After a session with a prosthetic technician at Sunnybrooke Hospital, Lewis Wheelan sits on a hospital bed with his prosthetic legs resting against the wall. He was eager to walk again, but the legs never really fit right and were too painful to wear.
Photographer Steve Russell met triple amputee Lewis Wheelan in 2002, when Toronto Star reporter Moira Welsh wrote about what happened to him. Nineteen-year-old Lewis had just finished his first year of economics at Wilfred Laurier University and was back home in Sault Ste. Marie working a summer job clearing brush from under hydro lines.
It was Lewis’s second day on the job when a nearby tree was cut, striking a power line that landed on him, arced three times and hit him with 7,200 volts.
The article focused attention on both employer Great Lakes Power’s and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s handling of the incident and of compensation provisions.
In a tragic twist, Lewis Wheelan passed away during the great blackout of 2003. Because of the many skin grafts, Lewis could not sweat. When the blackout happened, his air conditioning turned off, and he could not exit his apartment.
While the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board provided some benefits, it was ruled Lewis could expect $288 a week, a little more than $14,995 a year.
Photo Sensitive is a non-profit collective of photographers committed to using black-and-white photography to address social issues. PhotoSensitive’s new exhibition, Picture Change, is a Toronto-based show dedicated to highlighting the ways that photography makes a difference in the world by provoking action, reflection, or even a change in a policy or law.