeneres, watch hockey with Wayne Gretzky, go to Ireland, experience Zero-G, scuba dive, and it goes on.
However, his sister said, after the recent incident, physical activities like scuba diving might be out of the question.