published by Webmaster in
May 24, 2024

A Pandemic Life

By Randy Dueck

In the following article, Bernie Gaudet interviews
Randy Dueck about life during the pandemic.
Can you begin by telling the readers a little about yourself; your background story?
Born and raised in Winnipeg, and still here. I’ve spent most
of my life as a C-06 and C-07 quadriplegic.
When I was 17, I was injured in a motor vehicle accident
while returning from the first Folk Festival held at Bird’s
Hill Park. During my stay at the Rehabilitation Hospital, I
was a problem for the psychologist on the ward as I wasn’t
going through the “stages”, i.e. denial, depression and so
on. There was no denying it though—walking was out of
the picture.
As for depression, I felt none. There were too many new
things to learn. I studied Calculus to keep from getting
bored, which for some reason disturbed that psychologist.
There were also many interesting people who I encountered while there. Many of them were doing things in their
wheelchairs that you wouldn’t believe without the testimony of your own witness. I remember the first time I saw the
wheelchair basketball team practicing in the “Big Gym” at
the Rehab. I just about fell out of my chair. They were
zoomin’ around the court at running speed, dribbling the
ball and shooting layups. They had one guy that could
“swish” fifty percent of his shots from centre court! I knew
I had to get involved even though I was a “quad”. Then I
met Gerry Terwin who got me started in sports. From there
I worked hard at Track for several years, played on that
same basketball team, the volleyball team, and was one of
the founders of Quad Rugby (Murderball). I became the
first Canadian quad to do a full marathon.
No, I didn’t ignore my studies during that time. I had
planned on getting my degree in Physics but that part of
the University of Manitoba was not accessible in those
days. My second choice was Electrical Engineering, but
same problem. I decided to pursue and obtain a B.Sc. in
Computer Science. I’ve worked in that field ever since and
then married later in life.
How long have you worked at your present job at the
Western Canada Lottery Corporation (WCLC)?
I’ve worked at WCLC for ten years as a Software Developer. Before that I’ve held various positions in areas like
Banking and Process Automation among others.
What effect did the COVID-19 pandemic have on your
employment situation?
Financially very destructive. I was in the hospital recovering from surgery to my arm when the pandemic began.
When I was released from the hospital I was laid off along
with others due to the impact of COVID-19 on the company’s business. My finances were already affected by my
stay in the hospital. As it turned out I only needed to collect one month of EI as my position at WCLC was reinstated. However, that month caused me to delay my application for CPP benefits until the next fiscal year which resulted in the loss of several months of CPP.
What effect did it have on your family?
My wife and son were visiting family in Colombia when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and many airports
were shut down for international travel. This resulted in them being stuck there which had a very large financial impact on us. Getting them back here was a lengthy and frustrating process. How are you coping as the situation evolves?
At present I’m not very much affected by the situation.
What supports did you think were helpful in moving forward, especially for someone with a disability?
The one good thing was financial support from the Manitoba Paraplegia Foundation Inc. through SCI Manitoba for a
SmartDrive. This is a small motor attached to the back of my Ultralite wheelchair. I can activate it anytime my arms
need a rest or there’s a steep hill to climb. It’s a real lifesaver, given the injuries to my arms.
What do you think was lacking in your experience as a person with a disability?
It is my opinion that my rehabilitation and that of others was cut short to make room for a potential wave of COVID
-19 patients that never materialized. I saw the planned discharge dates of some people moved up a month or two. For
my own situation I think I needed more time to build strength and ability prior to discharge.
How do you think things could have been handled better?
I think the government has been overprotective of average people at the cost of damaging the economy and the finances of its citizens. At the same time they haven’t done enough to protect vulnerable people in long term care homes. For most healthy people this flu doesn’t appear to be life threatening, although the damage to the economy could negatively impact them. But for people with preexisting conditions and the elderly it is dangerous (as is the type of flu we normally see every year though COVID-19 is worse). They could have been a lot stricter with regulations for people working in those facilities. Maybe the deaths would have been fewer.