Gerald Lacroix says it was tough financial times, including losing his job working in auto parts, that landed him in a single-room-occupancy hotel in the Downtown Eastside four years ago. He was in that tiny space in April 2012 when, after hours of pouring sweat and becoming so weak he could barely stand, he called 911. Once he was in the ambulance, he says, his heart “exploded”.
“When I got to the hospital, they opened me up to figure out what to do with me,” Lacroix says in an interview at a coffee shop near his home at the corner of Main and Hastings streets. “They had phoned my family and said, ‘Come and get his belongings,’ figuring I wasn’t going to make it.”
But Lacroix says he woke up three days later with 170 staples across his chest, having survived a heart and single-lung transplant. He lifts up his shirt to reveal a scar running from under his left armpit all the way across his chest and around his back to his spine. On the front of his torso is a rib that sticks straight out to the right side of his body, resembling a drumstick. The rib had become askew during the procedure and stayed that way.
Lacroix spent the next month in hospital, and for months thereafter once home, he took several different types of pain medication, which left him feeling exhausted and nauseated. He says it wasn’t until this past May, when he discovered the Healing Tree—a medical-marijuana dispensary in the Downtown Eastside—and started taking the substance that he started to feel better.
“I honestly believe it turned the corner of my life,” Lacroix says. “Before, I couldn’t have made it to the end of the street and back, I was so fatigued. I had lost so much weight, I was down to 130 pounds. I was taking eight pills four times a day—32 pills. And there was depression, obviously. I have a rib sticking out of my body. Anytime I go to do anything, I’m in pain.
– Read the entire article at The Georgia Straight.