Dan McLean loved the job of a respiratory therapist at the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, BC, but his ten-year career was derailed by a hunting accident that left a bullet in his spine.
McLean, 52, has been learning to live his new paraplegic life for the past two years, and thanks to a documentary, he has been able to learn from other men who also have spinal cord injuries and mobility problems.
“I’m good friends with all the kids and it’s good. It’s like another family,” she told CBC Shelley Joyce of Accessible Okanagan, a support group she co-wrote during the making of the award-winning documentary Wheel reinvention.
Directed by Kelowna-based director Ryan Tebbutt, it won Best Documentary for Best Feature Documentary at the Toronto Independent Film Awards and at the Chelsea Film Festival in New York last year and at the Rhine International Film Festival at the Rhine International Film Festival.
CLOCKS Trailer of Re-inventing the Wheel
Tebbutt says that in 2019 he initially wanted to focus the film only on Accessible Okanagan members and McLean’s addition to the film was a complete coincidence.
“We had already received funding to make the film,” he told CBC Dawn of Kamloops. “And then we heard about a brand new injury that happened in the community – and that was Dan.”
“We called Dan two or three months after the injury. He had no idea who you were and we said, ‘Hi, we’m some Kelowna filmmakers and we’re hoping to make a documentary,'” Tebbutt said. And in fact we are somewhat shocked. But he did it! “
McLean says he felt uncomfortable at first when he was part of a movie, but decided to give it a try.
“It was not something I was comfortable with, but it’s all – like since the accident was in a wheelchair – it was just another thing I had to do,” he said.
“There [are] So many things in my life at that time I felt uncomfortable, and this is just another … I was just like, “Why not?” “
In the documentary, McLean says that he used to consider himself self-sufficient and did not need help from anyone.
But he gained a new perspective after spending time with the support team.
“I learned a lot from these guys. I could only learn things by talking to them in a matter of seconds. It would take me years to figure it out,” McLean said. “No matter how I get the chair in my car now, it’s still a skill I’m working on, but they could have given me different indicators.”
Stu Wymer, a Kamloops boiler manufacturer who became quadriplegic in a car accident in 2007, joined the Accessible Okanagan nine years ago. He says that sometimes it is difficult to solve problems on your own.
“You have to think outside the box to do some of these things,” Wymer, 44, told Joyce. “Ask someone, and there [are] three different ways to skin the same cat “.
Wymer says he lives with nervous breakdowns, but still has an active life. He has been playing wheelchair rugby for 13 years and recently purchased a school bus to transport fellow wheelchair users.
He says he will not call himself a leader for the disabled community.
“I’m just trying to set an example, to let them know you can do it. Do not put obstacles in front of him,” he said.
And Wymer says he will not even call himself an actor.
“It’s the best place for it [the documentary] “It’s that they were arrested in real life – we did not have to do it again,” he said. “Take it or leave it – they are us and that is what makes us who we are.”
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