Have you ever wondered why Bruce Macleod from Horsefly is in a wheelchair?
This week he invited me to visit him in Cariboo Memorial Hospital where he’s been staying since March 22 because he wanted to rave about how well he was being treated by the staff.
In the process of our conversation, he told me he became a paraplegic after he was in a car accident on Dec. 16, 1981.
“I was driving home with a car load of Christmas presents, hit black ice, and broke my back,” he said.
He was 39 years old at the time. He and his late wife Faye had four small children.
Soon after the accident, his doctor in Nanaimo told him he’d be paralyzed.
“I spent 59 days in a striker frame in Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver,” he recalled.
As he began to adjust to his new life, Macleod became involved with efforts of the Parksville, B.C. town council to make it totally accessible.
“We formed the Access to All committee, spoke at schools, spoke at chambers, and we even had school kids doing surveys and going around Parksville on wheelchairs to see where work was needed. I even took a public speaking course through the local Catholic church so I could get up and speak for the committee.”
The goal was to have Parksville full accessible by Expo 86, but it was completed by 1984.
Macleod did have an embarrassing moment when he was invited to speak about accessibility at the Robson Square Media Centre.
“I arrived there to give a talk and realized I didn’t have anything to say. It was my failure as a media publicist.”
Macleod said he caught the flu earlier this year and couldn’t shake it. Plus, like many people with spinal cord injuries, he is ailed with a pressure ulcer from where he scraped his backside in 2012.
It won’t heal and has even infected the bone.
“My son John has been taking care of me since three months before Fay passed away in 2015. He comes in at 7 a.m. to my house and changes my dressings, but it was getting too much to keep ahead of the infection. I packed my bags and came to the hospital.”
With nothing but praise for the care he’s been receiving since he arrived in the hospital, Macleod said the hospital is staffed for 22 beds and there have been 29 patients there most of the time he’s been in.
“They are overworked, no doubt about it, but I am so impressed. I need to be hoisted and have my dressings done and have had no long waits. I’m amazed at the efficiency, not to mention the cheerful banter of the nurses.”
Looking above his bed, where the nurses on shift are noted on a white board, he listed all of his nurses — Mayson, Jeremy, Fay, Kate, Nancy and Sunita.
“I have to give my mind something to do,” he said of why he’s made sure to learn all of their names.
Macleod has been receiving antibiotic injections daily to fight the infection in his ulcer, which seems to be “killing it,” but he called me on Tuesday to say his doctor told him he will probably not be going home anytime soon.
“They are trying to figure out something for me to go to Deni House or Seniors Village,” he said.
Macleod returned to Horsefly with Fay in Aug. 14, 2006 and said it was the best move they ever made.
His family moved to Horsefly when he had just turned seven years old.
It was 1949 and his dad, Rod Macleod, a biologist, moved the family there because he, along with Jim Mason, were setting up the Horsefly Hatchery.
“Mom drove my sister and I in a 1937 Studebaker through the Fraser Canyon. An axle broke at Lytton and we had to wait two days for an axle.”
The road from Williams Lake to Horsefly was dirt, and Macleod remembers the family stopping at 153 Mile to gas up.
As a young man he enrolled in the soldier apprentice training at Camp Borden Ontario, studying academics half of the day and army exercises the other half. From there he was posted for two years in Winnipeg at New Fort Osborne.
“I stood at the cenotaph when Duff Roblin was premier. I went to Churchill for a winter indoctrination course where we learned how to fight in the snow. I even drove ambulance in Churchill for the army hospital.”
He also made the army volleyball team which earned a spot in the Western Volleyball Championships in Winnipeg.
“I only played one game. I was the worst player so I was a bench warmer for the rest of the games.”
Macleod has been active with the Horsefly River Roundtable and reported faithfully on its activities through articles he’s written for the Tribune.
He said they are definitely hosting the Horsefly Salmon Festival this year after taking an hiatus.
“I do want to go home so I can attend,” he said, adding if he ends up staying away long term from home he will also miss his garden.
“Location is everything,” he added with a huge grin.