In May 2001, Lewis Wheelan survived a massive overdose of electricity.
7,200 volts of it, crackling through his body, leaving his right arm looking like a stick of charcoal, connected to his shoulder by a single thread of muscle.
Lewis lost that arm and shoulder. He lost two legs as well.
But Lewis survived, fighting back with all the dignity of a Sir James Dunn Eagles Ontario Football Champion.
He fought through the pain.
He fought through the humiliation of severe deformity and disability.
And, although we've told you nothing about this until now, Lewis's friends have repeatedly told SooToday.com in recent months about his battles with suicidal depression.
On Friday, Lewis was found dead in his Toronto-area apartment.
In an unspeakable twist of cruel irony, media reports are indicating his death may have resulted from not enough electricity.
Recently bought lot beside his parents' cottage
"He was doing so well, he was finally accepting his new body and making plans to move ahead," Lewis's father Bob Wheelan told the Toronto Star. "That's why his death came as such a surprise."
The Sunday Star's Moira Welsh reports today that Lewis used part of the $500,000 he received in a settlement with Great Lakes Power to buy a lot beside his parents' cottage.
"He was talking with his dad about plans to build his own home on the land," Welsh writes.
The Reuters news service reported this afternoon that Lewis's death is the third in Canada reportedly related to the biggest power blackout in North American history. A fourth death was reported in New York City.
Other revelations from today's Toronto Star:
- Because of the many skin grafts he received after his accident, Lewis's skin was unable to breathe and he needed air conditioning to prevent his body from overheating.
- Paramedics didn't get to Lewis's North York apartment until 3 p.m. Friday.
- The power was still off when they got there.
- They found Lewis alone and dead on his favourite piece of furniture, a black leather couch equipped with cup holders and a reclining chair, from which he loved to watch Edmonton Oilers games.
- Just before the paramedics arrived, Lewis's attendant (paid by WSIB, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, to provide assistance to him) had come to the apartment and found Lewis.
- Lewis's mother Melanie had been trying since early Friday to reach his attendant and other WSIB staff.
- She wasn't able to reach the attendant's cellphone because of the power blackout, which took down many cellular relay stations.
- At 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Melanie left a voice-mail message for Lewis's WSIB caseworker, asking that an immediate check be made on him.
- Melanie also called a WSIB phone number in Thunder Bay, where she was told that Toronto staff could not be contacted, even if there was an emergency.
- Lewis's mom finally got hold of someone from his Toronto church, who went to the apartment, knocked on the door, and got no response. The church member then checked on his van, came back to the apartment, and found that emergency workers had arrived.
- An autopsy done on Saturday revealed no evidence of obvious physical trauma.
- Toxicological testing is being done to determine whether Wheelan might have accidently taken wrong medications in the dark.
- Just one week ago, Lewis had obtained a wheelchair-equipped van.
To read the Toronto Star article, please click here.