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YYY: Winnipeg’s most beloved social activist in trouble - and in hospital

Winnipeg’s most beloved social activist in trouble - and in hospital

 Street Sheet (Canada) 28 May 2019

(Originally published: 09/2009) Nick Ternette is recovering at Health Sciences Centre, but is not out of danger yet. Having cancer for a few years now, Nick contracted flesh-eating disease and was recently pushed through the turnstiles of Winnipeg’s health care system. Street Sheet’s Rodney Graham reports on the condition of the much loved activist and writer Nick Ternette and the thousands of letters of messages of support he has received from well-wishers since taking ill.  - By Rodney Graham

Nick Ternette is recovering at Health Sciences Centre, but is not out of danger yet.  Having cancer for a few years now, Nick contracted flesh-eating disease and was recently pushed through the turnstiles of Winnipeg's health care system. Street Sheet's Rodney Graham reports on the condition of the much loved activist and writer Nick Ternette and the thousands of letters of messages of support he has received from well-wishers since taking ill.  (1,009 words, English)

Nick Ternette is recovering at Health Sciences Centre, but is not out of danger yet.  Having cancer for a few years now, Nick contracted flesh-eating disease and was pushed through the turnstiles of Winnipeg's health care system recently.

I learned of Nick's condition a couple of weeks ago while doing my NO FLYER campaign.  I cut my crusade short and came back to Winnipeg.  Funds were running short as well, so it's good to be back in the peg, but not under these conditions.  Nick is like family to me.

I visited Nick at HCS on GH5 recently.  He will be there for a few months - at least.

"I was delivering papers," Nick told me, "when I felt pinpricks in my right leg.  I went home and the pain intensified.  Then I had to go to four different hospitals.  They finally told us - 'You are going to have to let us amputate or you'll die.' "

Nick already had cancer and was battling it when this came along.  Apparently 'flesh eating disease is not that uncommon.  "At least two or three people a year get it right here in Winnipeg," Nick told me.

"My immune system was already shot from the cancer I've had for years now" Nick said, "this was too much for my body to take."  He will have to undergo physiotherapy for months and stay in hospital for months.  Something I know he will not like at all.  Nick is a go-getter; he is all about being active.  Even though he's in his 60s now he is more active than many in their 20s!

Writing, calling, coordinating protests, listening to the heartbeat of the city, the province, the nation…and contributing in the form of letters to the editor, articles to various publication s including Street Sheet Canada.  I wonder how he will manage.  But he is handling it with the same unusual drive that has kept him on top of politics and activism for 40 years or more.

"It happened fast," Nick, said, "7 days after I felt the pinpricks they amputated!"

During the traumatic experience Nick also suffered a heart attack, had a blood transfusion, and went into shock.  He says the nurses in his ward have been fantastic, "Some dieticians even came by and talked to me about my meals and laid out a plan of meals for me, " he added.

However, some of the bureaucrats are a different story.  He says that some of the policies are crazy - for example - all of the staff go to dinner at the same time while there is not enough to look after people on the wards.  "I had to go to the bathroom and had to wait for staff to come back after dinner and meanwhile wait in a mess all the while - not too pleasant!"

"Also on the weekend a lot of staff are off sick and they are not even replaced so there is a shortage of staff on weekends who are not replaced so there are not enough of them!"

Nick's weight is down to 126 lbs now and he is going to have to fight back to health and normal weight.  "My attitude is good.  It makes a big difference.  If you give up you're in trouble".

"The support is tremendous.  350 cards were sent and a substantial amount of money was given too.  I even got cards from across Canada, " he added, "Some guys contacted me who I coached hockey in the 1960s - they have sent me cards."

Nick says he especially appreciated the '1919 Insurrection Choir" that came and sang for him in the waiting room of GH5 ward.  He told me that he thinks there should be support of left wing people for each other.  Makes sense for sure.  I think some right wing people who know about Nick's 'struggle' over the years may have the respect to even support him too in this time of need.  They probably do. "I'm appreciative of the support from so many people.  People have even asked about me in the street I hear" Nick said.

His undying ambition and energy were definitely not affected by the physical predicament, I could see that clearly.  I have to say I am impressed more than ever with him.  I admire Nick Ternette - while laying there in his hospital bed he spoke of issues and plans in the social justice community and of planned to have a poverty paper on a larger scale in the city and of having a bathroom built on the main floor so he wouldn't have to have an electric chair to go upstairs…and oh, I forgot A book…

He never stopped talking.  He was his 'usual' self.  Determined, creative, ambitious, positive, and definitely talkative.  His dignity, perseverance under danger, and optimism reminds me of some other 'progressive' people - the Kennedy's - who have had their share of trouble.

Ironically, his wife is in a wheelchair and has been for many years.  "We applied for an apartment a few years ago and they called us very recently and told us, ''we have a wheelchair apt for you now - the irony is that they need a two wheelchair apt now!

Personally, I will be keeping close tabs on his convalescence.  He is not out of the woods yet either.  I was in hospital myself with double pneumonia in 2005 and have continuing health issues now as a result.  I know what it's like to be there for weeks on end.  Morale is of utmost importance.  A simple phone call or card makes a big difference. If one does not have support in this way it can be hell on earth.  If any would be so kind and reward someone who has dedicated his life to help those less fortunate in our world - this man deserves your thanks and your help - now.  You can donate to his fund or call or send cards. Please do.  If anyone in this province deserves support and love Nick Ternette needs you support now.  Thank you.

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