Helen Nikal (far left) and some of the torch bearers in Prince George on Oct. 3.

Woman in recovery selected as torch bearer in relay

On March 2, Helen Nikal’s world was turned upside down.

On March 2, Helen Nikal’s world was turned upside down.

Moricetown’s Nikal and her sister Beatrice Morris were driving near Hope when they were involved in a fatal car accident.

When Nikal woke up, she was in Royal Columbian Hospital in the Lower Mainland with broken ankles, ribs and wrists. Doctors told her she wouldn’t be able to walk anytime soon.

Even more devastating was that she found out she also lost her sister in the crash.

Nikal was in rehabilitation for months following the accident starting the recovery process.

Since the crash, she has spent months in physiotherapy trying to regain strength in her legs and learning to walk again.

Most recently, she has started walking with a cane or walker.

“They told us it would be a long recovery, but she’s been battling,” said her daughter Penny.

“She’s proven the doctors wrong and gotten better quickly.”

For Nikal, the speedy recovery can be attributed to the strength she’s drawn from her 18 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

“I’ve been hanging on real good for my grandkids,” said Helen. “They’ve been my inspiration. They’re doing stuff for me all the time.”

It is Nikal’s strength and perseverance after the accident that made Penny nominate her to be a torch bearer for the upcoming Canada Winter Games in Prince George.

“The car accident was tough. We almost lost my mom, but she fought through all that happened to her,” said Penny.

“She had surgery after surgery and the doctors told us she might not make it, but she pulled through everything. She’s just an inspiration for all of us.”

Nikal is also a cultural advocate and teaches Wet’suwet’en culture.

On Oct. 3, she made the treck out to Prince George where Nikal learned she was selected to be a part of the relay.

“I just want to let the people know that I’m so proud to carry the torch for them,” she said.

What’s even more special is that Nikal’s late sister was also a torch bearer during the 2010 B.C. Winter Games in Terrace.

Nikal doesn’t know which leg of the race she will be participating in and won’t find out until closer to the date.

She said if she isn’t fully healed by the race, she hopes her family members will help carry the torch during the relay.

“My grandson Joel Nikal might be with me when I carry the torch so he can help me,” said Helen.

Overall, 150 people were selected from across the province to carry the torch from Victoria to Prince George before the Games from Feb. 13 to March 1.

Other torch bearers from the Bulkley Valley include Dominique Melanson and Shirley Belisle from Hazelton and Cormac Hikisch from Smithers.