Liam Stackwood has seen more traumatic things in the past two decades than most people have in their entire life.
Working as a military policeman in cities around Canada, including Victoria, Liam was often first on the scene of horrific crashes and accidents on a daily basis.
One crash was particularly traumatizing for Liam, where he was first on scene when three teenagers had been in a car accident and were thrown from the vehicle.
“That one stayed with him for a long time,” said his wife, Lisa.
To ease the pain, Liam and his colleagues would go to the local bar and drink.
Shortly after, the nightmares and blackouts began.
In one incident, while eating at a restaurant, Lisa crossed her legs, knocking the table accidentally, making a noise so loud it was similar to that of a car crash. Liam stood up and flipped the table over yelling “what’s going on, I can’t control this!”
“He just went straight back to his accident scene,” Lisa said. “When he came back, he didn’t understand why everyone was staring at him.”
That was the beginning of the duo’s troubles.
In 2007, Liam was diagnosed with cancer, at which point he also found out his heart was too weak to receive chemotherapy. Seven years later, his heart deteriorated and he was sent to the Lower Mainland to receive a heart transplant.
Initially, Lisa stayed in a hotel for three weeks at a cost of $3,000 — something they could not afford to continue paying.
That’s when the couple went to the Honour House Society in New Westminster for help. The non-profit society provides a temporary home for people in the Canadian Forces, veterans, emergency services personnel and their families while they receive medical care.
It provided Liam and Lisa with a place to stay during the year-long recovery after the heart transplant — while other accommodations would have cost them an estimated $90,000. It is also where Liam was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“That would have broke us financially. There’s no way we would have been able to pay that,” said the now 58-year-old Victoria resident, adding the staff at Honour House made the transplant recovery easier as well.
“Honour House is so calming. I knew I was just going to get better. Whereas when I stayed in a hotel, I was immediately triggered and couldn’t sleep.”
Now, Liam is cancer free, learning how to deal with his new heart and continuing to receive treatment for PTSD.
The Honour House Society recently kicked off the Tour of Honour in Victoria, a 10-week tour to raise awareness of PTSD in 38 communities around the province. For more information visit honourhouse.ca.