Ken Hildebrand’s journey is one long enough to fill a book. But he worries no one would believe the tales he has to tell.
The Crowsnest Pass, Alta. man has been through a polio diagnosis and subsequent medical distress, family tragedies and a harrowing accident that left him without a leg that was featured in the popular TV series ‘I Shouldn’t Be Alive’.
Now Hildebrand is in need of a new prosthesis in order to keep walking, volunteering and doing what he loves. His friends and family have started a GoFundMe page in an effort to garner funds for the costly device.
The ATV Accident
On Jan. 8, 2008, Hildebrand was on his quad in the remote Alberta wilderness. His passion for wildlife sustainability was what enticed him into the world of trapping.
That day, his all-terrain vehicle malfunctioned, knocking Hildebrand off the quad. It landed on top of him, pinning him down at the legs.
“The rim of the tire had cut into my calf muscle and stopped the blood flow,” he said.
Hildebrand says it was his experience as a paramedic as well as his faith that gave him the will to live.
“I used to teach wilderness first aid and survival,” he explained. “Because I worked on an ambulance and everything, I knew all the signs and symptoms of what was happening to my body.
“I knew if I would have went to sleep, I would have died of hypothermia. So I stayed awake for 72 hours under the quad.”
By some miracle, he was found by a man and his dog exactly three days after the accident.
“The gentleman that found me, he said that he had these ideas or these dreams that he needed to take his dog for a walk up in Bob’s Creek,” he said.
“Now who drives 60 miles to take their dog for a walk?”
“I thought I was hallucinating when I (saw) the dog,” he admitted.
Three months after the accident, Hildebrand was using a prosthetic leg. His right leg had been amputated three times after gangrene set in.
His left leg was already severely damaged due to polio, with which he was diagnosed as an infant.
A New Leg for Ken
Hildrebrand’s prothesis is past its lifespan and no longer works properly. Paired with his worsening left leg, walking is becoming increasingly difficult.
“Everybody’s worried about him. We see him falling all the time,” said Hildebrand’s daughter, Lori Kronyk who lives in Kelowna, B.C. “It really is just a matter of time before he breaks something.”
Deborah Hinter, who has known Hildebrand for the last ten years through the Alberta Trappers Association decided to start a GoFundMe page for Ken.
“He needs this leg and I believe 100 per cent that this is going to make a big difference in his life,” Hinter said.
“If there’s anyone that deserves this, I really believe he does. He has demonstrated through all of his volunteer work he cares for other people, he reaches out for other people.”
After provincial health coverage is factored in, the cost of the prosthesis will be around $79,500. Kronyk says they have reached out to War Amps seeking help, but aren’t sure if or when that funding would be available.
As of Friday afternoon, the page had raised around $8,500.
“If he doesn’t get this leg he’s going to end up in a wheelchair,” she said. “He’s not a person that will typically ask for that kind of help.”
Hildebrand says he is “really humbled” by the support for the GoFundMe page, and with uncertainty still ahead he continues to look on the bright side.
“Every time when you wake up in the morning you have choice: you can make it a good day or a bad day. No matter what happens in that day, you can always find something good.”
Hildebrand has lived in the same house for the last 50 years, where he raised his four children and nine foster children with his wife, Lillian until she passed away in 2015.
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