Aaron Wylie learned two things over the course of two searingly emotional days this week.
On Tuesday afternoon, he learned that his mother has terminal liver disease. By Wednesday morning, he’d learned that if you put out a desperate call for help, Maritimers are going to answer that call in spades.
Wylie’s mom, Sandra, has been ill for some time.
But when he spoke with her by phone on Tuesday, he learned it was worse than he’d realized. She told him doctors have given her two to four months to live.
“I was devastated,” he said.
Wylie, a bus driver for Halifax Transit in Nova Scotia, hasn’t seen his mom, who lives in Saint John, since Christmas of 2019. Under current travel restrictions, he is not permitted to enter New Brunswick, even on compassionate grounds, unless he is prepared to isolate for 14 days.
“I’ve already used up all my vacation, so I simply can’t afford it,” he said.
However, truck drivers are considered essential workers and can enter the province. Wylie happens to have his Class 1 licence.
Hail Mary pass
So on Tuesday night, he threw out a Hail Mary pass on the online classifieds site Kijiji.
“I know this is a bit of an odd request but I’m looking for a class 1 position. I have Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday off, I work full time at Halifax Transit. I am looking for a route that will run Halifax to Saint John.… I am willing to drive for free!
“My mother was diagnosed with terminal liver failure and was given two months to live today, May 11, and I have no way to cross NS border.”
He signed off with his phone number and email address.
“I didn’t really think I’d get much of a reaction,” Wylie said.
He was wrong.
I was just blown away. These are people I don’t even know.– Aaron Wylie
Almost immediately, his phone started ringing with offers of help. Someone posted the message to Facebook, where it was shared more than 5,000 times, and the call volume surged even further.
By Wednesday morning, Wylie said he had to take the Kijiji post down and turn his phone’s ringer off because he couldn’t keep up with the calls, and he’s been scrambling to get through the hundreds of text messages and emails he’s received.
Offer of liver donation
In an interview Thursday, Wylie was overcome with emotion as he talked about some of the responses he received.
One person offered to get tested to see if they would be a viable living donor for a liver.
Another offered to send money to help his parents out.
Many, many others offered him work on trucking routes in New Brunswick, although all insisted they would pay him for the work.
“I was just blown away,” he said, choking up. “These are people I don’t even know.”
Determined to do everything by the rules
Wylie said he has accepted two of the offers, including a Halifax-to-Saint John route hauling cars for Dartmouth-based Hayden Agencies Ltd.
He will now turn his attention to finding out exactly what requirements he would have to fulfil to be able to visit his mom.
He also has an appointment to get his COVID-19 vaccination next week and will be taking a rapid test for the virus before and after he travels.
“I don’t want to put anybody at risk,” he said. “I want to make sure everything is in accordance with Public Health guidelines.”
Public Health did not immediately respond to a CBC News request Thursday for more information about rules for truck drivers entering New Brunswick.
But according to the New Brunswick government’s website, regular commuters travelling for work must limit their activities while outside of their home province to going to work. All regular commuters into or out of New Brunswick are required to test negative for COVID-19 weekly.
However, the situation is changing daily.
The entire province moved to the yellow phase of restrictions on Monday, the vaccination rollout is proceeding on pace, and exceptions have been made on a case-by-case basis.
For the next few weeks, as he looks into the rules and nails down the details, Wylie’s travel plan will be “up in the air.”
But one thing is completely certain, he said: there are hundreds of good people out there.
“It’s been an overwhelming response and an emotional one,” Wylie said. “I hope I can get there, but whether I do or not, it’s [heartwarming] to know that that support was there.”