Fueling dreams: Cancer survivor, 22, seeks support for wheelchair-accessible van

Fueling dreams: Cancer survivor, 22, seeks support for wheelchair-accessible van

Dez Young may be a dreamer, but his head certainly isn’t in the clouds. He’s calling on the community to help him afford a wheelchair-accessible van.

“Dez has never stopped growing in character. He is strong and resilient, yet human,” said Dez’s mom, Arabella Young, in an interview with CHEK News. “I’m amazed at his compassionate humanity.”

The 22-year-old Sidney man is inspiring others because despite the obstacles in his way, he’s making the most of life.

The University of Victoria student does all his schoolwork from his room — inside Victoria General Hospital, where he’s lived for more than three years.

“Most of the time you’ll find me chillin’ with my IV pole,” laughed Dez. “I also have two feeding tubes to help with nutrition.”

He depends on IV fluids and nutrition that are only available at the hospital.

“My medical issues started when I was four,” recalled Dez.

“I was diagnosed with leukemia, which is a type of childhood cancer. Since then, I’ve had progressive neuro and other health issues. In 2016, I had to start using a wheelchair, full time…” he said outside Vic General.

“Difficult to ask for support”

If Dez wants to finish his degree, he says he needs to attend in-person classes, lectures and labs. However, his power wheelchair won’t fit in his family’s current van, so they’re hoping to buy a new one with enough room.

But it’s just not in the budget.

“It doesn’t have a ramp or extra features. It’s a very standard mini-van. I’m having to bring my manual chair, which has stopped me from being able to go out for any length of time in the community,” said Dez.

“We have a small amount of funds from our family, we will sell our other van. But we also don’t want to adapt an older van, and it would be really unfortunate to have an unreliable vehicle that we’d have to replace soon,” added Arabella.

They’ve got $30,000, but there’s still a ways to go. The new van is listed for $58,000.

Dez was awarded a dream vacation from Help Fill a Dream, but he can’t go, so instead the foundation is donating $10,000 in lieu of a trip. Another $10,000 will come from the sale of the Young family’s current van, and the other $10,000 is out of pocket.

“It’s difficult to ask for support…” said Arabella.

“We’ve never reached out in this way. It’s definitely not a position that you want to be in, having to count on others to give you help…” said Dez. “It’s really important for my discharge to be able to attend those doctors’ appointments, to be able to pick up the IV nutrition, and things like that.”

READ ALSO: Help Fill a Dream assists two Island teens with Disneyland trips

And mom can dream too — that one day, there will be a place for Dez offering supports like at the hospital, but with more space in a long-term care setting.

“I think Dez deserves a living room, maybe a kitchen area. The hospital wasn’t designed for long-term care situations. I don’t think anyone belongs in a small room with a bed for an extended period of time,” she said, “and definitely not at 19, 20, 21.”

“People have transformed my life”

To get things rolling, they’re starting with the van. Through a GoFundMe campaign, another $28,000 is sought to help Dez flourish and pay it forward.

“Dez wants to be a doctor…” said Arabella.

“I want to go into Kinesiology, so from there, I might do medical school… I think something in the medical field is really what I want to do,” explained Dez.

Now he’s thanking the family, friends and medical team by his side, as well as his service dog, Lady, who makes him smile day after day.

“My doctors, nurses. All these kinds of people have transformed my life in so many ways…” said Dez in an interview.

“It’s not Dez alone. This happened to our family, it didn’t happen to Dez. So we deal with this as a family, and we support each other as a family,” added Arabella.

What’s needed now is some community support, to help this proud Vancouver Islander’s dreams come true.

The GoFundMe, which shares more about Dez’s medical history, is here.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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