By Paula J. Owen CORRESPONDENT
Posted May. 8, 2008 at 6:00 AM
Mark J. Boucher, 33, doesn’t remember fighting to stay alive for the last month after nearly drowning while kayaking in New Hampshire.He said he just wants to go home with his fiancée, watch a movie and hug his dog, Mr. Milo.“I remember waking up and wondering what happened to a month of my life,” he said. “I don’t recall much of anything. I woke up and just wanted to go home and pet my dog and watch a movie or something.”He said he would watch “Jacob’s Ladder,” starring Tim Robbins. “The main character is in a similar situation, where he wakes up and finds himself in a sort of odd situation missing time, and he has to figure out the riddle,” he explained. “I feel that way at times.”
Mr. Boucher said he was on medication and so heavily sedated during the weeks after the April 6 incident that he felt as though he was unconscious, yet his fiancée, Lisa Teong, said he was awake for the entire ordeal. He said he does not remember the week before the accident, nor does he remember heading to the Ashuelot River in Keene, N.H., to kayak with his friends that Sunday, nor getting too close to the waterfalls by the dam with his kayak.He said he also cannot remember struggling to get out of the turbulent current before going unconscious, being taken by ambulance to Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, being flown by helicopter to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., or three weeks of lying in a hospital bed in critical condition while doctors worked to save his life.“I woke up three weeks after I went in the water and don’t remember a week before I went in,” he said. “There is about a month blank there.”
On a Web site that his fiancée updates almost daily, she wrote last week:“ He likes to hear the story of what happened to him since he can’t remember it himself. He wishes he were conscious for the helicopter ride. He says, ‘It would have been bad (expletive)!’ Maybe one of the DART guys can get us a hat!”Ms. Teong begins many of her updates on the site with, “Mark is so amazing!”Mr. Boucher said his fiancée has been a “spiritual pillar” and never left his side while he was in the hospital.He said he refuses to change the wedding date, which was set before the accident. The two plan to marry in August.
Since Sunday, Mr. Boucher has been undergoing rehabilitation at the Fairlawn Rehabilitation Hospital and Outpatient Center in Worcester. He said he is looking forward to going home and getting back to his work as a painter at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester.“I am itching to return to my old life again,” he said. “Even going to work, believe it or not, when they say I am ready for it. The abnormality of routine is hard. I can’t wait to jump back into normalcy.” He said he is still waiting for a discharge date, but is hoping the doctors will let him leave for a few hours on Saturday to attend a benefit his friends at the college are holding for him.
Mr. Boucher is still a little tired and sore, he said, but full recovery is expected. He is working on sharpening his mind through logic puzzles and math problems, he said, and toning his body to build up his stamina and endurance. He will continue with outpatient rehabilitation after his discharge, he said.
A positive of being in the hospital for over a month is that he quit smoking, his second time kicking the habit.“I smoked for 10 years and quit, and then went back,” he said. “I quit when I drowned; I haven’t gone back. It was easier to quit this time.”
Mr. Boucher said the woods were his playground growing up and he loves the outdoors. He said he will definitely go kayaking again.“I wasn’t being careless; it was just a dumb mistake that almost cost me my life,” he said. He credits “dumb luck” for being on the Ashuelot River that day, instead of one deeper in the woods as the group had planned, with less access and fewer people to step in and help. “I’d love to go on the Ashuelot River again,” he said. “I don’t even remember it. I have to go back on it.”
Mr. Boucher said it is important to him to thank his family and friends and everyone who has helped him and prayed for him. He said he would also like to thank all of the professionals who kept him alive at Cheshire and Dartmouth-Hitchcock hospitals. He gives a special thanks to bystander Victoria Provost from New Hampshire for calling 911 that day.
The benefit for Mr. Boucher is from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Crossroads Pub at the Holy Cross Campus. Tickets are $25. For more information, visit www.markjboucher.info or call Bruce Myotte at (508) 793-2452 or Michael Graves at (508) 793-2504.