Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
MINNEDOSA — Mark Olenick dived into the shallow water in his flooded basement to escape the inferno that suddenly engulfed the room.
On Thursday, the 36-year-old concrete finisher rested on a couch in his parents’ basement as he recounted the harrowing ordeal that sent him to Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg June 29 with first-, second- and third-degree burns over 40 per cent his body.
Like many others in the flood-stricken community, he and his wife Cherisse had been struggling to keep water from overtaking their home.
"We spent all day monitoring and sandbagging as much as we could and pumping the basement out," Mark said as Cherisse and her sister Stephanie Shaw sat nearby.
With the nearby river flowing over its bank, they had packed up as many of their cherished belongings as they could and had taken them to his parents’ home just up the street.
Cherisse and their son Dane, 13, had taken away the last load while he stayed behind to make sure the sump pumps were working before he joined them that evening.
One of the pumps wasn’t working properly, so he went downstairs to clear away some of the debris from the screen.
"When I dropped it back in the water, there was just an explosion," Mark said. "Then this fireball hit me."
One of the pumps had apparently sparked, igniting something that set off the explosion — what that something was Mark still isn’t sure.
He dived into about 25 centimetres of water that had seeped into the basement to escape the flames as best he could. When the danger had passed, Mark climbed back up the stairs, but the explosion had blown the door shut and he was forced to crawl out a nearby window.
"By that point, I’m in shock," he said.
Mark managed to walk to his parents’ home a couple of blocks away uphill, where 911 was called and he was rushed to Minnedosa Health Centre.
The STARS air ambulance was unable to get out, and instead Mark was sent by ambulance to Health Sciences Centre where he spent three weeks being treated for his burns, returning home on Monday.
"I stayed by his side the whole time," said Cherisse, who was able to stay at a friend’s place in Winnipeg when she wasn’t at the hospital.
Staff at the hospital were amazed at how quickly Mark’s burns began to heal, Cherisse said.
It went from needing skin grafts and spending several weeks in hospital to being sent home to recover, Mark said.
He still has to go back to HSC on Monday to get checked out. They’re not sure yet how often he will have to return to Winnipeg.
In the meantime, Mark can’t go back to work until he heals more completely.
Knowing they faced hardships making ends meet and trying to get their home back in livable condition, Cherisse’s sister, Stephanie, set up a GoFundMe page July 4.
As of Friday, it had raised just over $10,000.
"I didn’t think it would come in that quickly," said Stephanie, who had set a fundraising goal of $10,000. "I was shocked and very happy about that."
So were Mark and Cherisse.
"Just this whole community, it makes you really proud to be in a community like that," said Cherisse who, like her husband, grew up in Minnedosa. "It really warms your heart, that’s for sure."
"I just want to take a moment to thank everyone for all their support, and all the prayers and wishes and cards; all the people that reached out to the family," he said. "People really can be amazing to each other, sometimes."
While lying in his hospital bed in the burn unit, Mark said, he could almost feel the love and support that was out there for his recovery.
"It makes you not have a choice," he said. "You gotta get better."
The link to the GoFundMe page is https://www.gofundme.com/f/mark-olenick-medical-medical-relief-fund.
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