I saw Gus sitting with crutches and a striped hospital band on the steps on the corner of Main and Hastings. It was the alcove where I’ve met residents before though I’ve never seen Gus at this spot. After a brief hello, Gus explained that he was a traveller at heart- having lived in areas such as such as Chicago, Oregon, Toronto, and other Canadian cities. His answer for why he chose to stay in Vancouver since the 1980s was simply: community. As if it were planned, his buddy stopped by and told him about the sleeping bag that a group was giving out for free today and asked if Gus wanted half his sandwich. Gus merely winked with a sparkle in his eye and pointed to the lunch we were having before settling back into our conversation. I asked Gus about his trip to the hospital and he explained that he recently had to get twenty stitches on his thigh. Through bits of his sandwich, Gus had no complaints about the quality of care that he received in the ER. He chatted on about doctors who do their everyday job and laughed at the memory of the young physician who joked with him to make his stay at the hospital a little brighter. Though we didn’t have too long of a conversation, Gus wanted this post to be a little shout-out to the everyday heroes; the difference you make may be greater than it seems.
Oftentimes, we hear about the stories of residents of the downtown eastside who are treated unfairly or face inequalities fueled by societal stereotypes when they walk into the emergency. However, Gus’ story was a simple reminder that everyday unsung heroes and their stories are masked by selective media posts and that every news broadcast is biased on some level. Although Gus’ story can by no means replace statistics and news stories, it gave me a renewed sense of hope in how individuals can make a difference in the lives of those who fall into marginalized population groups. As someone who hopes to pursue a future career in this field, Gus gave insight as to the impact that even a little moment of laughter can have in a bleak emergency room. Though to some, this might seem insignificant...unnecessary even, it points to a larger value at play: care. The care that healthcare professionals give their patients and the moments when we take a break from just counting the numbers on charts, the dashes and lines on an EKG, to remember that we are treating human beings and not just their diagnoses.