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Courage To Come Back: Physical Rehabilitation award recipient give others wings

Last Updated Jun 1, 2021 at 5:09 am PDT

A fiery car crash in 2009 left Lester Wong with burns to one-third of his upper body. Today, he's an inspiration to others. Wong is the 2021 recipient of the Courage To Come Back award in the Physical Rehabilitation category. (Courtesy Coast Mental Health)

Lester Wong, who suffered burns to one-third of his upper body, is an inspiration to others

Wong is the 2021 Coast Mental Health Courage To Come Back award recipient in the Physical Rehabilitation category

Wong mentors others and is a counselor, as well as a flight instructor

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A fiery car crash left him with burns to one-third of his upper body. Today, he is an inspiration to others. Our series on the Coast Mental Health Courage To Come Back Awards continues with a look at Lester Wong, the 2021 recipient in the Physical Rehabilitation category.

It was early Christmas morning, 2009. Lester was on the road, on his way to see family, and then the crash happened.

“There was a lot of frost on the ground and then I lost control and hit a rock wall,” he recalls. “The engine bay caught fire and then the flames came through the windshield, I was told, and I was severely burned. Thirty-three per cent of my upper body was severely burned.”

The next thing he knew, he woke up in the hospital.

“[My] first memory was when I first woke and my family was there and I was very confused because I don’t know where am I, what’s going on.”

Still, Lester considers himself lucky.

“Somebody was actually driving behind me and I think they called the fire rescue and ambulance,” he explains. “It was actually really close by in Burnaby, the fire station and the hospital, and then they were able to come and rescue me very quickly.”

His initial injuries were so severe, he was placed in an induced coma for a month and wrapped like a mummy from head to toe. Months and of rehab and surgeries would follow, as the flames burned off everything, from his ears to his fingertips. But Lester would not be deterred.

“For me, I remember just making small goals, and just do what you need to do in the hospital and once you’re done, then you’re going to finally move on and accomplish those small goals.”

He says his military training got him through those tough times.

“A lot of it was, like, ‘don’t ask, just do it.’ So, I kind of follow that rule. Anything they wanted me to do, yeah, just do it.”

Today, he is mentor to others, appearing at the BC Professional Firefighters Burn Camp as a counselor and a mentor. He also completed his pilot training and is now a flight instructor.

“For me it was to show them that even though you got injured, that you’re able to still do the things that you love.”

Lester is as an example of what you can do when you have the courage to come back.

“Just never give up. And if something needs to be done, just keeping doing it and even if you fail just keep doing it again.”

NEWS 1130 is a proud sponsor of the Coast Mental Health Courage To Come Back Awards, which raises critical funds for people living with mental illness right here in B.C. You can make a difference by donating today. Visit couragetocomeback.ca to learn more.

Watch the full show below: