Brian Wise was a young man with his life ahead of him when he suffered a nearly fatal workplace injury.
“Aug 26, 1987, at 8:45 a.m.,” he says. “I was in my prime.”
He was working as a rock scaler on a highway project up north when he fell and lost consciousness. He had fallen 90 feet off a cliff and to the ground.
A man drove by the work site and stopped to ask if he was OK. Wise was just regaining consciousness. He doesn’t know how long he had lain there. Shortly after that, his foreman drove him to the hospital.
Wise was treated for acute injuries, and spent two or three days heavily medicated in the hospital in Terrace. His foot had been broken, and it was put in a cast. For awhile, that’s all the care he received after such an incredible fall.
Wise believes he was 26 at the time, after doing some math out loud. It has been 34 years since the accident, and he’s almost 60.
Not long after his fall – Wise can’t recall the year – he was diagnosed with dementia unrelated to the accident. A psychiatrist wrote a report that said it was all because he had been an amateur boxer.
Wise laughs at the notion. He knows that he doesn’t have dementia. Not then, not now.
“I had just earned my industrial first aid ticket, my Class 1 driver’s licence,” he says. “I was healthy.”
His quality of life started to decline. Eventually, he lost his three kids and his wife due to his challenges with depression, memory, anxiety and anger.
These are all common with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). He has seen countless doctors, through WorkSafeBC (formerly WCB), and through MSP.
He claims the doctors who were supposed to have helped him with diagnoses and treatments failed him, leaving him in debilitating pain and mental anguish.
He carries himself with a hunch, with his head and neck leaning to the right side. His hands shake erratically. His speech is slurred. His teeth are breaking off.
But Wise’s mind is still very sharp, and he’s determined to find a way out of this. He has been keeping close track of his symptoms, doctors, misdiagnoses for decades. And he’s starting to demand answers, as he gets desperate for treatment that will improve his quality of life.
He was finally diagnosed with a TBI in 2002. But to this day, Wise hasn’t been sent for an MRI. One has finally been ordered, he says, but “I”m in limbo land, waiting.”
He said his case and his life have been “buried under bureaucracy,” and adds that WorkSafe has mismanaged his case for the past 18 years, from when the TBI was diagnosed.
Wise is hoping WorkSafe will reactivate his claim, but he knows he doesn’t have the income or energy to do it all alone. Due to his condition, which was finally diagnosed as postural deficiency syndrome from post-concussive syndrome that developed from an untreated traumatic brain injury, he is only able to communicate well in the mornings.
“It’s a living hell,” he says of his current well-being. He also often refers to it as a nightmare.
It took him years to gather all the information needed to file a complaint to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia. It has now been filed, and Wise has shared a copy with The News. The college has told The News they aim to complete investigations within 255 days.
Wise’s claim names all of the doctors who have misdiagnosed him over the years, and points the college’s investigators in the direction they’ll need to find his medical history.
He notes that doctors would misinterpret information he gave them. For example, he says he and his wife broke up because of his issues from his accident, but some documents suggest his mental health issues are due to the ended marriage.
Another notation says he was looking for neurological treatment due to diabetes. But he says his diabetes was caused by the disabilities he suffers from the postural deficiency syndrome. Yet another doctor wrote about cancelling his treatments because Wise kept missing appointments. This was during a time when his cognitive abilities were very poor, he explains.
But it’s not all without hope. There was a period of time in 2002 when Wise was doing well in the middle of all this, and he is aching to get back to that point.
He was under the care of Dr. Phillipe Souvestre, a physiologist, naturopath and biochemical engineer who focuses on helping patients with cognitive disabilities. He also is an acupuncturist with Chinese medicine education.
Over the course of several months, Wise received acupuncture and clinical neurophysiology. The cost was high and it drained Wise’s resources.
But it worked.
“I was like a young man again,” he says, crying in despair. But because the treatment is not covered by MSP, he couldn’t afford to carry on. “I don’t know if I’m ever going to get back to where I was. It wasn’t magic; it was $20,000 of pension money.”
Dr. Souvestre continued treatments for awhile after Wise was unable to pay him, to get him closer to a permanent cure.
Wise says losing all that progress was difficult on him, and he has had very hard times emotionally in the past. He has even contemplated and tried suicide.
“I don’t know if I want to keep fighting, just to stay alive,” he says. “I am not a monster but I am being made to feel like one.”
But when the mornings come, he has hope again. As a Christian, he believes in God and prayer and that also keeps him going.
In the meantime, he’s hoping for a miracle. After all, he’s experienced one before, he says – on Aug. 26, 1987 at 8:45 a.m.