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Jody Vance

The Man in the Next Bed – by Jody Vance

Getty Images: Sturti

Over the past week our family has been experiencing “the best of a worst case scenario”.

Two months ago my Mom had a colonoscopy that found a cancerous mass that needed immediate attention.  Being that this is mom’s second time having surgery to remove cancer from her colon, the first was 20 years ago, we were all rightfully worried. This time around, unlike the 8 inch scar from surgery #1, it would be arthroscopic — far less invasive — yet still very scary given that she’s 79 years old next month.

We held our breathe awaiting the CT scan results.  We collectively exhaled when it came back “contained”.  Once again, a precautionary colonoscopy would save her life.

We are thrilled to be able to take her home today, after 8 days at St. Paul’s Hospital where she received incredible care day and night.

Mom has been in a ward with three other beds, she in the one by the window overlooking English Bay from the 10th floor.

While two of the other three beds saw the people come and go…the man in the “next bed” was in from her arrival, and is still there.  We chatted on my daily visits, he is kind and gentle in his tone and concern for mom.  Yesterday when I went in, it was clear that he had undergone another surgery (He has Chrones) and his moans were heart-wrenching.  He’s had many visitors, so this is not a sad post of loneliness — however, I’m worried about him.  His great attitude and calm were a steadying force for our family and yet, here he is struggling to re-gain his health.

As we gather our mom’s belongings, and get set to happily take her home, we send love light and healing vibes to the Man in The Next Bed.

Hug your family and friends — and above all, value your health.

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Pete Quevillon

Kindness in The Winter of Bert’s Life – by Pete Quevillon

In early 2015, I made the decision to move my dad from an assisted living residence in Kingston Ontario here to BC. He was in need of more intense care and had no family left in Ontario. Seeing him two or three times a year when I went to Ontario for work just wasn’t leaving me with a good feeling and so I began the search for facilities here in Vancouver.

I toured several care homes and Windermere provided the opportunity for him to access a room as soon as we moved him. I knew several people whose parents had spent time at Windermere and all of them had very positive things to say about the quality of care.  While the first six months, until he became a BC resident, were at a full rate; once he became a BC resident he qualified for the subsidized rate. Fortunately for those on fixed incomes, the rate is a set percentage of  income always leaving at least 25% of pensions to bank.

As one would expect of a care facility, the rooms are rather Spartan but he has his own washroom and some of his own furniture and pictures to add a homey feel. There are regular recreational opportunities for residents, music, and a host of other diversions that residents can participate in at their leisure.

With the care of an aging parent, there comes the guilt associated with placing them in care…in my case lapsed Anglican guilt rather than Catholic guilt! Should I be keeping him in my home with private nursing care? Could we afford a more exclusive facility? Bottom line for me is that dad is happy and has people around him who truly care about his well being and are far more skilled than I in providing the necessary professional care.

I am a dedicated reader here on and have noticed a definite theme, of late, as many contributors are of the generation where care of aging parents becomes their responsibility,

It is all too easy to target our challenged, under-resourced, health care system with criticism — those concerns are certainly valid.  It is very much up to us to  be aware, and hold our politicians to account, to ensure improvements are made. Often lost in this conversation are those who work within the current system selflessly.  They regularly bare the brunt of frustration at the system and are targets of abuse, undue criticism and most certainly are underpaid.

As someone who has a parent in long term seniors residential care I see, up close and personal, both the shortcomings of our health care system and the extreme dedication and passion displayed by those health care professionals. Certainly I’m not alone in seeing, and being constantly humbled and moved by, the concern — and dare I say love shown by the health care professionals in my dad’s facility.

Very few of us could display the compassion and effort put forth in caring for a complete stranger — yet there they are with my Dad, day in and day out. From care aides and nurses to cleaning and kitchen staff, everyone seems to know Bert and constantly make conversation and take every opportunity to exchange some friendly humour and barbs with my dad. He thrives on the interaction and, despite his mild dementia and his inability to remember everyone on staff, he feels loved and valued by everyone on staff.

I’ve often said that the staff make him feel like Norm from Cheers…each time he comes back after our walks or trips out for lunch, he’s welcomed like a long lost family member. “Hi Bert”; “Where have you been Bert”; …all that’s missing is a cold beer on the bar!

I cannot imagine providing the same level of not only expert medical care to a nearly 90 year old, I’m not sure that I could maintain the cheery disposition and professional demeanour that is on display at Windermere at all times given the challenges of caring for seniors of widely varying needs. 

I would ask that our elected official, health care administrators and management continue to find ways to improve our medical system — but I also ask that we appreciate those unsung heros in our hospitals, clinics and care facilities.

To all of you, Bert says thanks!

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