The Shadows Within

Last modified on September 28th, 2013

Nearly one year ago today, four guys that I had never met before decided it would be a good idea to put my face through the plate glass window of a 7-11. Prior to that one moment in time, now forever etched into my memory, I was upstairs at the Railway Club in Vancouver, enjoying a few beers with some friends in celebration of their wedding earlier that night. Upon exiting the building, somewhere between catching a cab and eating a bag of nachos, I overheard these four guys harassing a bunch of girls just a few feet away from me.

People have told me after the fact that perhaps I should have just kept my mouth shut, hailed a cab, and gone home. But instead, because I thought it was the right thing to do, I suggested to the group that perhaps everyone had had too much to drink, and that everyone should just call it a night and go home.

Moment’s later I found myself fending off punches from the group of guys, not even really realizing what was happening. I don’t really remember what happened next, or what transpired during my encounter with the glass, but I do remember suddenly being on the ground, surrounded by broken shards of window and a bunch of my own blood. Having never been in a fight, I struggled to comprehend what had just happened, and what I was to do next. Where I’m from, you don’t typically four on one a guy, and when the guy is down you sure as hell leave him alone. So you can imagine my surprise when, seemingly out of nowhere, one of the guys planted a soccer kick directly into the side of my face, the force of which knocked my head sideways into the brick wall of the 7-11.

Shortly afterwards, the group of guys bolted from the scene, along with the girls I had attempted to protect. To this day, despite the police’s “best” effort as well as my own, I have no idea what happened to any of them.

I was helped off the ground by a few university students who happened to watch it all go down, and was told by them that my face was cut and I was dripping a lot of blood. As they walked me slowly to the curb, the only thing I could think to do at the time was to attempt a painful smile and jokingly ask them, “did I win?”

Vancouver Assault

I ended up with lacerations to my face and my scalp, both of which had to be closed with stitches. The kick to the face ultimately caused disruption of the infra-orbital nerve in my face, and five bone fractures (three of which dislocated my cheekbone, one which destroyed the orbital floor of my left eye along with part of the medial wall against my nose, as well as a slight displacement of the sphenoid bone resting against my brain).

When the doctor approached me and said they were going to prepare the OR for emergency surgery to put my cheekbone back in the correct position, I decided it was time to call home and wake my family. Later that day, when my five year old nephew was told what happend, he looked at up at my sister with teary eyes and asked “mom, why would someone want to hurt uncle Duane?”

I wish I knew buddy.

A year has now passed, and not a day goes by where I don’t think about that night, or the ramifications of it. Since then, I have undergone two rounds of plastic surgery on my eye socket, and now have a 4cm x 4cm plastic sheet implanted in my skull. I often think of those guys, wondering if to them I’m a big joke: the punchline of some story centered around violence, a tale that’s told during nights of drinking and accompanied by a few high fives amongst friends. Some days I wonder if one day, when life catches up to them, if they’ll ever stop and think about what happened, wonder where I ended up, and ultimately, if I was ok.

To say that this last year was difficult on me would be an understatement. It has been both an emotional and a physical rollercoaster ride, filled with hope, tears, frustration and uncertainty. I was forced, many a time, to lean on friends and family when the weight of it all became far too heavy for me to bear alone, and for those that were around, I am forever grateful.

I would love to say that after everything I have found myself healed on the inside, but that would not be entirely true. For I do not think I will ever be the same inside, nor I think would I want to be entirely. For while this year was difficult, is it through the entire experience that I have gained a new appreciation for life, and for the people I am fortunate enough to share mine with.

Broken Cheekbone

Me, one year later

I wanted to post this entry, not to draw attention to myself or what I have been through, but so that others might someday stumble upon this and realize that there are others who have been through something similar, and that I at least recognize what it ultimately does to your life. At least for me, I have moved on, and thankfully my physical scars are small. I count myself extremely lucky, since there are those who end up far worse, and those who, unfortunately, don’t walk away from this type of thing at all.

My email address is available on the contact page. Feel free to email me about this if anyone wants to talk.