For Barry Straza and his wife, Sandra the day they needed STARS was the day their lives changed forever.

It started simply enough. While Barry was helping some friends construct a store they were opening, Sandra and their youngest daughter, Christine, were at home fixing him one of his favourite meals. Sandra would be going out of town the next day, and wanted to leave him a good meal before she left.

But those loving plans took a nearly tragic turn.

Back at the store, Barry was working on scaffolding to paint a ceiling when he was struck in the head suddenly by an unseen object.

“Things were progressing nicely until I hit my head and was knocked out,” Barry said. “I fell off the scaffolding which was only seven feet high, but when I hit the concrete floor, that’s when all the damage occurred.”

The fall compromised his airway, causing him to stop breathing, but his friends were able to get him breathing again and cared for him until an ambulance arrived.

While he was being transported to a local ER, one of the friends sped over to Sandra’s to tell her the news.

“Just from the look on her face, I thought something wasn’t right,” Sandra said. “She said, ‘There’s been an accident and Barry’s at the hospital’…I couldn’t believe what was happening.”

When she and her daughter arrived at the hospital, they learned Barry’s diagnosis: six internal skull fractures, a cracked left orbital bone, a cracked left jaw, a dislocated and broken shoulder, a pair of slightly compressed discs in his spine, two cracked vertebrae, and bruising in his brain. Because of the extent of his injuries, he would need medical aid at another hospital.

It was at that point when STARS was called in to transport Barry, who would need arrive at the hospital quickly if he had any hope of surviving his injuries. His status was shaky, as he was intubated and unconscious when he was brought on board the helicopter, which acted as an ICU in the sky.

“I would characterize it as ultimate and optimum care, without a doubt,” Barry said, reflecting back on it. “Absolutely. There’s no other way to say it, to me. They couldn’t have done anything better.”

Barry lay in a coma for a week after the incident and his family was told that the injuries he’d sustained were most often not survivable. His brain injury was especially severe, rated at a four on a scale of one to five, according to Barry.

Thankfully, Barry was able to recover from his injuries, and believes he would not be here to share his story if it weren’t for STARS’ ability to provide the life-saving treatment and care he received.

“It was absolutely incredible to beat all the odds and come out of this alive, and be able to lead a normal, productive, healthy and happy life,” Barry said. “It’s remarkable to see how co-operatively the chain of care works when a person’s life is at stake.”

Barry considers himself a “hardcore” workaholic, and although he says that attitude nearly killed him, he feels STARS helped give him a second chance to continue doing what he loves. That includes activities like daily work on his acreage, operating his own business, and participating in personal projects. His latest passion project is to breed and sell German Shepherds, partly because they’re a breed of dogs he’s always had a great fondness for, but also because it presented an opportunity to test the limits of his recovery.

“I got a certification as a certified K-9 trainer after my accident to prove to myself that I can still learn,” Barry said. “It was nowhere near as easy as I thought it would be, and I had to study harder and work harder than anyone else in class. But in my final exam I ended up with an 89.9 per cent final mark, the second highest in the class.”

In the past, Barry worked as a volunteer for his local EMS and fire departments, and he sees the good that comes from an organization like STARS. He understands better than many that generous donations from allies can mean the difference between life and death for patients like him.

“You can never give enough,” Barry said, still unsure of what exactly knocked him off of that scaffolding. “You will never know when you may need them to save you, too. So a donation to keep them flying and keep them in the air is a massive benefit for everyone, not just those select few of us who’ve had to rely on them.”