We usually talk about growing community, and while we still do that, and the building hasn’t changed, the census of Pearson is shrinking. The first 44 residents moved out earlier this year, into housing in the community – namely Cambie Gardens, the first two apartment towers built on the corner of this site. There are single apartments as well as some 4-bedroom and 6-bedroom group apartments, managed by CONNECT Communities. Last week (November 2023) another 13 folks moved into Dogwood Care Home, which is operated by VCH and built mainly to replace the elders housing Dogwood Lodge, with some spaces open to Pearson residents. Residents choose different models of care and different ways of accessing resources depending on their personal preferences. Someone with a fragile health state and dependence on a ventilator may prefer to live in community, managing their own staff. Someone else who has more physical abilities and a more stable health state may prefer a long term facility. We believe that everyone has the right to decide their risk-taking comfort level and what is important to them. GPC now has around 60 individuals living here. Once the next 10 ventilated / trached residents move out from GPC to Dogwood, we will be just under 50 people, down from 115 residents at the beginning of 2021. It will feel very different.
The GPC Resident Council was contacted by the Larry, the son of former Pearson resident Harry Watts, who passed away in 1976. Larry offered to donated three paintings by the prolific oil painter David Young.
Larry shared that his mother and father had purchased these paintings simply because they liked them. He had held on to them all these years but felt it was time to find them a new home.
Larry’s father Harry and painter David Young had both lived at the same time at Pearson Hospital, as it was called then. Current Pearson resident Joy remembers them both:
“I remember watching David Young paint and getting some tips from him. I also remember Harry Watts and his wonderful wife who used to take him home for weekends. Harry had no independent breathing so he went home on a stretcher in the back of a station wagon (no vans or Handydart at that time!), using a chest curassis…to breathe. Once they arrived home, his fellow fire fighter friends got him into the house and onto the rocking bed where he entertained his kids and visitors.”
The paintings are beautiful textured landscapes featuring mountains, trees and ocean:
In the Resident Council archives we found a newspaper article clipped from Autumn 1976 – we can’t tell which newspaper, and it is worth noting that the language is outdated. Nowadays it is more common to refer to ‘the person with a disability’ rather than ‘severely disabled person’. But this article entitled “Pearson painter emerges” gives us some history on David Young and his painting techniques:
“While at the Pearson Hospital, David had developed his artistic talent at oil painting, using the palette-knife application method, not the most simple of techniques, but with special difficulties for a severely disabled person. David overcame this by using his mouth to hold his knives, and now paints using a specially designed powered easel which he developed together with the staff and colleagues at the Pearson Hospital.”
The article states that David Young had recently moved into the community to live with his wife and stepchildren. At that time, he had to sleep on a mechanically rocking bed. He used technology still new at the time, a Touch Operated Selector Control unit (TOSC) which gave him access to services such as the telephone, intercom, among other things. It is interesting to have a view into this talented painter’s history, and to enjoy his textured oil paintings in real life.
Pearson was in the news again, this time about the food served to residents. Those of us who have been here awhile remember well when things changed – under Gordon Campbell’s BC Liberal government, starting around 2003 – a LOT of privatization went on. During Campbell’s term as premier of British Columbia from 2001 until 2011, housekeeping, food, laundry, and security services in health care facilities were outsourced to transnational corporations, under the guise of saving money.
This is not meant to blame the workers – they are often poorly paid and expected to do more in less time. And GPC didn’t have a choice in the matter. As with so many things, the actual people responsible have likely long since moved on.
Some residents think the food here is great. Some do not. The desire for a home cooked meal was the driving force behind CARMA’s Community Kitchen, a monthly program of making and sharing excellent food featuring fresh produce.
Sadly, Community Kitchen is on hold during this COVID-19 Pandemic, and sorely missed by residents.
The link to the news article on GPC’s meals is below.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has heralded the widespread use of masks that cover one’s mouth and nose. One unintended consequence that a certain segment of our population is suddenly cut off from understanding others – from the teller at the grocery store to their doctor.
The impact of this on communication is significant. People who rely on reading lips are suddenly cut off from your words. People who use sign language are also inhibited – the face and lips are actually used as part of that language. The immediate impact is on the hearing impaired community. It is worth adding that whenever we exclude one group of people, we are all missing out as they are forced to adapt, to struggle to participate in society. Of course we all benefit from seeing someone’s whole face when communicating, but most of us can get by with hearing someone’s muffled voice.
There are some solutions – the transparent full face shield is one obvious one. As well, some people are making nose and mouth face masks with a vinyl window over the mouth. Perhaps we should all consider wearing one of those? Read more about one student’s project, that was picked up by media, reported here. There are many designs being posted online, including videos on how to make your own, such as here (by Emily, a hearing impaired person).
It has been about two and a half months since Pearson went on ‘lockdown’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. While the ‘new normal’ has become routine, it can still be challenging to adapt to all the restrictions. We know we are keeping each other safe with the precautions in place. Residents miss direct contact with family members. With so few outside visitors, friendships among residents are especially important.
Of course, staff are masked, and this affects communication. For those who are hearing impaired, reading lips can be especially important.
But, we persevere. At least with the warming weather, we can enjoy some sunshine. The Rec staff have been essential in keeping residents connected to the outside world via digital means. We even had our very first virtual Resident Council meeting – and about the same number of participants were able to attend, compared to the days of in-person meetings. Resident Council acknowledged the efforts of everyone who has done what they can to keep the virus out of Pearson, which thankfully it has, so far.
Mary Lambert recently passed away. Mary was a strong and passionate voice for the human rights of people with disabilities, and changed many lives for the better – arguably she still does as the projects she began continue to impact people.
In 1977 Mary the teenager moved away from her family in the Okanagan to Vancouver to live at GPC (Pearson). Three years later she moved out. She was among the first residents to make the move out into the community. She had dreams – she had things to do! She had a physical disability but that wasn’t going to stop her.
Mary didn’t forget about her friends still living at Pearson and came back to advocate for transitioning GPC Residents into the community. With the support of the DABC (then named BCCPD), in 1998 Mary co-founded CARMA with Taz Pirbhai, a social worker who had also lived briefly at Pearson and moved back to the community. Mary was a key project leader until 2001. What she helped start continues to this day – CARMA still strives to support residents of GPC and still helps them move into the community if that is what they choose.
Mary was a strong advocate for people with disabilities in general, and served on various Boards (including HandyDart). Mary lived in a co-op that she helped to create and eventually lived with a ventilator that she managed at home. She was an important leader on issues like accessible housing, transportation, home support and individualized funding. We remember Mary and we thank her.
If I can help just one other person along their road to independence, I will have accomplished something money can’t buy, and no one can take that away from me.
Lambert, Mary (1997, March/April). Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way Transition, 20-22.