Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Drugs at Main & Hastings didn't get him but the Bugs in a British Hospital Did

At the Tuesday night cabaret at Carnegie, a woman told me that former Downtown Eastsider Ken Stook, who some people knew as "Kane", had died. She said he had died over five years ago. I hadn't known. He put me up once ; he helped me out until I found an apartment and I helped him out with his rent.

Ken lived his last few years in Vancouver in the Ford building at Main & Hastings. He didn't get into drugs like some low income people who end up on the Downtown Eastside. I recall one of his friends in the Ford building trying crack because he wanted "to see what all the fuss was about". But Ken was frugal with the little money he had, and he didn't seem to be too tempted by drugs.

He used to volunteer at the now defunct La Quena cafe on Commercial Drive. I think he got meals or something in exchange.

A few years ago one of Ken's friends at the Ford building told me that he had returned to England to train to be a psychiatric nurse. When I ran into that friend again, he told me that Ken had since gotten ejected from the psych nurse program. He had been working with troubled kids and one of them had hit him. Ken hit him back.

Ken was born in Wales and as a young man was in the British army. While on duty, he had seen some people acting suspiciously around a car -- if I remember correctly, he thought they were IRA -- and he handcuffed them to the car while he was arranging for help to arrive. The car blew up. Time to move to Canada.

Ken would have been in roughly his early forties when he required a stay in a hospital in England. The woman I talked to didn't know the reason for his stay, just that it wasn't what killed him. What killed him was a bug he picked up in the hospital. Hospitals in England are notoriously unsanitary. CBC radio had a show early this year on that topic and discussed the high death rate. They interviewed a Canadian man whose mother had been in England, required a hospital stay, and had come out in a body bag as a result of picking up a super bug. Bugs are a problem in all hospitals -- Surrey, B.C. had a reputation for this too -- but the problem is particularly bad in England.

I don't know the reasons management has allowed British hospitals to become dirty death traps. But I do read news stories about staff in British hospitals being stretched attempting to accommodate the huge, intolerant, Muslim population. Muslim men don't want their women seen by a male doctor. Muslims demand that nurses turn the beds toward Mecca. Time to divert less resources toward accommodating and more toward disinfecting.

Ken got infected. Then he apparently got re-infected. Goodbye Ken.