Taran Lafond promises his friends and supporters he’ll work hard to see everyone again.
If his recovery from a serious head trauma continues to go well, Lafond’s mom, Juliet, hopes she and her son can be home in Vernon by the end of the month.
The Fulton Secondary Grade 11 student and running back on the Maroons’ senior boys football team, was seriously injured in a game in Prince George Sept. 26, and almost died.
After scoring his first-ever touchdown earlier in the game on an eight-yard run, Lafond was hurt on a kickoff late in the game.
“It was a violent hit, and it was the last time Taran was on the field, but he came off the field under his own steam,” said Maroons head coach Mike Scheller.
“He didn’t say anything to anybody. Said he was fine. After the game, he shook hands with the other team, and then I was addressing the team on the field. He was standing at the back and then he collapsed.”
It was Scheller who had to call Juliet, in Vernon, that her son was being taken to Prince George hospital.
“Usually after a road game, Taran would call me on his cell phone to let me know how things went,” said Juliet, a single mom.
Lafond’s head trauma was severe enough that it couldn’t be cared for in Prince George. He was flown to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, and Juliet was told to meet her son there.
Juliet recruited her mother, who also lives in Vernon, to make the trip with her. Due to fog in Prince George, the plane couldn’t take off, so Juliet arrived at the hospital before her son did.
“Doctors kept phoning me on the road and updating me on his condition,” said Juliet, who drove to the Lower Mainland. “My mom was such a trooper. I was glad she was with me. There was a lot of talking and a lot of crying.”
Nearly 12 hours later, Lafond was flown to Vancouver and driven to Children’s Hospital. Cat scans were taken, consultations were done with Juliet, all within a half-hour of arriving at hospital, and Lafond was then taken into surgery.
“They (medical team) were spectacular,” said Juliet. “They knew it was a life-and-death situation.”
After nearly two weeks at Children’s Hospital, Lafond was transferred to Sunnyhill Hospital in Vancouver, where he finally woke up after the injury and surgery.
Lafond and his mom are now living in a Vancouver hotel and returning to Sunnyhill daily as Taran is an outpatient.
“He’s doing really well,” said Juliet, who has been by her son’s side every day since the injury. “He’s still coming here everyday, still has full days of therapy. He’s really working hard, coming along and doing better everyday.
“We hope to be back at the end of November but it goes week by week and we see how things are going. We know we’re in the best of hands here, trying to get a good start toward recovering.”
The injury, at the time, cost Lafond the vision in his left eye, though Juliet said it has returned but is blurry. It also, unfortunately, took away some of Lafond’s memory. He has no recollection of things from about a week before the injury until after he woke up in Sunnyhill.
“He won’t ever remember the first touchdown he ever scored,” said Juliet.
Helping boost Lafond’s spirits, though, are visits from family and guests.
Lafond’s dad came for a week from his home in Alberta, Juliet’s sister ventured from Saskatchewan, and Juliet’s oldest daughter stayed for awhile.
Lafond also had a visit from Scheller over Thanksgiving. He brought Lafond’s home and away jerseys to hang in his hospital room, with the road jersey signed by his teammates.
“Taran’s a great kid,” said Scheller. “He’s always happy, always ready to play, always at practice, and he was getting better as a player every game.”
One of the jerseys accompanied the Lafonds to B.C. Place and a B.C. Lions game with tickets courtesy of former Lions great Angus Reid, who sat with the Lafonds.
Lafond also enjoyed a visit from family friends Ken and Holli Liefke, whose son, Tyler, is one of Lafond’s closest buddies.
The Liefkes have started a fundraising page on gofundme.com (Carin’ For Taran) to help with Juliet’s expenses and Taran’s recovery. As of Thursday, a total of $3,635 had been donated.
“That’s amazing,” said Juliet. “I can’t believe Holli did that. “I’m overwhelmed. Even Taran said ‘I didn’t think that many people cared about me, mom.’ That almost made me cry.”
Taran himself was able to write on the Go Fund Me page to express his appreciation.
“Thank you everyone so much for helping me so greatly,” wrote Taran. “You are such great people and this money will make my recovery so much better and easier, and take stress off my mom financially…
“I truly love you all for being there for my greatest need. And for those who can’t (donate), prayers work just as well.”
You can donate at gofundme.com, or an account for the Lafonds has also been established at VantageOne Credit Union.
To make a donation at any VantageOne location, quote account No. 942656.