Friends and loved ones are rallying behind a Manitoba health-care worker who was nearly killed in a fatal car crash two weeks ago and remains in hospital with extensive injuries.
While Jenny Belmes is fighting for her life, her spouse said doctors believe she’s unlikely to make a full recovery.
“There’s just so many machines keeping her alive, so many tubes in her body,” her spouse Steven Duong said. “She is fighting and I know that there is a piece of her still in there.”
The 40-year-old health-care aide was driving to a night shift at a care home in Arborg, Man., on Oct. 1 when RCMP said a car driving the other way on Highway 7 crossed the centre line and struck her vehicle around 10 p.m.
The other driver, a 35-year-old male from Carvel, Alta., was pronounced dead at the scene.
“I still think about it every single night,” Duong said. “It’s an extremely long uphill battle to see if there are any chances that pieces of Jenny can come back.”
Belmes was airlifted to hospital in critical condition with a fractured pelvic bone and ribs, brain trauma and injuries to her eyes, legs and chest.
She was intubated and spent nearly a week on a ventilator in a coma. She went through brain surgery, bowel and stomach surgery.
Duong tries to keep her family and friends in the Philippines updated on her status by journaling and updating a website he has called “Jenny’s Recovery.“
While Belmes is now breathing on her own, she’s unresponsive and the full extent of her injuries are still unknown.
“They have told me that she’s going to be here for a very long time,” Duong said. “The muscles have atrophied and she is likely going to lose function in her right arm.”
Call from police
The night of the crash still replays in Duong’s mind.
Belmes would text him when she arrived at work, Duong said. When he hadn’t heard from her by midnight, he knew something was wrong.
After trying to reach her at work, police called and said she’d been in a crash.
“I didn’t know if she was going to be alive or not,” he said.
While Duong has been by her side every day praying Belmes would make a full recovery, he said hope started to fade.
“Every time I fell asleep I dreamed that we could have a normal life again,” he said.
“But … I realized from that one moment on Oct. 1, she lost her chance to have a normal life.”
While Belmes has now started to open one eye, Duong said it’s unclear if she understands where she is or if she remembers what happened.
He said there was a glimmer of hope on the weekend while he sat by her bedside begging her to keep fighting,
“As my head was on the hospital bed, I finally heard the very first thing that she said to me in these past two weeks, and I heard her say, ‘OK,'” he said.
Belmes wanted to help people and had been planning to go to school to become a registered nurse, Duong said.
“I just go back to this one moment where … she might have lost her dream forever,” he said.
“All she wanted to do was help others. That was her personality. That is who she is and now she’s in a place where she can’t even help herself right now.”
Filipino community support
Belmes has been in Winnipeg for the past 12 years after moving to Canada from the Philippines, and has no immediate family in the country.
“She’s so bubbly … just full of laughter and stories and she always tells us about her day and she always ask you how are you,” said Laarni Magboo, who worked with Belmes for two years.
Magboo learned about the crash through a group text message among co-workers.
“We don’t want to see anybody, you know, especially our friend and our family in that condition,” she said.
Magboo set up an online fundraiser to support Belmes’ long recovery.
The account reached its initial goal in less than 24 hours and has now raised more than $45,000.
“It’s just so overwhelming … we were really surprised for the outpouring of support of the community, especially the Filipino community that we didn’t expect,” she said. “I want people to know that Jenny is a very nice, very helpful, especially very supportive with her family and friends.”
Belmes had planned to visit her family in the Philippines next year for the first time since moving to Canada.
While her parents are unable to travel due to health constraints, a portion of the money raised will be used to fly her brother to Winnipeg to be by her side.
“It’s heartbreaking that the first time one of her family members see her is under these condition,” Duong said.
But he says the outpouring of support Belmes has received since the crash proves that her friends and co-workers here are also family.