When he speaks, Giguere wears the work boots he wore the day of the accident, jeans and a work shirt. His “just one of us”
appearance enables him to connect with his audiences.
When his accident happened, Giguere had been married for just six
days. He was due to leave for his honeymoon that very night. But instead
of jetting off on vacation, he was rushed onto a helicopter and flown to
Just after lunch that day, Giguere was in the bottom of a trench with another
labourer, looking at a three-inch drainage line that had just been damaged
by the backhoe.
“It just so happened that the other worker was closest to the truck,
so he climbed out to get a piece of pipe to make the repair. I got down on
my knee to clean out around both sides of the broken pipe, and the trench
caved in on me. I screamed.”
His co-worker heard Giguere cry out and hurried back to see a pile of
dirt where the trench had been moments earlier.
He and the other three men on the work crew had a difficult choice to
make, and they had to make it quickly: use shovels to dig down to Giguere
and perhaps not reach him in time; or use the machine to dig, which could
kill him as well. No one was sure how deep he was buried or where exactly
he had been at the time of the collapse.
In the end, they used the machine to remove about two feet of dirt and
dug by hand from there. It took 10 minutes to reach the buried man. A
sheriff arrived in response to their 911 call and began taking pictures to
document the rescue effort.
“I wasn’t conscious for the 10 minutes; I was maybe conscious for a minute
or a minute and a half,” said Giguere. “Every time I exhaled, the weight
of the dirt pressed on my chest. I couldn’t breathe; I was suffocating and
gasping for air.”
When they pulled him out, Giguere had no pulse and was blue in the
face. The co-worker who had been in the trench with him began CPR and
continued for about 10 minutes until medical personnel arrived.
“I was dead.”
Giguere’s family, including his new wife, his mother and his grandfather
rushed to the hospital.
“When I was working, I never thought about my 70-year-old grandfather
standing beside my hospital bed, pleading for me not to die because he
was supposed to go first,” said Giguere. “I was so focused on getting the job
done that I never thought about it. I never thought I’d later lose my house
or get divorced because of what happened. But after the accident, I had a
lot of time to think about it.”
It was a long road to recovery. There are three areas of Giguere’s brain
where cells started dying due to lack of oxygen; he spent 2.5 years in therapy
working to improve his cognitive skills and counter the debilitating effects
of post-traumatic stress.
To this day, his short-term memory is not always the best and he suffers
back pain. But Giguere says that as bad as the accident was, it was nothing
compared to the aftershocks.
“After the accident happened, my life fell apart in front of my eyes. I was
lucky enough to live; I had broken bones, a punctured lung and cut marks
from the shovel, but those things all healed. But what I did to my family,
42 Think BIG | Quarter 4 2020 | saskheavy.ca