August 22, 2014 11:16 am

Family of Chilliwack man badly injured in the US fundraises to pay his air ambulance bill

The family of a Chilliwack man badly injured in the United States while helping to care for his sick sister’s children is hoping to raise enough money to pay for his air ambulance bill.

A few months ago, 29-year-old Jake van Dongen went to New York City to help his sister.

His older sister Charity was in a serious car crash and sustained a brain injury.

She needed help caring for her two children, and Jake went to lend a helping hand.

But on June 27, he decided to take a day off and go to a local lake.

Jake decided to jump into the lake from a low-hanging tree, but landed badly and hit a rock.

He ended up splitting the back of his head and breaking a vertebrae in his neck.

He was immediately paralyzed from his chest down and had to be airlifted to a local hospital.

Jake spent over three weeks in the ISU and had to be flown to Vancouver General Hospital at a cost of $33,000, which his mother took a line of credit to pay down.

Now the family hopes to fundraise to help Jake’s mother cover the cost.

PHOTO: Jake with his sister Amy

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Jake was not insured.

His hospital bill in the US runs into $275,000.

Jake is a recovering meth addict and spent the last eight months before the accident in rehab.

He also has a three-year-old daughter.

PHOTO: Jake with his daughter 

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Jake is in recovery now, but his progress is slow.

But he is now able to talk and is trying to learn how to swallow again.

“There is not a lot of hope of him ever walking again,” says his sister Amy Gray.

But his sisters describe him as a jokester and say he is in good spirits.

“He is very positive. He has accepted it and just trying to move forward,” says his sister Pam van Dongen.

His sisters say having two family tragedies so close together has not been easy.

“It’s been a traumatic five months, to say the least,” says Gray.

To help the van Dongen family raise money for Jake, go here.

PHOTO: Rick Hansen visits Jake in hospital

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