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Accident survivor walks 10km to support cancer fighter

Shane Wilkinson with friends on the 10-kilometre walk at the Wellington arena Saturday to raise funds for Abby Heffernan and family.

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
When Shane Wilkinson met PECI student Abigail Heffernan in Kingston General Hospital three years ago, a special bond was cemented. On Saturday, the bond was celebrated.

Wilkinson was in trauma, ICU and two Kidd wards during his long stay and Heffernan was undergoing treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

In an accident at his workplace, his right leg was caught in equipment and shattered. He broke his tibia, lost a big chunk of his calf, and broke bones in his ankle. The accident cut his artery and tendon and he has nerve damage in his foot. He wasn’t expected to survive, but if he did, it was unlikely he would walk again.

Pain is still a constant for Wilkinson, 43, but on Saturday he celebrated the connection he made with young Abby Heffernan, by challenging himself to walk 10km around the Wellington arena track – 49 laps.

Abby Heffernan

Heffernan, now 17, has endured cancer treatments since September 2015, and having completed her latest round of chemotherapy, recently found out her leukemia has returned.

At KGH, Abby, and her mum Lisa, visited Wilkinson regularly.

“They are a nice family and I have known them all for a long time. My mum used to work with a relative and I know a couple of other family members. I used to play ball with a few of them, but the first connection was her coming to visit me in hospital a couple times, and I thought, this poor young lady.” And they became friends.

Fast forward to when Wilkinson heard Abby’s cancer had returned. He wanted to do something for the family and was inspired to do a walk at last year’s Relay for Life event, but had kept it to himself until about 10 days ago, because he wanted to ensure he felt strong enough to be able to complete it.

He has made huge progress in his recovery. At the Relay for Life event last June, he was only able to do a couple of laps, and said he felt disappointed in himself.

Saturday, he was determined, and brought his crutches and boots just in case he needed them.

“I’ll do it no matter what,” he said as he got ready to start the walk with his mum, daughter Taffy, 15, son Jacob, 13 and some friends. “I am feeling pretty good right now.”

And while his main goal was to raise funds for the Heffernan family to use as needed in their next medical journey for a bone marrow transplant at Sick Kids in Toronto, he said the walk was also good for him.

“It’s also a milestone for me to be able to say I can do something again,” he said. “Your mind can sometimes play tricks on you when you are unable to do things and you have to sit around. The walk is a physical challenge, but it’s a mental challenge as well, and I think that’s what a lot of people don’t understand. Mentally, this is good for me and it makes me feel good.”

And now that he has custom shoes and boots and a modified truck, he is ready to move foward.

Supporters tell Wilkinson he is an inspiration, but he shines the light on Abby.

“I think that girl’s inspiring because she motivates me to want to do this walk and to want to better myself because she carries herself so gracefully,” he said. “She is just such an impressive young lady. How could you not want to push yourself when you see what she goes through and how she pushes herself along?”

With donations still coming in, he expects the walk will have raised more than $3,000.

Shane Wilkinson and supporters pose for a photo prior to the start of the walk.

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  1. Teresa says:

    Shane you’ve reminded me how supportive our community can be. By demonstrating your support to Abby you’ve shown us how we can all reach out and support one another, regardless of our own struggles. Nobody knows what the future holds and this is a true reflection of how we can bring healing to ourselves, while helping others, both mentally and physically.

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