Updated: Aug 14
Glen Tig's worst fears about George Pearson Centre were realized
By Spencer van Vloten
July 25th, 2021
Athletic and adventurous, Glen Tig was frustrated that his condition was slowing him down, but he was still living independently and enjoying life in the community.
That would change when things took a turn for the worse and he was forced into George Pearson Centre, where his life would soon become a nightmare.
The Curse of George Pearson Centre - #4: An Unbreakable Bond
MAKING IT WORK
Glen Tigg loved his life.
A psychologist by profession, he lived in the heart of downtown Vancouver with his loving husband Sid.
He was independent and always on the move, leading an active lifestyle that included scenic runs along the seawall and hikes up Grouse Mountain. He loved the outdoors and travelled the world, always keen to explore and connect with nature.
But Glen also had multiple systems atrophy, an incurable member of the Parkinson’s family that progressively impairs the body’s functioning.
Although eager to continue his active lifestyle, each year Glen found himself a bit weaker, not able to complete as many hikes or run as far. Soon he also struggled with balance and mobility, and eventually his body stopped responding to simple commands.
Glen loved nature and being outdoors
He did his best to stay healthy, watching his diet and being active to the extent he could, and though he'd slowed down over the years he was still living independently and finding ways to make things work for him.
But his life would take a dramatic turn one weekend in February, 2017.
Glen was enjoying a quiet and cool February evening at home when he lost his balance.
He fell hard and hit his head on the way down, the impact knocking him unconscious. He remained motionless for the next 3 days until Sid returned from a weekend work trip and discovered him on the floor of their condo.
Glen was rushed to St. Paul’s Hospital, where he spent the next 8 months in assessments and recovery. Although he'd survive the fall, the prognosis wasn’t good: due to the injury and progressive nature of his condition, Glen would never walk again.
To make matters worse, he was also informed that he could no longer stay in the hospital, and instead of returning home, which is where he wanted to go, it was recommended that he start living in George Pearson Centre.
Glen refused immediately. His mind was still sharp and he wanted to live in the community with supports in place to help with his condition; he didn’t want to be confined to a long-term care institution.
But the hospital gave him an ultimatum: he either went to Pearson, or had to pay over $1500 for every day that he stayed in St. Paul’s.
Unable to afford such a large sum, Glen had no choice but to go to George Pearson Centre. He worried what life would be like there and tried to brace himself for the move, but little did he realize that it would be even worse than he could imagine.
ENTERING THE WARD
Things went south within minutes of Glen’s arrival at George Pearson Centre.
Despite staff knowing he had an anxiety condition that was triggered in response to loud sounds, Glen was placed in the middle of a 10-bed open ward, the nosiest place in the facility, where he was met by the blare of loud TVs, yelling residents, and shrill whistles.
When his sister Chiquita, who was with him on that first day, took him outside in his wheelchair to escape the cacophony, Glen was so shook up that he refused to go back in, only returning after one of his nurses from St. Paul’s phoned him and persuaded him to.
Glen struggled with anxiety at Pearson and wore noise-cancelling headphones to help block the unnerving sounds of the ward
Chiquita would continue to be a pillar of support for Glen over the next months, providing reassurance as he continued to struggle emotionally, and also providing up to 8 hours of care a day that the staff were supposed to be doing themselves.
Far from helping, the staff showed little interest in Glen, and what they did do was often detrimental.
He'd be dumped uncomfortably in his wheelchair and left as such all day; the computer which helped him communicate was placed out of his reach; and a bright red rash on his arm was brushed off as just being a sunburn, even though he hadn’t been in the sun.
The problems kept adding up, and Chiquita was getting very concerned.
CRYING OUT IN PAIN
Increasingly worried by what she was seeing, Chiquita decided to document what was happening to her brother, and soon she'd recorded numerous incidents.
Upon visiting Glen one day, she discovered that his feeding tube wasn't connected properly, its contents leaking onto Glen, his wheelchair, and the floor.
Food leaking out of Glen's feeding tube
On another occasion, the Foley catheter which drained his urine was wrapped around his leg, obstructing the flow of urine and causing pressure to build painfully on his bladder. When Chiquita noticed this she unwound the tube, instantly causing urine to rush out.
Chiquita would find Glen's urine tube wrapped around his leg, blocking the flow of urine and putting pressure on his bladder
And particularly disturbing was what happened when a nurse attempted to insert a catheter.
The nurse struggled roughly with the insertion, drawing a cry of pain from Glen. Instead of easing up, they continued to force in the catheter, rupturing his urethra and drawing a stream of dark red blood.
The result of a poorly inserted catheter
But while all this was happening, something even more damaging was going on behind the scenes: the creation of a province-wide restriction that was about to cut Glen off from his biggest source of support, and leave George Pearson Centre's worst tendencies unchecked.
With the onset of the COVID pandemic, things changed for the worse.
Chiquita, who had been instrumental in Glen’s care and support, was no longer allowed in Pearson due to restrictions on visitations to BC’s long-term care centres.
Despite being the one who provided the bulk of his care, all she could do now was sit outside his window, looking in for a couple hours a day, 3-days a week.
Trapped by himself inside Pearson, he was cut off from his main source of support, and the results were apparent immediately; his care declined, and so too did his condition.
He developed rashes and puss-filled sores all over his body.
His eyelids started drooping over his eyes and obscuring his vision while he was awake, and staff would leave him like that for hours before helping raise his lids so he could see.
And he no longer had his sister at his side to provide him with the emotional support he so badly needed to help him keep going in George Pearson Centre.
And it would get worse
Without Chiquita there to provide hours of daily care during the pandemic, Glen's hygiene suffered and he developed many rashes and pus-filled sores similar to these
In late July 2020, Glen developed a serious fever. Although staff had known about it since at least the night before, he’d been left in bed and an ambulance hadn’t been called until later the next day.
At the hospital Glen was found to be in very ill health. Doctors were also shocked to discover that his scrotum was red and massively swollen, which had somehow gone unnoticed or unmentioned by the staff at Pearson.
Following an assessment at the hospital, it was determined that he needed surgery to save his life, but due to his condition, he wasn’t a candidate for the operation, and that meant that Glen was going to die.
Once Glen learned the news, he made it clear that he wanted to go home and never return to Pearson: he would die at home.
Only as he was dying would his wish to return home be recognized, and arrangements were made for him to be where he'd wanted to be for the last 3 years.
At his home, surrounded by his sister Chiquita, husband Sid, and a close friend, Glen passed on September 17th, 2020.
He was where he’d wanted to be all along, in his place of calm and comfort, peace and quiet, surrounded by people who cared the world for him.
There could be no doubt that Glen Tig –brilliant psychologist, passionate adventurer, and loving friend, brother, and husband—was in a better place, far from the dark halls of George Pearson Centre.
Rest In Peace Glen
Spencer van Vloten is the editor of BC Disability. To get in touch, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!