Nowhere to go for am­putee

Man hit by train frus­trated by un­cer­tainty over discharge from hos­pi­tal

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - RYAN THORPE ryan.thorpe.me­dia@mail.com

HE im­me­di­ate fu­ture for the Win­nipeg man whose legs were am­pu­tated af­ter be­ing hit by a train is un­cer­tain, leav­ing him un­sure of where he’ll be liv­ing once dis­charged from hos­pi­tal.

Eli­jah Gun­ner says hos­pi­tal staff gave him con­flict­ing in­for­ma­tion over the past week, say­ing he’ll soon be dis­charged early de­spite not hav­ing a place to stay.

As of Mon­day evening, he re­mains at the Win­nipeg Health Sci­ences Cen­tre, but his fam­ily doesn’t know if he’ll be forced to leave to­day.

The 20-year-old has been in hos­pi­tal since Sept. 18, when he was hit by a train near the in­ter­sec­tion of Mol­son Street and Nor­wich Av­enue.

The last thing he re­mem­bers is hav­ing a few beers with some friends. Then, things go black.

He woke up in a hos­pi­tal bed. Want­ing to leave, he asked an em­ployee where his shoes were. That’s when he was told both his legs had been am­pu­tated — one above the knee, one below it.

Fol­low­ing the ac­ci­dent, Gun­ner’s pos­i­tive at­ti­tude sur­prised many read­ers when the Free Press re­ported his story. He said the loss of his legs would serve as a char­ac­ter-build­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and turn­ing point in his trou­bled life.

But now Gun­ner says he needs to fo­cus not on what will hap­pen dur­ing his long re­cov­ery, but what will hap­pen in the com­ing days if the hos­pi­tal dis­charges him.

“Right now I don’t know what’s next. Ev­ery­thing is up in the air. I have no idea what’s go­ing on. I don’t know if I’m be­ing dis­charged or not,” Gun­ner said.

“Through­out my whole re­cov­ery I’ve been keep­ing my head up, re­main­ing calm and pos­i­tive, but this morn­ing is the first time that’s be­com­ing dif­fi­cult.”

TThat dif­fi­culty stems from the fact Gun­ner feels as if hos­pi­tal staff have been giv­ing him the runaround over the past week. Last Tues­day, Gun­ner says hos­pi­tal staff told him he’d be given an early discharge that Fri­day.

By Fri­day, he was told the discharge had been de­layed un­til Mon­day. Mon­day morn­ing, how­ever, staff said there were no plans to discharge him.

A few hours later, a so­cial worker was able to line up a five-day tem­po­rary res­i­dence for him. Since he’d have a tem­po­rary place to stay, he says hos­pi­tal staff told him they’d be mov­ing for­ward with the discharge.

Gun­ner says he tried to ex­plain that af­ter the five days were up, he’d have nowhere to stay and would be in a “pretty bad sit­u­a­tion.”

“From Tues­day to Fri­day I was pre­par­ing my­self to get ready to leave. On Fri­day I get told I’m leav­ing Mon­day. Then Mon­day comes and I’m told I’m not be­ing dis­charged at all,” Gun­ner said.

“Then an hour later I’m told that I might be dis­charged but that I’d only have the place for five days. Right now, I don’t know what the hell is go­ing on. I’m tired of pre­par­ing for sit­u­a­tions that aren’t hap­pen­ing.”

By the evening he was told he’d be al­lowed to stay the night, but it re­mains un­clear what to­day will bring.

Not know­ing if he’ll soon be dis­charged, or — if he is — whether or not he’ll have a place to stay, has left Gun­ner both anx­ious and frus­trated. He also said he gets the im­pres­sion hos­pi­tal staff are up­set he’s been speak­ing to re­porters about his sit­u­a­tion.

A spokes­woman for the Win­nipeg Re­gional Health Author­ity was reached Mon­day af­ter­noon, but did not pro­vide a com­ment on Gun­ner’s sit­u­a­tion by press time.

As a re­sult, it is not clear whether the hos­pi­tal can choose to discharge Gun­ner without him hav­ing a fixed ad­dress or res­i­dence lined up.

Mean­while, the en­gi­neer on the train that hit Gun­ner last month, David Ler­oux, re­port­edly claimed the in­ter­sec­tion at Mol­son Street and Nor­wich Av­enue is no­to­ri­ously dan­ger­ous.

When con­tacted by the Free Press on Mon­day, Ler­oux said he was told by his su­pe­ri­ors not to talk to the me­dia fur­ther. But, in an ear­lier CBC in­ter­view, Ler­oux said: “You’re con­stantly just tense com­ing in there be­cause it’s con­sis­tently be­ing crossed or peo­ple are run­ning there. It’s just a mat­ter of time be­fore it’ll hap­pen again.”

He went on to say that 20 years ago a train he was on hit a woman in the same area.

When con­tacted for a re­sponse to the en­gi­neer’s state­ment, a spokesman for Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­way de­clined to com­ment specif­i­cally on the in­ci­dent or claims that the in­ter­sec­tion was un­safe.

“There are too many pre­ventable tragedies each year caused by in­di­vid­u­als com­ing into con­tact with a train. It is il­le­gal and in­cred­i­bly dan­ger­ous to walk on rail­way tracks or cross at any lo­ca­tion other than a des­ig­nated cross­ing,” the spokesman said in a state­ment.

Between 2015 and 2016, there was a 38 per cent in­crease in tres­pass­ing in­ci­dents on rail­way tracks, re­sult­ing in 46 deaths, ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from the Trans­porta­tion Safety Board of Canada.

While Gun­ner stresses he takes per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity for his ac­ci­dent, he did add that there are many ways peo­ple are able to get to those tracks.

“It’s not par­tic­u­larly safe, since there are a lot of holes in the fence,” he said. “There are plenty of ways peo­ple can go across the train tracks where it isn’t an as­signed cross­ing.”

RYAN THORPE / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Eli­jah Gun­ner in hos­pi­tal shortly af­ter he was hit by a train last month.

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