My brother was a healthy and happy guy. He had come to Canada from England and had found a profession he loved and a wife he cherished. He had never been seriously ill in his 45 years of life and was excited about the remainder of his life, in Canada. One morning he awoke to find that his body was coated in dark bruises. This alerted him through his wife’s attempts he visited the local physician.

Take into account

After being sent to a skin specialist and several other professional people, the verdict came back that he had a rare blood disease. There was no cure, just a bone marrow transplant could save his life. As you could imagine, this was devastating news for all who knew him. Suddenly his life has been turned upside down, without warning of the catastrophe being visited upon him. All of us attempted to lift his spirits, with platitudes and assurances of remedies in the offing, but dread filled our hearts.

He had to wait until a potential bone marrow donor could be found, this we knew, could have quite a very long time if ever. On this occasion we were lucky, a woman in america was found to be a game for him and volunteered to come to Canada to have the procedure done. The actual procedure wasn’t hard and he came through it with flying colours, we were so thankful for the possibility that this now gave him in a life. Little did we know what sort of life he’d have.

Let’s see…

To cut a long story short, he went through several months of misery as his body tried to take the new marrow, he needed to have his head shaved to conserve his energy, he had been in isolation to keep him out of any external infection, and his diet was restricted. He lost a whole lot of and his will to live was waning as he valiantly fought to take his next breath. His lungs were weak and the medical team needed to operate to put a metal plate in his lungs. In actuality, when I was permitted to see, he looked like someone from the concentration camps in the war.

I was sick with stress, particularly if his doctor’s gave him little chance for survival, possibly 6 weeks at the most. They also discovered that his hips were deteriorating and he had to have a hip replacement, while in hospital. His skin was like parchment, and when he received any sort of knock or bump, he could begin bleeding and not have the ability to stop. His immune system was taken to bits, so he couldn’t be exploiting anyone with a cold or influenza. He eventually came home from the hospital after several months, and his wife became his nurse around the clock.

She worked tirelessly and devotedly to care for him, she became his lifeline and penalizing all our admiration for her dedication to his wellbeing. He was always cheerful, but constantly in , he would be upbeat and talkative, especially about sports, the television became his soulmate, his window into the outside world.

Good to know

Gradually, through his own determination, he began to walk on crutches, this enabled him to get around the house a little and made him feel he was making progress. He had to have oxygen in the home to assist with his breathing, and a nurse to come each day to dress his open sores, nevertheless he remained optimistic he could manage to get out and around. With his wife’s constant help he did progress to having a walking stick and managed to get in and out of the van with help.

He had to go to the hospital every 2 months to get his blood replaced with fresh blood, he became quite a favorite with all the nurses and they were filled with admiration at his capacity to deal with that process, on this ongoing basis. By this time, 3 years had passed,he had been filled with that he would continue to get more powerful, but he knew, as we did, that time wasn’t on his side. He had also to experience another hip replacement, and had pins put in his hip, to hold it as his bones and tendons were deteriorating.

While he’d been in hospital, he’d had to get many blood transfusions as part of his therapy, this was his downfall. The medical staff discovered he had contracted HIV from tainted blood. A last blow. He didn’t inform the family for quite a while, wanting us to continue to believe he had some sort of future. His wife knew of course, and hid it from us, putting a terrible strain on them both. He was determined to not give in, and even managed to do some woodworking with his hands, as he needed something to fill his days and make him feel useful.

Final note

Always with pain by his side. The Doctors believed that as his lungs were in such poor shape, he must leave Ontario and it is cold weather and visit Vancouver, where the winters were milder. So they sold their home, and made the move. They found a great little house by the water, where he could sit and look out in the sea and as best he can. He was starting to feel a whole lot more tired, and just liked to sit. He phoned from Vancouver (I was in Ontario) and told me about where they were living, he wasn’t feeling just so great, but didn’t want his wife to understand as she was attempting to get them settled.

They had been in Vancouver for two months when I got a call that he was rushed to hospital and was in a terrible way. I boarded the first plane out and hurried to his bedside. He had been in a coma and didn’t understand I was there. The doctors said his bladder had burst and he just had a couple of hours at best. The saddest thing was, he had a new grandchild in England that he had never seen, she was his first grandchild and was to see him that summer. His daughter and family flew crisis from London to be at his side.

We placed the three month old baby on his chest hoping that he would know she had been there, we wanted to think that he did. I sat by his bedside for 16 hours, he never came out of the coma, but I held his hands knowing that he knew I was there. He passed away quietly in the night, with his pain and suffering. He’d lived 10 years longer than the physician’s called, he lived in constant pain and even in the end he hung onto life, 16 hours more than their prediction. COURAGE comes in many guises, but to me, none as powerful as the guts of a man who loved life, a guy who smiled through our tears, and who tried to make us see that life was what you created itthrough hardship. This guy, my beloved brother, whom I miss daily, will always be in my heart.