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Father speaks on how his son was robbed of everything by drunk driver

Brian Duffenais tells his son Colby’s story at a MADD Candlelight Vigil of Hope and Remembrance in Stephenville on Thursday evening.
Brian Duffenais tells his son Colby’s story at a MADD Candlelight Vigil of Hope and Remembrance in Stephenville on Thursday evening.

STEPHENVILLE, N.L. — Four hundred and eighty-six days.

That’s the amount of time, up to Thursday evening, that has lapsed since Brian Duffenais’s son Colby was struck by a quad driven by a 16-year-old who had been drinking.

He never wanted to draw attention or put Colby in the limelight, but said if sharing his story stops even one person from driving while under the influence, then maybe another family won’t have to endure what his has.

Duffenais said it’s been tough dealing with the catastrophic, life-changing events of the early morning of Dec. 26, 2015.

He remembers vividly a knock on his door at 2:30 a.m. when he was told by a neighbor Colby had been in a bad accident. The neighbour wasn’t sure if Colby was dead or alive.

He arrived on the scene moments later to see his son on the road in a pool of his own blood, gasping for air.

After the ambulance arrived and the paramedics had placed Colby safely on the backboard, he helped to put him on the stretcher and place him in the ambulance.

“As I watched the ambulance speed off with Colby in the back, clinging to life, I prayed to God to protect my son and let him live,” he said.

He said while they were trying to save Colby’s life, the driver of the quad was trying to push his quad out of the ditch to escape and when he couldn’t he ran and hid like a coward until the police said they were getting the dogs.

Duffenais described how physically and emotionally sick he was as he waited at the hospital in Stephenville while doctors and nurses worked on his son.

Colby was taken to the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s and doctors weren’t giving him much of a chance of surviving.

He left the doctor’s office and went to see Colby. As he stood by him, he kept telling himself, “I can’t lose you, I won’t lose you” and begged God to take him instead.

Colby had sustained multiple injuries, a compound fracture in which both bones in his right leg were broken, a smashed right eye socket and right cheek, a broken jaw, multiple contusions on his lungs, a fractured pelvic bone, and polytrauma to his brain.

“It was touch and go for 72 hours and the most traumatic (time) of my life,” Duffenais said.   

On Dec. 28, the news he received was bleak. Colby’s injuries were catastrophic. Doctors suggested it would be easier if Duffenais would just pull the plug.

“Through the tears I told (the doctor) that I wanted Colby to live no matter the outcome … I just wanted my son to live,” he said.  

After 110 days at the Health Sciences Centre, the Traumatic Brain Injury Team said Colby hadn’t made any significant progress and he was being transferred to Corner Brook, where he was for 40 days before being transferred to Stephenville for 294 days. He is now at home with family.

“Everyone had given up on him right from Day 1 and that’s why I had to fight tooth and nail for Colby … if I didn’t then who would?” Duffenais asked.

He said Colby, who is now 21, had a lot going for him and was full of dreams and expectations.

“Things didn’t turn out the way I imagined they would, thanks to a drunk driver,” Duffenais said.

He said the doctors agree Colby’s prognosis will change very little, if at all. He will remain the way he is today with a feeding tube, bedridden, wheelchair-bound, unable to speak, and unable to care for himself.

“It’s painful to think how the selfish actions of someone else could destroy your future in a blink of an eye,” Duffenais said.

He said the drunk driver took away Colby’s freedom, his dignity, his dreams and his quality of life.

“The drunk driver gets to live his life; he gets to do all of the things he took away from Colby,” he said.

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Brian Duffenais places a lit candle on the table in honour of his son Colby.

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