Ian is a familiar face at the shelter. He bought his shoes at Red Outlet downtown.
What is your biggest struggle with poverty on a daily basis?
“Poverty affects me because of lack of food. You see, I’m epileptic. I need to take my medicine with food in the morning and at night. If I don’t have food, I don’t take my meds. Then, I end up having seizures. Look, I cracked these two top teeth and this tooth and this one, too, by banging my head having a seizure. It’s a hard life out on the streets. People are getting more cruel.”
“Take last week, for instance. I was ‘coming to’, you know, coming out of a seizure, lying on the sidewalk not far from here. Look, the side of my face and my mouth is raw from bumping up and down, up and down, on the concrete. There were people around me, saying, ‘Look at the old man!’. And, ‘Look at the bum in the street!’ Now, these people gawking at me all had cell phones. I don’t care that they didn’t stop to help me out. But, couldn’t at least one of them just dial 911 for me, and then keep on going?”
“I was still in a bit of a stupor when I was at the hospital later. They asked me if I wanted to stay longer. I told them I could walk now so I could leave. I did manage to spoon some jello off of them. So, I had food to take my meds.”
What would you like people to know about living in poverty?
“Defeat is not permanent when there’s hope! I’ve been practicing that for 62 years. It applies to poverty and it applies to many situations. Look at me. I was supposed to be dead at 19 years of age. I had brain surgery for tumours in my brain. Feel these indents here in my head. Right here! I had my lid lifted and 17 pieces of metal the size of sugar cubes put in. The metal was supposed to stop the tumours from growing bigger. It worked. The tumours are still there but guess what? So, am I! The two surgeons who operated on me said it would only extend my life a little. Dr. Cardone gave me 6 months to live. Dr. Kleider gave me 1 year. Yup. A German and a Russian operated on my brain. Ha-ha! They’re both dead now and I’m alive!”
“I’ve been through some tough times because of my epilepsy. But, it’s not the epilepsy; it’s people’s misconceptions!”
“I was on the news when I was 20. My brain was barely healed at that time from the surgery. I went into the pharmacy on Rivard. My girlfriend was sick. I went there to buy her some ginger ale, ice-cream and medicine. When I left the store, I had a seizure in the parking lot. A man thought I was a nut. A mental case. He kicked me in the back. Other people joined in. There were 17 people who beat me. My jaw was broken, the bones in my ears—I can’t remember all their names—they all were broken. I was blinded for a while from the swelling. My head was out to here. But, the guys that beat me? They were all wrong. I wasn’t crazy. I was epileptic.”
“Times weren’t all bad, though. Later, that year, I fully recovered. I hitch-hiked to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia with three buddies. It was going to be me and my crew chopping trees. We got hired as a crew. The cook taught us how to use a chain saw to chop down trees. And, guess what? All three team members went back to Ontario. They were homesick. So, there was I, the epileptic, working alone in the woods with a chain saw, cutting down trees. I could have cut off an arm or a leg easily and no one would know. But, I never had one seizure all the time I was there. Mind you, I smoked marijuana everyday. Maybe that helped. I dunno. It was the only time in my life since the surgery I was seizure-free. But, my parents wanted me to come home. To see doctors and to take medicine. I’m on a lot of meds now, even medicinal marijuana, and I still have seizures.”
“Tell people never to give up. To keep on looking down the road. If I give up, every epileptic in the world can give up. I will never give up hope. I put on a smile and make the world a better place. I always tell myself, ‘I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.’”