Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/8/2009 (4426 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
But that's not the way life has been for Winnipeg's best-known political activist, a guy who's scratched out a living happily delivering newspapers for the past 20 years, and writing freelance columns for a weekly audience.
So far as I know Nick has never complained about the meagre financial rewards for doing work he enjoyed.
But at age 64 -- just five months away from officially being a pensioner -- Nick Ternette has never been rewarded the way he should have been for being the city's social conscience. Certainly not when he's been thrice nominated for the Order of Manitoba, and thrice diced. Which is why what's been happening of late, as shocking as it first was, seems less surprising on reflection.
The man who ran for mayor the way Don Quixote tilted at windmills -- five times without hope, money or much respect -- won't be running anywhere anymore. He won't be walking, either.
Nick's legs were amputated a week ago last Saturday in an emergency surgery. His right leg at the hip, his left above the knee.
Then, just days after they took his legs, they also pulled all his teeth. The fear was their decayed state might further compromise his condition.
Nick says it was "flesh-eating disease" that felled him, brought on by his immune system being laid low by round after round of "maintenance" cancer treatments, which is why strong doses of antibiotics couldn't be used.
He spent several days in the intensive care unit at Health Sciences Centre where he received -- to quote Nick -- "Cadillac" treatment. Nick seems to be in incredibly good spirits given what he's lost. Maybe he's just grateful for being alive. But it appears Nick's condition remains perilous.
"He's fighting for his life right now," his wife Emily said Wednesday morning, just before Nick was wheeled in for more surgery.
"One of his stumps looks bad," she explained. "They want to go in there and clean it up. They don't want to risk any infection."
When he goes home, Nick is going to need a wheelchair, of course. Emily it turns out, uses a walker to navigate their Wolseley home. She was born with spina bifida, which means her spine isn't fully developed.
Knowing that prompted Lesley Hughes the writer/broadcaster to send me an email after hearing about Nick.
"Can't help thinking about the irony of it: Nick spent so much of his life being Emily's legs... and his reward is to lose his own."
Emily suggested Nick's legs were even more important to him than what they did for her.
"Walking was his favourite thing," she said. "He gets rid of his frustrations walking. That's what he did when he was upset. That's what he did when he was happy. But Nick is very resourceful. He just finds another way."
He's already trying to find that way in Unit GH5 at HSC where he's been accepting visitors.
He's had some he knows, and others, surprisingly, he doesn't.
"It's a very warm feeling to have someone you don't know show up and care about you," Nick said just before his surgery Wednesday.
So far Harvey Smith is the only city councillor who's dropped by, although Mayor Sam Katz called Emily and graciously offered to do anything he could to help.
We can all help, actually.
The man's socialist views weren't for everyone, of course.
But he was.
And now, I would suggest, he needs everyone's help. He will require dentures, a special wheelchair, and probably some modifications to their home if he and Emily are going to be able to stay in it. So their friends have helped set up a bank account where anyone who wishes can make a contribution.
One last thing.
Wednesday afternoon, Emily called back with some encouraging news. The surgery went well. Everything looks clean.
Maybe karma has finally decided to come around after all.