A man who is dying of brain cancer has been allowed to see his wife and two daughters daily.

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This article was published 11/6/2021 (425 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

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A man who is dying of brain cancer has been allowed to see his wife and two daughters daily.

Jo-Anne McNeil said Riverview Health Centre's palliative care unit told her in recent days it will not only continue to allow her to visit her husband, Pat, in his room, but he can now see his two daughters as well.

McNeil said on Friday, thanks to provincial rules changing for outdoor gatherings, Riverview will allow all four of them to be together outside, along with the fifth allowed visitor, her husband's only sibling.

"Pat burst into tears when he saw each of his girls," said McNeil, who came to the Free Press for help earlier this month when only she was allowed to visit her dying husband.

"He is struggling with his mental capacity. He doesn’t understand where I am when one of the girls is there and he can only see one daughter at a time. He asks where his sister Missy is, over and over, when I am there. He is no longer eating and has no will."

McNeil fought against the rules that restricted a palliative care patient to have only one designated caregiver visit until it was determined the person was two weeks away from dying.

Another family said they faced the same situation earlier this year, and when it was determined their family member was in the last two weeks of life, they were allowed up to four visitors, two at a time. The person quickly took a turn for the worse and died only three days into the two-week period.

Pat McNeil, 60, a thalidomide survivor, a bank manager, and a longtime volunteer and chairman of the Children's Rehabilitation Foundation, had been at Riverview since April 25, but until recent days had only been able to see his daughters, Sarah, 22, and Taylor, 19, once; and he was allowed a single visit with his sister.

He was given two to three months to live a couple of months ago, but as of last week he still wasn't deemed to be within two weeks of death, which would expand his number of visitors based on restrictions determined by Shared Health.

McNeil said she received an outpouring of supportive calls from people after the Free Press story was published.

"So many people had similar stories with tragic endings. Although ours is yet to be told I am so happy to tell you that our daughters have been given access."

The visit was bittersweet.

"Taylor saw her dad," said McNeil. "She was so upset at seeing how fast he had declined since she last saw him face to face. You can’t see that with FaceTime."

McNeil said the staff is getting a "safe and comfortable chair" for the first outdoor visit on Saturday.

"I can’t believe it had to come to this," she said. "I hope other families will have the courage to stand up and fight, using their words of course, after hearing our struggles."


Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.