Tag Archives: Toronto Life

On Syrian Doctors and Borders: America’s Loss is Canada’s Gain

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 16 - Khaled Almilaji hugs his wife Jehan Mouhsen after landing at Pearson Airport in Toronto. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

In January, 2017 — before Trump’s inauguration — physician Khaled Almilaji spent a week in Syria to check on his many humanitarian projects, leaving his pregnant wife Jehan behind in the United States. Expecting to return well before Trump’s inauguration, Khaled discovered that his visa — along with those of 40 other medical students, mostly from the Middle East — had been revoked in the month before Trump took office.

The dean of Brown University called schools outside the U.S. on Khaled’s behalf to help him continue his studies. Toronto University answered the call with a scholarship, and Khaled and Jehan look forward to welcoming their baby daughter in Canada. Khaled relates the harrowing story of how Trump’s politics and travel ban have affected him and his family at Toronto Life.

A month later, Trump announced his second travel ban, which paused any visas from Syria for 90 days. For weeks, I’d been telling Jehan that I’d be home soon. Suddenly we realized it would be at least three more months. She was alone when she saw our baby on the ultrasound for the first time, when she heard the heartbeat on the sonogram. One day while I was in the office, she sent me an image of a pair of pink shoes: a sign that we were having a girl. I was elated. For the next few months, whenever I went to the market in Gaziantep, I bought baby clothes, keeping tiny dresses and onesies in my apartment so I could have something to bring my new daughter when I returned.

Brown was doing everything they could to help me continue my studies. The dean called colleagues at schools outside of the U.S. to find me a new home, including the University of Toronto. I hated the idea of leaving my scholarship at Brown and the people I had met in Providence. And yet by that point, Jehan and I couldn’t waste any more time. When U of T offered me a scholarship, I accepted, and we applied for student visas in Canada. In June, my Canadian partners and I received the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General for our humanitarian work. A few days later, Jehan and I got our Canadian visas approved.

In early June, just days before my flight to Toronto, the U.S. Consulate called. Five and a half months after this all began, they told me I could come pick up my visa. For me, it was too late. I know the travel ban is all about politics, not security. It’s a game. But the people on Trump’s list have been suffering for many years, and the ban only increases that suffering. It’s a horrendous violation. It was done carelessly, by people who didn’t consider the consequences—the lives changed forever by their actions. I still think America’s a great country. I also know that if I went back, that violation would recur, over and over again. On June 16, I got on a plane in Turkey and flew to Toronto.

In Toronto, the notion that everyone should be accepted and respected, regardless of their nationality or background, is something that’s practised on a daily basis. I saw it on my first day. In the airport, I looked around and saw people with different faces, different skin tones, different ethnicities, but the same spirit. To see a stable, established country like Canada using diversity to make itself richer and stronger has inspired me. This was what we were fighting for in Syria in 2011. That’s what I want for the future of my country. That’s the spirit I hope to bring to Syria when I return one day.

A few years ago, I never would have imagined having a child in Canada. Now I’m honoured by the fact that my daughter will be a Canadian. Hopefully she can take that with her for the rest of her life.

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Immoral or Merciful? Canadian Doctors Divided on Medically Assisted Death

(Photo by Valerie WINCKLER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Before assisted suicide was legal in Canada, there was a secret society devoted to helping Canadians end their lives on their own terms. As Nicholas Hune-Brown reports at Toronto Life, even though medically assisted death has been legal in Canada for a year, it remains controversial. Although some palliative care doctors — who believe in providing physical and psychological comforts to patients, but not in hastening death — are vehemently opposed to what they view as an immoral act, other doctors are slowly coming to terms with the patient’s new right to die in cases where death is “reasonably foreseeable.”

