As a mother, Jacqueline Osborne’s worst nightmare came to life in August of 2012 when her twin sons were brutally beaten, leaving one of them injured and temporarily in a coma.
But now, more than six years later, the Parksville woman is struggling to keep a new nightmare from coming true: she’s fighting to keep one of her sons from ending up on the street.
And it all stems from the brain injury he got while trying to help someone.
“I’m burnt out and we’re out of money. I have no expertise. I’ve done everything and more… to get my family help, and I am so upset,” said Osborne.
In an effort to raise money to keep getting her son the help he needs, she started a GoFundMe page on Dec. 19 of last year. Its goal is to raise $100,000. Since December, the money raised has remained stagnant at $200.
In August of 2012, Colston Charland-Friesen and his twin brother, Chase (age 26), were walking home at night in Winnipeg when a young woman ran up to them. She told the brothers her boyfriend was trying to kill her. They tried to find safety, but there was an altercation and two men, one of them the boyfriend, beat them.
Both twins were hurt, but Colston suffered the worst of it, with a severe head injury and his ear torn off. The twins were taken to hospital, where Colston was put in a medically-induced coma, according to Osborne and newspaper reports.
Ultimately, Colston and his brother Chase survived the beating, but their trials were far from over.
While Chase also continues to deal with the trauma, Colston was left with a brain injury.
A key issue for them is a lack of insurance coverage, said Osborne. If they had been hurt in a car accident, there would be money for their recovery, but there was no coverage for them in this circumstance, leaving Osborne to pay for much of the help they needed to recover, she said.
At first, the family was advancing through recovery, said Osborne, despite struggles with finding support.
But things turned downhill in 2017.
“I sent Colston to Winnipeg a year and a bit ago for the final victim compensation, to close the file… There is very little victim compensation,” said Osborne.
Sent to see a psychiatrist, Colston was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder, Osborne said. He did not receive treatment, she said, and the family member who was meant to accompany and support him did not do so. Living at a boarding house, Colston’s depression got worse.
“Before that… I was caring for him, he was even driving me on occasion, getting on a bus, interacting, wanted a girlfriend, (playing) pickleball… working out. He was… talking about a small, part-time job. And then I sent him to Winnipeg,” Osborne said with a shake of her head.
After Colston returned to the Island in 2018, he and Osborne have been doing their best to navigate the support systems locally. But even those running those systems will tell you there is not enough help for those with acquired brain injuries.
“We have a lot of people who just can’t quite be supported in the limited amount that we offer,” said Alison Gaul, regional program co-ordinator for Island Health’s Brain Injury Program (BIP) during her speech at an acquired brain injury and mental health symposium in Nanaimo last November. She was speaking in general, and not specifically about Colston’s case.
In describing what the program offers, she said, “we rely very heavily on families,” adding that she and her handful of staff know there is more that needs to be done to support those families.
“Services for people with acquired brain injury are piecemeal,” said Kix Citton, executive director of the Nanaimo Brain Injury Society (NBIS) which was one of the hosts of the 2018 symposium. “That’s why we’re here as a community organization, to help people navigate to resources, and unfortunately, in this situation, and many situations, the resources just aren’t there in the community. So we have to piece things together.”
Osborne said she’s been extremely frustrated in trying to get Colston help, noting extremely long waiting lists and other issues. Even while doing what she can to help and learn what he needs, she said she’s been told her son is falling through the cracks of the system, and she worries that, without more help, he’ll end up out on the street.
“That’s the people who you’re seeing camping out here in town. A lot of these people probably had trauma, injuries, which has led to mental health issues, drug abuse, whatever. It’s tragic,” she said.
Recently, two positives have come about: Colston now has a doctor, and Osborne is paying for a support worker, though she said she’s had to borrow funds to pay for him.
Having someone to talk with, go out on walks with, encourage him to get out of the house and try new things has had a major positive impact, said Osborne and A.J. Simons, Colston’s support worker.
Whereas Osborne described how Colston was living in fear of people before, Simons said “he’s definitely thinking more positively.”
Having worked in the industry for years, Simons said there are plenty of people who are having the same kind of troubles Colston and Osborne have.
“There’s a lot of missed patients in this kind of situation,” he said.
Despite the improvements, there is more Colston needs, and Osborne is out of money, she said.
Housing is one thing, she said: though he’s living with her currently, neither plan to live with each other forever.
According to Gaul, there are 18 long-term housing beds (with varying supports) for the entire Island, and few other options. Wait lists are long.
Citton pushed the fact that, out of that 2018 symposium, NBIS, Island Health and other partners are working to improve and increase the supports available to people.
But at this point, Osborne said she’s reached her limit, in terms of her own health, her finances and what she is able to do.
“It’s just very… I just am disappointed in my fellow man,” she said. “I am disappointed in my community. I am disappointed in my government. We are good people. And we all did the right things.”