Paul Derkach is recovering well after being shot in the leg on April 14 in the Salmon Arm Church of Christ. (Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer)

Salmon Arm church shooting victim speaks of gratitude and love

Parishioner whose leg was shot expresses his apprecation for community

Gratitude and love are two words that come up repeatedly when Paul Derkach speaks about his life in the past month.

Derkach is recovering after having been shot in the leg on the morning of Sunday, April 14 in the Salmon Arm Church of Christ. Derkach was trying to help his close friend Gord Parmenter who had been fatally shot minutes earlier.

He said the man who did the shooting left the church after shooting Parmenter but came back, and that’s when he was shot in the leg.

Asked how he feels about being called a hero by some people, he says he doesn’t see it that way.

“A couple of people said that to me but it just seems weird to me; I just say, no, I wasn’t the only one trying to help him. Everybody was trying to help everybody. That was just the first reaction. I mean some people ran because somebody yelled out ‘run,’ but then they came back, they came back to help. My reaction was just to help Gord. That’s just the way I reacted, I was really concerned.”

Read more: Man charged with first-degree murder in Salmon Arm church shooting

Read more: Update: Family confirms man killed in shooting at Salmon Arm church

He said he was online with 911, helping guide the people trying to perform first aid.

Derkach speaks of his immense gratitude for the paramedics who arrived at the church and worked on his leg.

“When you go through something like that, your brain is just hyper, every little detail I still remember.” 

He speaks of the first paramedic to tend to him.

“He was so focused, and it was a traumatic scene, right?,” says Derkach, explaining he couldn’t be given anything for the extreme pain he was in at that point.

“He was so focused, and he was just sweating and just working hard on me and eventually another set of paramedics came in and double checked everything again, and he did everything just perfect. Just when he was doing it I was so amazed at how, he was just a machine, right?”

He said the crew on the helicopter was also very encouraging.

“I’m really grateful for them.”

With his lower leg bones shattered, Derkach was afraid he was facing amputation. But surgery gave him a titanium rod between his knee and ankle, and it’s coming along really well, he says. There may be bone graphs in six months.

“It’s getting better all the time – I can move my toes and raise my heel.”

He spent nine days in Kamloops hospital, where at one point he has been told he was near death.

A spiritual counsellor at the hospital came, looked at him and went out.

“He told me after that he has been working in that hospital for 25 years, and he knows death when he sees it.”

The counsellor told the medical team, no more visitors, he’s going down fast, Derkach says, so he was put on blood transfusions and recovered within a couple of days.

The emotional trauma is also beginning to heal, he says, thanks to the love and support of others.

“Everybody has been so supportive of each other that went through it; we get together a lot, we spend a lot of time talking and praying together. It’s been really helpful.”

Read more: Gathering in Salmon Arm to offer support, resources after shooting

Read more: ‘Terrible, terrible thing’: Former coaches of accused Salmon Arm shooter shocked

He says the RCMP’s Victim Services has provided him with a trauma counsellor as did Samaritan’s Purse.

Derkach says the counsellors from Samaritan’s Purse said they’d never seen a group that is so loving and caring toward each other.

“So that was a real boost for us. It’s good, we’re doing really good,” he says, acknowledging it’s been very traumatic and some people are struggling more than others.

“I went through a lot of trauma while I was in the hospital. That seems for me to have settled down a bit. Maybe I still have more to go through.”

Derkach has been a transit bus driver for nearly five years, before that owned a window cleaning company and sings with the Shuswap Barbershop Project. He knows a lot of people and has been amazed by the support.

He adds that he doesn’t know how he could pay his bills without the financial contributions he’s received. And the food that people have been bringing him has been amazing.

“I’ve been spoiled rotten,” he smiles. “It’s so great, I’m so blessed.”

He continues to exude gratitude.

“I’m just thankful for everybody that helped; the police, victim services have just been really a good help,” he says.

“I’m just kind of in love with how everybody is – we’ve really come together through this. I’m just so awed by how wonderful everybody is.”


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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