Finding comfort, friends and a home at Bruyère
Meet Donald Richer
Donald Richer was an active, healthy, hard-working father of two. Growing up with two sisters, he was known to be a bit of a prankster. He was a great hockey player, always captain of his team, and was nearly drafted to the Ontario Hockey League when he was 16 years old.
Donald worked in construction for most of his life and was known to contractors across the city as “Don The Legend King.” With a twinkle in his eye and his whole life ahead of him, the sky was the limit for Donald.
At age 45, Donald started losing his footing. His leg would give out, or his foot would go sideways. He started experiencing numbness and falls became more and more frequent.
After numerous consultations, he was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. However, the symptoms started travelling to the other leg and he noticed a change in colour and temperature, all of which are not characteristic of the condition.
Donald went for an MRI, where experts discovered he had crushed discs in his neck. Fortunately, surgery could be performed and the outlook was mostly positive. When he woke up, he was once again able to move his toes. He and his family thought he was cured and they were overjoyed. . After some rehabilitation, he was using his legs again, standing, and slowly working towards walking again.
But he never really got better. Some days, he just couldn’t move his legs and couldn’t get up. After more scans and tests, Donald was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). ALS gradually causes paralysis as the brain can no longer communicate with the muscles we are typically able to move at will. Over time, as the muscles of the body break down, someone living with ALS will lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, swallow, and, eventually, breathe. There is no cure for ALS and few treatment options exist for those living with the disease.
Despite there being some very dark moments as the symptoms worsened, Donald never lost his courage or his will to live. To this day, he proudly sports his million-dollar smile every chance he gets.
Bruyère has been part of Donald’s journey since 2017, when he moved into the Saint-Vincent Hospital campus. While he is unable to speak, Donald is able to communicate through an assistive communicative device which he controls through eye movements. This technology is supported by Bruyère’s Assistive Communication Technology team, who provides tailor-made technologies and tools to help patients stay connected to their families and the outside world.
Bruyère’s Saint-Vincent Hospital is the sole provider of complex continuing care in Ottawa, with the next closest option for our region in Toronto. The team specializes in supporting those living with progressive diseases and multiple medical conditions.
Donald calls it “home sweet home,” and his family is grateful for the great care that he receives.
“We know that he’s well taken care of, and we knew that it was not possible for him to stay home, that we would not be able to take care of him 24 hours a day. When we leave here – we come every day to put him to bed and take care him – and when we leave we know he’s in good hands. Even when we arrive, he’s always got a big smile on his face, so we know he’s good.”
When asked where he finds his strength Donald says: “My father always told me life was beautiful and to always make the most of it. And the team at Bruyère, they have become my friends.”