Since immigrating from South Africa 12 years ago, Victoria has been my home. I became a police officer with the Saanich Police Department approximately ten years ago, and I have loved my job ever since.
But just over four months ago, my life changed forever. On June 28, 2022, I was working in Victoria, operating on the Tactical Unit for the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team, when I responded to a bank robbery and hostage-taking incident.
When I arrived at the scene, two armed suspects confronted my fellow police officers and I with semi-automatic rifles, and a gun battle ensued. I was struck by two bullets—one striking and shattering my upper femur, while another ripped through my abdomen. I immediately thought of my two kids, Eli and Ella, who are ten and eight years old. I couldn’t believe I had been shot. As my team worked to stabilize me at the scene, I didn’t know if I was going to survive, and I worried about what would happen to my kids if I didn’t.
I was stabilized for transport to Victoria General Hospital (VGH), where I spent a week and a half in a medically-induced coma while surgeons worked to save my life. I required vascular reconstruction and a metal rod inserted into my femur for stabilization. I also had a partial gastrectomy in which part of my stomach was removed as a result of the bullet that tore through my stomach and liver. When I woke up, I immediately thought of my kids. I just wanted to see them.
My kids were able to visit a few days later, and I told my son Eli that I was going to have a lot of time off for us to cuddle on the couch and watch movies together. Little did I know that I would spend the next eight weeks in the Trauma Unit at VGH, recovering and receiving a high level of care.
During those weeks, I was closely monitored by my surgeon, Dr. Dennis Kim, Medical Director of Trauma Services at Island Health, and his team of nurses, a dietician, as well as an infectious disease team. I went through multiple CT scans, ultrasound intervention, and nuclear imaging to monitor my liver, which was leaking bile. Every day, my medical team collected blood samples that were analyzed, assisting my care team with the information they needed to take the best care of me.
My daughter’s birthday was on September 2, and it was emotional for me to accept that I would still be in the hospital instead of celebrating with her at home. We decided to have a party in my hospital room with presents and balloons. Before everyone arrived, I learned that I was going to be discharged on September 7. When the kids were at my bedside, I told them that Dad had a present for both of them, and shared the news: I was coming home. Eli immediately started to cry, and Ella was so excited.
I was in the hospital for 71 days. On the morning of my discharge, Dr. Kim and the nurses who had worked so closely with me came to say goodbye. I’d spent so much time building relationships with them, and there were so many emotional words of thankfulness. I really can’t speak highly enough of my care team. They were all so invested in my recovery and encouraged me through every challenge. Special relationships were built, and I know they will last a lifetime.
I got into my wheelchair and saw that everyone on the hospital floor had lined the hallway to the elevator. They all clapped and cheered me on, and it was such a special moment. They nursed me back to health, and it was truly a win for all of us.
I really wanted to walk out of the hospital. Even though I couldn’t walk on my own without a walker, I still wanted to be on my own two feet and walk out those doors. I arrived at the hospital broken and almost didn’t make it, but I am proud to say I walked out alive, healthy, and ready to come back full-strength. It was a statement to that day when I was shot. When I walked out those hospital doors, there were close to a hundred people cheering me on. Holding back tears was a job in itself.
Before this incident, I had no idea the Victoria Hospitals Foundation existed. And when I learned that I had an opportunity to share my story as a way to support the hospitals and caregivers who took such incredible care of me, I was honoured for this chance to give back and be involved as much as I could.
During my treatment, I benefited from countless pieces of equipment and resources from all areas of the hospital. I didn’t know that 40% of this equipment is funded by generous donors in our community, and nothing would make me happier than knowing that the caregivers who supported me are being supported by caring people like you this holiday season.
—Constable Damian Pellew, grateful patient
Damian spent 71 days at Victoria General Hospital, where he touched many different pieces of equipment within multiple areas of care.
This holiday season, you can honour the care teams who cared for Damian by helping to fund the equipment on their wish list.