Hero mom pulls boys to safety at Maple Ridge's Cliff Falls
Lelania Chapman isn’t able to completely wash the blood droplets off the pink shirt she was wearing the day she helped pull four shivering teenage boys from a ravine at Cliff Falls.
She’s okay with that.
That shirt, and those droplets, are reminders of a day that has given the breast cancer patient a new perspective.
Chapman, a 43-year-old mother of three sons ages 25, 21, and nine, took her youngest boy along with three other neighbourhood children to the falls at Kanaka Creek Regional Park.
The short walk in the woods on June 29 was Chapman’s first outing after finishing radiation treatment.
“It was my actual first walk in three months,” Chapman said.
During their travels, the group heard screams for help. The shouts were barely audible, muffled by the sound of the rushing waterfalls.
They peered down and saw four boys, all between 14 and 15 years old, stuck between two falls.
The boys, who said they had been cliff jumping, asked Chapman to call 9-1-1, but she wasn’t able to get any cellphone reception.
At that point, one of the teens yelled, “I want my mom! Please call my mom!”
“That was it for me,” Chapman said.
After climbing a fence, Chapman said she “dropped.”
“I chipped my kneecap really bad,” she said.
Chapman forged on.
She crossed a waterfall, using a small rope that she had brought in her backpack to tie herself to a large piece of wood sticking out of the falls.
The boys threw a rope – that they had brought – to Chapman, who climbed a ravine and attached it to the thickest tree branch she could find.
“They decided to send the biggest one up first so he could help me,” Chapman continued. “So I got him up and it took a bit, I’ll be honest. I felt horrible because when I was pulling them, their stomachs and chests were being dragged along the rocks. They were so ripped up and bleeding.”
Chapman said the boys were “blue” because they were so cold.
“They had been down there for over an hour,” she said.
The next two teens were then pulled to safety.
The final boy wouldn’t grab the rope.
“I just kind of wriggled on my chest, ripped my radiation burns open, I was bleeding everywhere, and I laid as close as I could to him and I said, ‘You need to grab the rope’,” Chapman said.
“His buddies were calling for him to grab the rope and he said ‘I’m just going to wait here for my mom.’ I said ‘you need to look at me right now. Just grab the rope and I promise you, we’ll pull you up.'”
It took about 20 minutes of coaxing for the teen to grab hold of the rope. At one point he turned around and said he was going to jump.
After the rescue, Chapman became Facebook friends with the teens, who, she said, were extremely grateful.
A mom of one of the boys dropped by Chapman’s house to thank her.
But Chapman was in the hospital receiving treatment at the time.
She received an email from one of the boys’ moms, asking if there was anything they could do as a ‘thank you.’
Chapman asked them to donate funds to breast cancer awareness.
Chapman’s friend Ellian Corry said despite poor health, Chapman went above and beyond.
“Lelania is a hero. She deserves to get the recognition for her selflessness,” Corry said.
“I am so proud of her as my friend. Her mom instinct kicked in, adrenaline took over, and she conquered that rescue – which normally would have been impossible for her or any other person in perfect health. As she told me two nights ago, ‘It hurts to brush my hair sometimes I am so weak.’ God gave her the strength to rescue those boys.”
What infuriated Chapman when all was said and done was a couple who passed by, saw what was unfolding, and refused to call 9-1-1.
“They said, ‘On our way back down if they’re not all out’,” Chapman said.
The rescue followed a trying day of what’s been a very trying year for Chapman, who has undergone chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery over the past couple of months.
“When you get diagnosed with a really serious illness, it’s life-changing, it really is,” Chapman said. “The night before, I was burned [by the radiation] so bad, beyond bad, to the point where you say to yourself, ‘How can I do this anymore?’”
Doctors found two other tumours and Chapman shared that she didn’t believe she was going to have the strength to endure her cancer battle.
To brighten her mood, and get away from what she calls “stinking thinking,” Chapman took the children on an excursion.
Chapman bought a cap gun and caps from a local dollar store for her son to play with for the first time, during their trip to the park.
The day out in the sun turned out to be so much more for Chapman.
She said to the teens, “This just wasn’t me grabbing a rope and pulling you out. This is a lot more than what you think.”
The reason was, the night before, Chapman wasn’t feeling very positive about "life in general."
A tear trickled down Chapman’s cheek as she recalls what she said to the boys.
“I didn’t save you guys, I’ll be honest with you,” she related, her voice shaking with emotion. “I think you guys really did save me.”
• Response to Chapman's story has been overwhelming from the community, both online with this story, and through Facebook. Here's the link to that.