Scott Sackaney on Life Five Years After a Rail Tragedy

Five years ago, Scott Sackaney’s life changed forever.

The now 23-year-old was a normal teenager, with everything to look forward to. He was young and healthy. He was active; he had a black belt in taekwondo and liked hiking and playing hockey. And most exciting of all, he was about to start a career in the military.

But on a November night in 2012, his life took an unexpected and tragic turn—all because he took a shortcut across railway tracks. Scott was hit by a train and woke up in the hospital missing his right arm and part of his leg.

We talked to him as he marked the five-year anniversary of the tragedy that changed his life.

What is life like for you these days?

It can be rough sometimes, but at times it can also be pretty easy. I’ve adapted pretty well to it. I don’t let it slow me down at all, really. What really gets me down though is when I continue walking and I am supposed to let my leg rest and I don’t, and I get sores and blisters. That’s pretty much the only time that really gets rough for me. And I also get depressed, and you know, anger comes in after that too. So, I try and keep myself within my limits and not go any further than that.

What are you doing these days?

I’m currently unemployed. It’s kind of hard finding a job because after my accident I went through a stage of anger. I was drinking all the time and getting myself into all sorts of trouble, and I ended up going to jail for close to a year. Now I have a criminal record and trying to get a job is kind of difficult—with a disability and having a criminal record at the same time.

How do you stay positive?

Pretty much because of my family—the ones I love. If it weren’t for them, I’d probably just be sitting in a corner, depressed all day, doing nothing, just withering away. But they motivate me. They push me, and you know, seeing them go out and live their lives makes me want to do the same thing. Because I’m the oldest sibling in my house and they’re all doing a lot more than me—going to school or working—and then there’s me, currently collecting ODSP, and not really doing much. Just seeing them, going out and doing things makes me want to get up and continue moving too.

Has your accident affected your family? Has it changed their lives at all?

Actually, I’d say it has. It gave my younger sister and brother a different look on life, to not take things for granted. My mother—it definitely changed her. She continues to tell me that I’m her rock because of the way I face my challenges, and the way I still get up and keep going. It motivates and inspires her too.

So, what’s next for you?

After I got out of jail, I decided I wanted to clean things up and go to school. I’ve graduated. I did the CIT program, which is the Centre for Indigenous Theatre, an intense theatre acting program. I’ve done some traveling. I’ve been through ten different states now. I’ve done all that and right now what I want to try and do is to get back into college and try to do some inspirational speaking and motivational speaking. That’s pretty much where I see myself.

As an inspirational speaker, if you were talking to 17 or 18-year-olds about rail safety, what would be your message?

That’s something I would definitely have to take time and write down and put my heart into. But mainly it is just “stay away from the train tracks.” Sure, it might be a shortcut, but you know, things happen. Bad things happen. I thought I was indestructible at 18 and it happened to me. I lost my arm and leg. You know, it’s dangerous. Stay away from train tracks. Especially if you’re drinking. It’s not a place to be, not a place to be at all.