Well-wishers pray for burn victim

Vigil held for man injured in explosion

By Michael Lightstone |  Published in The Chronicle Herald

Chis Backer, burned during an explosion while making hash oil in his home, is recovering well and feels the love from around the world pouring in as his wife helps him recover.

Dozens of supporters held a get-well vigil outside a Halifax hospital Saturday for a burn victim critically injured in a recent house fire in metro.

They were there to align themselves in spirit with Chris Backer, a Lower Sackville man who was in his basement making hash oil last Saturday when an explosion and fire forced him to flee his home.

The 40-year-old has a permit to use medicinal marijuana, which he’s said he uses to help manage Crohn’s disease, a chronic bowel disorder that has no cure. Oils often amplify the medical benefits of the plant.

Friends at the event off Summer Street wanted to express their unconditional support for a person they said is a loyal, warm-hearted fellow. They signed a book of good wishes and many wore fundraising T-shirts that had a photograph of Backer taken on his wedding day.

“If you asked him to help you move, he’s the guy who’s at your house at seven in the morning with coffees,” said Ryen Passey, of Lower Sackville.

“He’s one guy you can always count on.”

Passey said the use of medical marijuana has “considerably” helped Backer with his Crohn’s. “Marijuana was really the only (medication) that improved his quality of life.”

Crohn’s disease can cause pain, frequent bowel movements, bloating and fatigue. Sometimes surgery is necessary to remove a diseased section of the bowel.

Backer was alone in his house at 6 Margaret St. when it caught fire. He’s now in the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre burn unit.

Vigil participants were visited by Backer’s wife, Trena, who hugged attendees and spoke privately with several of them.

“She’s doing really good considering the condition that he’s in,” Passey said. “But she’s strong.”

About 50 people took part in the vigil, which was held on a grassy site between the medical centre and Citadel High School. T-shirts were selling for $20. The proceeds were going towards repairing the Backers’ fire- and smoke-damaged home and to help cover their bills.

Because Backer is in hospital and can’t work and his wife is focusing on her husband’s recovery, “their earning potential is going to be drastically reduced,” Brad MacDonald explained.

He said Backer is a full-time photocopier technician with a firm in Dartmouth. The cannabis use allowed his buddy to keep working and avoid Crohn’s-related hospital stays.

“He hasn’t been hospitalized in many years because of it and was able to sustain his employment consistently for the last five years,” MacDonald told The Chronicle Herald.

Vigil participants included members of Maritimers Unite for Medical Marijuana.

Police said the blast inside the Backers’ bungalow happened while he was making hash oil, a process that involves the use of isopropyl alcohol, a clear, colourless liquid that’s flammable.

Three dogs in the house survived the fire.

MacDonald said the event was organized by folks who just wanted to aid a friend who’s helped them in the past.

“This is a vigil to show Chris and his family that he has the support of his colleagues,” he said.



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