COVID-19 making it hard to turn life's lemons into lemonade, say Squamish couple | Squamish Chief

COVID-19 making it hard to turn life's lemons into lemonade, say Squamish couple

Squamish businessman takes hit after hit while waiting for hip replacement surgery

For some in Squamish, the pandemic is taking routine bumps in the road of life and making them into chasms.

That is the case for John Bright.

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He is speaking out about his woes so that other people know they aren't alone and to shine a light on long surgery wait times made longer by COVID-19.

There is also a gap in government support for people in his same situation, he says.

Currently, he is waiting for surgery, which was put off by COVID-19, debtors are calling, and to cap it all off, he recently had to dissolve his company.

A sad chapter in what started out as a happy tale.

Bright's general property maintenance company, Bright Property Services Inc., was in great shape around Christmas 2018, he told The Chief.

Bright was turning away work and about to expand.

But early in 2019, he hurt his hips during an attic job.

The injury stopped him from working, but he thought he would be back to work after a short time on WorkSafeBC compensation.

Nine months later, after multiple doctors' visits, Bright learned he will require both hips to be replaced. By then, he had also developed an unusual neuropathy condition.

Bright, who has an anaphylactic allergic reaction to most pain and anti-inflammatory meds, also found that Squamish lacks pain management resources, he says.

For the pain management he needed, he was directed to Lions Gate Hospital — an unbearable car ride away, if room were to open up in the program.

"I only take CBD and THC oil, which is not covered and not affordable, so I don't always have it. And those are not good days," he said.

He bought a pool pass to try and keep a little limber, which helped, but the pool is closed now, due to the pandemic."

Of help available, he only qualifies for  $1,000 per month in Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPPD) benefits, he says.

But he had hope because he was booked to see a surgeon about his hip replacements on April 2.

"We were going to bite the bullet and make a skinny budget and we will survive," Bright recalled. "Hip replacements, they are like four to six months [recovery] so we will take a year or a year and a half."

And then the pandemic hit.

On April 1, the surgeon's appointment was cancelled due to COVID-19.

He does not qualify for CERB or unemployment benefits.

He's been leaving messages at the surgeon's office, but to date has received no callback.

"Anne and I were prepared as much as we could for a normal length of time without my full income to get hips fixed," Bright, who is also a musician, told The Chief.

In the meantime, he "can't do anything," he said, adding he is homebound and can't do almost any of the things that bring him joy, such as ride his bike, or even play music.

John Bright, in better days.
John Bright, in better days. - Courtesy John Bright

"Now the wait for hip surgery could be years. It has already been a year and a half."

Bright says he has debts to the bank and credit cards and his truck was repossessed. He has sold most of his tools and equipment.

With the pressure piling up, on June 22, the decision was made to permanently close his company's doors.

"I have been getting calls from the bank and the Visas and I am saying, 'I have nothing. I have nothing,'" he said.

Anne, who is Bright’s partner, acknowledged that the stress of it has taken a mental toll, but she said the couple does their best to stay positive and keep in perspective that many others are suffering during this time.

"I mean, everybody I talk to has something going on. We are fortunate, we have our home. We deferred our mortgage so we do have our home and so we do have a bit of wiggle room. Some people are really strapped."

Bright stressed that he does not want or need offers of help, he just wants to share his experience.

Vancouver Coastal Health on surgery wait times

According to Vancouver Coastal Health and Provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix, approximately 30,000 surgeries were postponed/not scheduled due to COVID-19.

"Vancouver Coastal Health is working to get through the backlog of surgeries, including orthopedic surgeries, as quickly as possible, with the highest standards of infection prevention and control to ensure safe care for our patients," read a statement sent to The Chief by VCH's  Carrie Stefanson.

"As scheduled surgeries resume, we would like to assure all patients who had their elective or scheduled surgery postponed that their surgery will be rescheduled with their surgeon."

There is no single waitlist for all B.C. residents needing surgery. Wait times vary by procedure and hospitals and depend on several factors, said Stefanson, noting that COVID-19 has eliminated the gains B.C. was making on wait times.

"The federal benchmark for hip surgery is 26 weeks from when the patient has met with the specialist and the specialist has booked the procedure in the hospital."

[You can find out more about wait times here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/accessing-health-care/surgical-wait-times/understanding-wait-times]

*Please note, this story has been updated since it was first posted to say that though appreciative of the offers, Bright is not looking for donations.

How has the pandemic impacted you? If you want to share your story, reach out to news@squamishchief.com.

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