journey was the kind of trip that most anglers do not come back from.
On a late February morning, the 74-year-old
president of the Scarborough Fly & Bait Casting Association was making
final preparations for a day of ice fishing when he was struck with a
sharp pain in his abdomen.
Deval had hoped the pain would subside and
he'd resume preparing for his trip to a frozen lake in Haliburton with
fishing buddy Jim Lloyd.
Little did he know, the pain was a direct
result of gall stones in his bladder breaking away and becoming lodged in
the duct leading to his pancreas. The obstruction led the pancreas to
inflate and eventually release the toxins it stored to Deval's other
His wife Sheila called paramedics and he
was rushed to The Scarborough Hospital Grace Division's intensive care
unit where he spent time in a medically induced coma while his body
recovered from the toxic shock.
"He was swollen like a balloon. His
circulation had shut down and he was in a coma," said Dr. Khoa Le,
one of five doctors looking after Deval during his stay in the hospital.
"He was out for a very long time and even his recovery was not so
He would have to undergo several procedures
and weeks of intensive rehab before being released in May.
"They went into five different areas
to drain out all the toxins in my body," said a now healthy Deval
during an interview at his home. "I was told my heart stopped three
times - once in the ambulance and twice at the hospital."
To show his gratitude to hospital staff for
saving his life, Deval promised he'd return months later with a gift.
For almost 60 years, Deval has taken part
in national and international casting competitions where participants cast
fishing plugs for distance or accuracy.
In fact, the local angler has been a
Canadian champion roughly 20 times and has established several world
records at various events over the years.
"I dreamt that I'd never be able to do
that again," said an emotional Deval. "I told (his wife) Sheila
'I don't know if I'm well enough to go to the national tournament.'"
The veteran caster not only competed in the
North American Fly and Bait Casting Championships earlier this month, he
also won two bronze medals.
"I told (the nurses) I'm going to get
strong enough to go to the casting tournament and I'm going to get you a
medal. I don't know if it'll be a gold medal, but I'm bloody well getting
you a medal."
On Friday, he made good on his promise,
returning to the hospital's ICU with the two medals.
"You are the primary reason why I'm
still alive," he told the nurses during the presentation.
"He's a lucky guy, he was very
ill," said nurse Patricia Tamlin.
"We don't often see people go and then
come back like he did.... but
when they do it's special."