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Apartment, aide mean he's luckier than some

‘DID you comb?" says Elvie Cadiz, eyeing Ternette’s long, wispy bedhead.

Cadiz is Ternette's doting, matter-of-fact homecare worker, one of three who rotate through the Ternettes' home daily.

Nick Ternette holds forth on the couch in his apartment. He says he misses his strong voice more than his legs -- his wheelchair has replaced them.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Nick Ternette holds forth on the couch in his apartment. He says he misses his strong voice more than his legs -- his wheelchair has replaced them. Photo Store

The long-time activist catches an afternoon nap, but he is out and about on all but the stormiest days.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The long-time activist catches an afternoon nap, but he is out and about on all but the stormiest days. Photo Store

With the help of Elvie Cadiz, the nurse who works as one of his three aides, Ternette gets ready for the day. 'I do the front, and she does the back,' he says.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

With the help of Elvie Cadiz, the nurse who works as one of his three aides, Ternette gets ready for the day. 'I do the front, and she does the back,' he says. Photo Store

An eclectic reader, Ternette stacks Ayn Rand beside a biography of Che Guevara.

An eclectic reader, Ternette stacks Ayn Rand beside a biography of Che Guevara.

Cadiz helps Ternette get into his power-assisted wheelchair.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Cadiz helps Ternette get into his power-assisted wheelchair. Photo Store

A civic gadfly all his adult life, Ternette reads local politics in the Free Press.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A civic gadfly all his adult life, Ternette reads local politics in the Free Press. Photo Store

"Not everyone is as good as her," said Ternette.

Cadiz, a trained nurse from the Philippines, makes meals, does laundry and helps Ternette take his morning shower and get dressed.

"I do the front, and she does the back," says Ternette.

As Ternette hikes himself up in his chair, Cadiz also helps shimmy on a thin adult diaper just in case he can't get to a wheelchair-accessible bathroom when he's out. And, she quickly slides her hands under Ternette's bum and applies some Vaseline to avoid bedsores, common among people who depend on a wheelchair.

Ternette says finding a good home-care worker is tricky, and he and Emily have opted for a brokerage program run by the Independent Living Resource Centre. Instead of making do with the home-care worker assigned by government, the brokerage program allows disabled people to hire their own workers, and the aides are willing to perform a more flexible menu of duties like watering plants. It allows the Ternettes to do things their way as much as possible, a little freer from bureaucratic rules.

For Ternette, his way does not include fashion.

"What do you think? Should I change?" Ternette asks Cadiz as he's getting ready for his monthly lunch date with friend and former city councillor Lawrie Cherniak.

The Ternettes live in a two-bedroom apartment in the brand-new McFeetors Hall on the University of Winnipeg campus.

It's crowded with plants, knick-knacks and mementos of Ternette's activism. Photos, caricatures and paintings cover almost every bit of wall space, including a blow-up of Ternette lecturing a fedora-wearing MLA Doug Martindale at a protest. Books are jammed into every crevice of the study -- Ayn Rand sits next to the Che Guevara biography.

To Emily's chagrin, the Ternettes had to give up their old Wolseley home because retrofitting costs would have topped $30,000, but they scored an unused U of W student apartment after word filtered up that Emily had searched high and low for an accessible unit.

"I think it was Lloyd," said Ternette, referring to Lloyd Axworthy, the university's president.

When one comes up -- which could take years -- the Ternettes will likely move to one of the few accessible apartments in Wolseley.

Housing is a big issue for people in wheelchairs. Ternette said he was in the rehabilitation centre with amputees, many of them aboriginal, who'd been in hospital for more than a year because they could not find an affordable, accessible apartment, especially on their home reserve.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 23, 2011 J4

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