Russell Copeman: Strokes of luck

Russell Copeman: Strokes of luck

Almost two weeks ago, a neighbour of ours (let’s call him “John”), a man in his 70s, was at home when he suddenly felt funny. His eyes went a little wonky, and he started losing feeling down one side of his body. Now my neighbour John, he is one lucky guy. He realized right away he was having a stroke, managed to get himself to a chair and, before he lost the power of speech, called out to his wife “Sheila,” who, also a stroke of luck, hadn’t yet taken off that morning on one of her patented jaunts through the neighbourhood.

Sheila immediately called 911. First Responders from the Montreal fire department showed up, and an ambulance scooped the couple up and sped them to the Montreal General Hospital. I was there when that happened.

My wife met John, walking along the street, a few days later. He couldn’t say enough about the kindness and compassion of his caregivers, nor about the quality of medical care he received, all of it free. After a day or so, the paralysis lifted and he was up and around as though nothing had happened, even feeling a bit guilty for taking up a hospital bed. John knows he was very lucky: he saw others in the ER who had the same symptoms but whose recovery was complicated by their noggins having hit the floor. Hard.

The CSSS wanted to come by and check out his living situation, he told my wife, and offer suggestions if there were any to be made. John’s an active guy, always has been. A great one for skiing, and an award winning craftsman since his retirement. He regularly plays guitar with a crew at a local watering hole and NDG institution.

All too often in the media, we are subject to terrible stories: murder, mayhem, corruption, wrongdoing, and other forms of inhumanity. I wanted to tell you John’s story because it’s a happy one, the kind of story you don’t read often enough: the system worked. Yes, John was lucky. But he’s also extremely grateful to all of us. Because we built this system that worked for John, and hopefully will work for every one of us, when and if we need it.

There was a 911 to call; there was an operator who answered; there were first responders, ambulance attendants, doctors, nurses, orderlies, and administrative staff who cared. There was a first-rate hospital to go to, one with people there who knew just what to do in that type of emergency, who had diligently studied, drilled, and performed the procedures necessary to cure John and comfort Sheila. There were politicians and all manner of the civically engaged who helped create a health system that doesn’t bankrupt us when a body part unfortunately gives out.

We are lucky to have these wonderful institutions to rely on when things go wrong. And, despite the glitches and problems that may attend the new McGill University Health Centre and the new Shriner’s Hospital as they become operational over the next 18 months—traffic disruptions while infrastructure is upgraded, potential access problems for those with mobility issues, and the extremely distressing allegations of corruption—we are still extremely lucky to be getting a state of the art facility that will continue to provide the kind of care for which McGill University teaching hospitals are world-famous. I am very proud, in my capacity as Member of the National Assembly between 1994 and 2008, to have been involved in the planning that led to the MUHC being built in our borough. And I look forward to continuing work on this supremely important file if, with the help of borough voters, I am elected mayor of Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace.

The system doesn’t always work, or work perfectly, we know that. But part of the attraction of public life, for me, for my CDN-NDG team, and for Marcel Côté, is to bring together people to solve difficult problems. And we will solve them. I have faith in human ingenuity, especially when married to good will.

For John and Sheila, their daughter and granddaughter, I bet Thanksgiving will take on an added dimension this year. I would like to take this opportunity to once again pass along their gratitude to the thousands of people in Montreal, Quebec, and Canada who had a hand in ensuring John’s recovery, and to add my own. Because everyone matters, and the people of Montreal—and everywhere else–deserve the best. Please remember that voting matters.


by Russell Copeman

Russell Copeman is CDN-NDG borough mayor candidate for Coalition Montréal – Marcel Côté.

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