In April 2016, four months after his diagnosis, Jack went to the hospital with pneumonia. When he got out two weeks later, he needed a feeding tube and a suction machine for his saliva. He could no longer look after himself, so he moved in with April, her partner, Robert, and their two-year-old daughter, in Smiths Falls, Ontario. The man who had always been a blur of activity suddenly needed his daughter to help him out of bed. The professional smooth talker had trouble speaking, a single sentence sometimes stretching out over excruciating minutes as he struggled for breath. On more than one night, he’d begin to choke, and April would have to call an ambulance to help clear the mucus building up in his throat, watching helplessly as a look of utter horror spread across her father’s face. When she took him to the bathroom each morning, he would say the same thing: “I want to die.”

Since Jack Poelstra, Gerald Ashe has overseen nine more deaths. He’s been there as Canadian families have invented new rituals for a new way of dying—reading poetry and listening to favourite pieces of music, watching as family members have taken turns giving their final hugs and kisses. When I asked Ashe if he was ever upset by the process, if it ever felt like a burden, he thought for a moment. “You know, I think I’m a pretty sensitive guy,” he began. “But I don’t feel upset about it.” The patients had been so sure, so appreciative. The families were so relieved. To Ashe, it was clear that it was something that needed to be done, and he was glad that he was able to do it with care and empathy.

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner listens during a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Alec MacGillis, Justin Heckert, Peter Vigneron, Michael Lista, and Anthony Breznican.

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How an ER Doctor Got Hooked on Fentanyl and Lost It All

At Toronto Life, Katherine Laidlaw tells the story of Darryl Gebein, an emergency room doctor who gets hooked on fentanyl—one of the most dangerous opioids on the market— and ultimately loses everything, including his family and his medical license.

A drug like fentanyl doesn’t inject your body with new feelings; it borrows from the ones you already have. When the high starts to wear off, the positive sensations retreat and the negative ones become amplified. And addicts have no shortage of negative emotions. A dark cloud descends upon your brain. You become scared, anxious, agitated. The warmth rolls away and leaves you in cold sweats, shivering. Self-loathing kicks in, followed by guilt, fear, sadness, paranoia. Coming down off that first rush, my body began to ache. All I could focus on was escaping those feelings as quickly as possible, and the only solution was to smoke again. And again—each iteration sinking me deeper into dependency. From that day on, I smoked fentanyl at least six times a day and sometimes as many as 15 times.

The scariest part was that, as a doctor, I knew exactly what I was getting into, and I didn’t care.

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Longreads Best of 2016: Arts & Culture Writing

We asked a few writers and editors to choose some of their favorite stories of the year in various categories. Here, the best in arts and culture writing.

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Tobias Carroll
Freelance writer, managing editor of Vol.1 Brooklyn, and author of the books Reel and Transitory.

Michael Jackson: Dangerous (Jeff Weiss, Pitchfork)

Earlier this year, Pitchfork began publishing Sunday reviews that explore albums released in the time before said site debuted. This, in turn, has led to a whole lot of smart writers weighing in on the classics, the cult classics, the interesting failures, and the historically significant. Jeff Weiss’s epic take on “Jackson’s final classic album and the best full-length of the New Jack Swing era” is the sort of narrative music writing that’s catnip for me, the kind of work that sends me deeply into my own memories, and leaves me rethinking my own take on the album in question. Read more…

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.
Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

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Read more…

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Illustration: Wesley Allsbrook

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.
Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

* * *

Read more…

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

* * *

Read more…

Nieman Storyboard’s “Why’s This So Good” explores what makes classic narrative nonfiction stories worth reading.

This week, Bruce Gillespie takes a look at Andrea Curtis’s “Small Mercies,” which was originally published in Toronto Life:

A compelling narrative and a richly detailed behind-the-scenes look at a NICU would, on its own, be enough to hook any reader. But Curtis doesn’t stop there. She ups the ante by introducing another element to the piece: the question of how much money and effort should be spent on high-risk preemies at a time when fertility treatments and other medical advances have made them increasingly common in North America.

“Why’s this so good?” No. 29: Andrea Curtis and the rhythm of mercy