When it comes to communities coming forward to help one another, Kingston is not short on stories — but some stories just take on a new sense of awe due to those involved.
On a fine Sunday afternoon, July 4, 2021, at around 3:30 p.m., Donna-Rose Hill, along with her nephew Oakley, her boyfriend Tyler, her brother Corey, and his girlfriend Morgan, went to Parrots Bay Conservation Area off of Bath Road for a swim in the lake. Hill is a Symes amputee for almost four years, meaning she had a leg amputated through the ankle joint, but she’d never had her prosthetic fall off in the water. However, this time was different.
“I’ve been and done [swimming] many times before with my prosthetic. The boys were at shore, and Morgan and I headed out swimming into the deeper parts. I felt my leg slip off suddenly, and I took a deep breath and tried to dive for it. Right as I was about to get it, I needed a breath, so I had to turn back up, and by that time it was gone,” said Hill.
The prosthetic had either gone too deep, drifted away, or was swept away in the current. Everyone started to look for it, swimming in all directions, but without success. They continued looking for it for about three and a half hours, Hill conveyed.
“My boyfriend even used a boat to float around, and used his fishing magnet to try and find it, since my blade is metal on the foot,” she recalled.
While the search for the prosthetic continued, three very kind strangers offered to help, one of whom — a man whom Hill guesstimated would probably be in his 30s — put forth an immense recovery effort. The man dove really deep to help find it, and the other two strangers, a couple in their kayaks, helped scan the water from above, she explained.
“I didn’t catch their names correctly, but I believe the husband’s name was Bob. They even lent us goggles to help look,” Hill said.
But it didn’t work out, and they abandoned the search. Everyone was very upset, Hill said, and, on top of that, she herself was upset and crying — the very next day was her son’s third birthday and she had plans for that, now made much more difficult due to the lost prosthetic. She was also very worried about the limitations she might face as she parents two children, aged five and three, alone while her boyfriend works full time.
Hill’s family and friends turned to social media looking for ideas and assistance. “After finding the most generous diving team called Explorer Diving [in Kingston], they took it upon themselves to get into their gear and go down. Within maybe half an hour to an hour, they found it! And didn’t even charge me,” Hill explained gratefully.
Explorer Diving Kingston is a diving instructor team that provides professional instruction, from beginner to professional level, and private courses for individuals and groups. And, as fate would have it, the team includes someone who understood what Hill was going through on a different level.
“Sunday, after coming back from a dive at the Marine Museum dry dock, some friends sent me a message about a post about the missing leg. Dan Haslip and myself went to Parrots Bay to see if we could help,” said Chris Haslip, one of the instructors at Explorer Diving Kingston who knew just how important it was to get Hill’s prosthetic back to her.
Dan went into the water while Chris was talking with a lady who was kayaking there at the time and provided directions. Dan was finally able to find the prosthetic, and the two returned it to Hill.
“In the most beautiful turn of events, one of the men who found my leg was also a left leg amputee,” said Hill, her gratitude and awe of the kismet at play evident.
Hill wanted to be sure the team receives the thanks and recognition from the community she feels they deserve after coming to her aid. Having undergone her foot amputation after a severe bone infection resulted in intense pain and inflammation — all caused by an infection after cutting her foot on a zebra mussel — and then losing the prosthetic, Hill maintains a positive spirit… and a great sense of humour.
“The lake took both my real foot, and my fake one!” she joked.
But in all seriousness, Hill underscores the importance of the recovery of her prosthetic.
“The didn’t just give me back a piece of metal and plastic,” she said of Explorer Diving, “they gave me back my life.”
And one of the men on the dive team that gave that back to her understands her sentiments implicitly. “As I have a prosthetic foot, I know how important it is to have mobility. It allows someone to be independent. It was great to be able to use our passion to help someone in need,” said Chris.
What could have been a devastating blow for Hill and her family, turned into a beautiful story of help and kindness from the community, she relayed. Reunited with her prosthetic, Hill was able to celebrate her son’s birthday with full spirits on Monday, Jul. 5, 2021.