TLC executive, wife injured in car crash near Coombs

A long-time union leader who became an executive with The Land Conservancy of B.C. is in Victoria General Hospital recovering from several fractured vertebrae while his wife recuperates from internal injuries suffered in a single-vehicle crash.

John Shields, TLC director of operations, and Robin June Hood, a community educator, were hospitalized after their SUV crossed the centre line, plunged into a ditch and hit a tree on Highway 4 near Coombs on Sept. 12. The couple were heading to Victoria from Tofino on TLC business.

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The couple crawled out of the vehicle. “It smelled like it was going to blow up,” recalled Hood, who was sleeping in the back seat.

“I feel terrible,” the 62-year-old said with a smile from her hospital bed on Saturday. “I have trouble breathing because my ribs have been broken. [But] we’re totally delighted to be alive.”

Shields, 76, said he suffered what may have been a heart irregularity. His last thoughts after the car careened off the road were that he might be paralyzed. “My left leg was killing me and I couldn’t move it,” he recalled.

The couple were taken to hospital in Nanaimo, then transferred to Victoria General Hospital.

He was able to walk within two days of the crash with the help of a clamshell brace, but he spends most of his time keeping still in his hospital bed on doctors’ orders.

Still, he manages to make his way to Hood’s floor for visits, with Saturday night’s “date” expected to involve talking about the need for temporary digs without stairs once they get out of hospital.

Hood called their survival a miracle, and Shields, a former Catholic priest, suggested the universe was signalling “there’s something more I have to do.”

Both are relieved that no other people or vehicles were involved in the crash and grateful that off-duty first responders happened to be following them on the highway.

As a result, Hood said, an ambulance with spine boards arrived in about four minutes. Not only that, a firefighter took their cairn terrier, Diego, to a Qualicum Beach veterinarian, who performed surgery on the 10-year-old pet, kept him a couple of nights and refused to accept payment.

Hood has large blackish bruises, suffers from “a huge hematoma” affecting her internal organs and nearly lost her spleen. She said she’s in more pain than her husband, but his condition is more serious.

Shields came on board with the TLC in August 2013 when the organization went into creditor protection and has been instrumental in efforts to reduce the organization’s debt load. Board chairwoman Briony Penn is expected to fill in for Shields.

He is emeritus president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, having served as president for 14 years. A union spokeswoman said Saturday that members are wishing the couple well in their recovery.

“We’re going to be 100 per cent fine,” Hood said.

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