By GREGG DRINNAN
/SPORTS — There is concern in WHL circles that people are going to see Kootenay Ice F Tim Bozon up and about, now that he has been released from Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, and come to the conclusion that all is well and that his family doesn’t need financial aid.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Because Bozon’s situation wasn’t due to a hockey-related injury, Hockey Canada’s insurance doesn’t cover any of it.
When it comes to healthcare, each WHL team will buy insurance for each of its European players. In Bozon’s case, he had a policy that was taken out by the Kamloops Blazers, his original team, and transferred to the Ice when he was traded to Kootenay on Oct. 22.
Unfortunately, that policy expired on March 13, while Bozon was in hospital.
(There is no standardization in the healthcare policies taken out for European players. For example, one team might have a $25,000 policy, while another may go for $100,000. One WHL team official told me today, Friday, that there almost definitely will be standardization of some sort brought in following what has happened with Bozon.)
One source has told me that the WHL and the Ice are pursuing all avenues in attempts to find financial help and/or relief for the Bozon family.
I also was told that Saskatchewan has the highest ICU rates in Canada. Combine that with the cost of rehabilitation and, before all of this is dealt with, the tab is going to be well into six figures.
“There is a big-time cost to this . . . big-time costs,” the source said. “They are escalating and we have a long way to go.”
Bozon was admitted to RUH in Saskatoon on March 1. He was diagnosed with Neisseria meningitis, a disease that involves inflammation around the brain and spine that can be fatal. Bozon was placed in a medically induced coma as doctors worked to slow the disease’s advance.
For much of the past four weeks, he was in critical condition in RUH’s intensive care unit. Last week, doctors brought him slowly out of the coma and his condition soon was upgraded to stable. He was well enough to appear at a news conference at the hospital on Friday, just before being discharged.
“I’m doing good, I’ve been through a lot,” Bozon said at the news conference. “It’s been about a month and I’ve improved a lot and I’m feeling better now. As you can tell, my voice is not 100 per cent recovered, but I’m feeling better. I’m excited to leave the hospital.”
Bozon, who turned 20 on Monday, is 6-foot-1 and plays at about 195 pounds. On Friday, he appeared much thinner than that, and he also has a raspy voice, the result of having spent much of the last four weeks on a feeding tube.
“From what I have learned since coming out of the coma, the people here at the Royal University Hospital went to amazing lengths to save my life. To them, first and foremost, my heartfelt thanks. But I must also extend gratitude to everyone who sent me their thoughts and prayers, especially my parents, who rushed here from France to be by my side.”
His parents, Helene and Philippe, arrived from their home in France on March 2. Tim’s younger brother, Kevin, flew over from Switzerland last week, once his junior hockey team in Lugano had completed its season.
“I want to say from my wife and I how proud we are of you Timmy, for fighting like this,” Philippe said during the news conference. “I know it was a tough fight and I know you are still fighting, and I will always have faith in you.”
Bozon was in the Ice’s lineup on Feb. 28, scoring his 33rd goal of the season in a 4-2 victory. He apparently doesn’t remember scoring that goal, or much about that game, although he remembers going to a concert by the Goo Goo Dolls on Feb. 27. He began to feel ill following the game and that got progressively worse through the night. Athletic trainer Cory Cameron made the decision that Bozon had something worse than the flu and was going to have to go to hospital, and he got him there around 8:45 a.m.
Philippe, who played in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues (1991-95), credits Cameron with having saved Tim’s life.
“(Cameron) reacted really well when things happened that night, really quick after the game,” Philippe said. “It was amazing. In three hours, Tim went from being a healthy man. Cory did the right thing by bringing him to the hospital. He probably saved his life and I’m really thankful for him.”
Cameron visited the Bozons in Saskatoon during the few days before the playoffs began and, since returning to the Ice, has been in twice-daily contact with Philippe. They have spoken each morning and again at night.
Dr. Gary Hunter, a neurologist at RUH who treated Tim, told the news conference that getting prompt medical attention was key to the recovery process.
“Any bacterial meningitis is a serious problem, and he certainly was very sick, but he received excellent care,” Dr. Hunter said. “Because he’s a young, tough kid he was able to pull through. His progress since he left the ICU has been really amazing. So I think his prognosis is really excellent.
“He’s really motivated. He’s got an amazing family that kept me calm most of the time in the ICU. He’s a tough guy and he’s really motivated so I think he’s going to do really well.”
Dr. Hunter admitted that the medical community hasn’t any idea how Bozon contracted the disease.
“Bacterial meningitis in young people (who) are young and healthy is uncommon, in the first place,” he explained. “This particular bug is even more uncommon. We don’t have a good reason for why he contracted it besides bad luck, really.”
As for looking into Bozon’s future, Dr. Hunter said: “It’s very difficult to speculate exactly on his long-term neurological prognosis, but his early progress has been so tremendous and he’s such a healthy guy that I’m very optimistic about (his playing hockey again).”
Bozon and his parents are scheduled to arrive in Cranbrook this morning and are to attend the playoff game between the Ice and Calgary Hitmen. Kootenay, the Western Conference’s No. 6 seed, leads the No. 3 Hitmen, 3-2 in games, and can end the series Saturday. Tim will take part in a ceremonial faceoff.
Later, the Bozons will journey to Montreal where Tim, a third-round selection by the Canadiens in the NHL’s 2012 draft, will meet with that team’s medical staff. He also will have a dental appointment or two, as he needs to get some damage repaired after being injured — the Ice thought at the time that he had a broken jaw — during one of his last games. Bozon has signed a three-year entry-level NHL contract with the Habs.
Eventually, the Bozons will end up at home in France and Tim will settle into the rehabilitation process at a clinic in Capbreton.
The Bozons have been blown away by the way the hockey community has responded to their son’s situation.
“It’s been an unbelievable month for us,” an emotional Philippe said. “Obviously, there was the tough part, but some nice things have happened to our family. Everyone, from all the people in hockey to the doctors to the people on the sixth floor helping with the physiotherapy, have been unbelievable to us . . . I can’t believe how much support we’ve had from all over the world.”
A trust fund has been established to assist the Bozon family with medical- and rehabilitation-related costs.
You are able to make a donation at any BMO Bank of Montreal branch in Western Canada.
Should you live outside of that area and want to donate, please mail donations to:
Western Hockey League
c/o Tim Bozon
Father David Bauer Arena
2424 University Drive NW