Elissa Antonio landed in Toronto last night and was quickly taken to an undisclosed hospital, described on her GoFundMe page as “one of the top hospitals” in the city.
Her vacation in Trinidad quickly turned to terror when Antonio and her family built a fire and she went looking for wood. It was dark and she fell 12 metres after accidentally walking off a cliff. She suffered several broken bones and multiple breaks to her pelvic bone. Aubrey Clarke is a friend of Antonio's who started the crowd sourcing page says, "She is in excruciating pain. When they moved her to the stretcher she screamed at the top of her lungs."
Her family and friends have spent the last several days trying to acquire the funds she desperately needed to cover the cost of being airlifted back home. Now that she’s arrived, she’s beginning the next phase of her recovery, which will also come with a cost. To curb some of the expenses, a fundraising concert is being held this Saturday at Perth Seventh Day Adventist Church in Toronto. Money raised from the event will go directly towards the next phase of Antonio’s recovery.
“The money will be used for extra support for her stay, her rent, her medications not covered by OHIP, for the children as well and for her father, Wayne,” said Cameron Fray, the man who spearheaded the task of organizing the concert. “I know Wayne will be taking good care of Elissa and her children. They’re going to want to be around Elissa almost everyday and every night. We want them to be able to do that without having to worry.”
Fray teamed up with Pastor John Scott of North West Brampton Seventh Day Adventist Church. With their combined efforts, the concert will include members of about ten congregations across Toronto, Mississauga and Brampton.
“I heard the news on Wednesday, so I planned the concert and sent the ideas off to her father. Pastor John Scott got word of the concert and we teamed up,” said Fray, who at first, didn’t believe what had happened.
“I thought it was a hoax. I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe what happened. I didn’t know what was going on with her,” he said.
According to Pastor Scott, initial information about Elissa’s accident was limited. “I was confused, I called around, I tried to piece it together. I was stunned, really. I was supposed to pick her up from her vacation two days later. But then I heard that she had this terrible fall and I was shocked.”
While she awaited treatment at a hospital in Port of Spain, doctors in Trinidad said they were unable to treat her injuries. According to them, the doctor needed for this type of surgery would have to perform it very frequently—almost daily—in order to do it with the precision it requires.
That left Antonio with only one other option—to come back to Toronto to receive medical attention. But there was one big issue standing in the way—she hadn’t taken out travel insurance. And with the price tag sitting at a whopping $50,000—itseemed impossible.
“It's to my own ignorance,” Antonio told news outlets last week from her hospital bed. “When I travel, I never take out insurance.”
Luckily for her, family members at home quickly took to online platforms and social media to build a crowd funding campaign using GoFundMe. Within eight days, more than 700 people donated and raised over $60,000 to cover the cost of her airlift home. The initial goal had been $50,000, but extra money was needed for fees charged by the crowd funding website.
Antonio’s support system seems to have pulled off the impossible. Not only did they raise more than what was needed to get her home safely, but they’ve planned an entire concert in just under a week. Fray, who is a minister of music, reached out to all his contacts, and will even be performing himself. “We’ve got some dynamic performances. A group called ‘Selections’, who have been around for over thirty years will be performing. The Honourable Justice Donald McLeod will also be in attendance. Lots of Elissa’s family members and friends will be there. It’s going to be a great show.”
For Pastor Scott, the night is also about worship and reflection. “We want everyone who knows her to rally around her and celebrate the fact that this isn’t a funeral.”
While Antonio might not be in any condition to actually attend the concert, she has been grateful so far for the efforts from people she’s known all her life, for a short while, and for people she doesn’t know at all.