Fighting Back - Eric Magill

Not all scars from the battlefield are visable and not all injuries are immediate. For Eric Magill the injuries came in the form of an illness acquired during his deployment to Haiti as a preventative medicine specialist.

It has taken some time to understand what happened to Magill’s physical health although he will tell you he knew all along that what many doctors suspected was wrong. At first he was diagnosed with dengue fever syndrome but eventually it was recognized he had a form of reactive arthritis most likely caused by a bacterial infection.

Often referred to as Reiter’s syndrome, Magill believes his illness was caused by his work in Haiti protecting the tip of the spear. While on deployment Magill worked to eradicate illness for his fellow soldiers which included inspecting sewers, pest control and sanitation practices.

Magill’s illness got progressively worse as doctors tried to treat a myriad of symptoms from loss of vision to impaired kidney function. But as difficult as it was to understand what was happening to his body it took even longer to diagnose what was happening to his brain. Eric suffers from PTSD but this went undiagnosed for years after his medical release from the Canadian Forces.

A few years back Magill decided it was time to end it all, his plan was to drown himself in the river. Having lost 12 years to illness he felt a burden to his family and was calculating what benefits they might get from his death. Essentially performing a cost benefit analysis on the potential financial rewards his family would receive versus the grief this action would cause. Magill credits the taxi driver he called to take him to the river with snapping him out of this funk. He spent the night in a motel and began attempting to put the pieces back together.

In April of 2015, after years of countless operations, Magill underwent amputation of his left leg. Despite being an amputee and his well-documented medical history Magill found himself in October without the use of a power wheelchair required for him to get around. According to him Veterans Affairs took back the chair. By November Magill was protesting in front of the VAC office in downtown Trenton.

After holding a sit-in for nearly a month Magill received his replacement wheelchairs but for him this all part of a culture of denial that exists within the Veterans Affairs department. Living in Trenton I often run in to Canadian Veterans many tell me that VAC has taken care of them fine but they acknowledge that is not the case for everyone.

Talking with Eric about his years fighting for benefits sets off a trigger and you can see the amiable and affable former soldier get agitated, it is clear that his fight with VAC has taken its toll. Yet for everything that has happened Magill says the protesting, being outside talking to people about his situation has been therapeutic. Some days he wears his red PTSD shirt to let folks know that a person can have PTSD and not be dangerous.

 While Eric no longer spends his days freezing outside on Front St. in Trenton he still attends protests occasionally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa after which he usually requires a few day’s rest to recover. Magill continues to fight for himself and other Veterans that do not get approval for the services they require for their well-being and to maintain their basic quality of life. In time Magill will most likely lose his other leg as his severe osteoporosis takes its toll. For now, though his leg allows him extra maneuverability, mobility and because he can flex his ankle enough to brake his license to drive. Eric is adapting but simply wishes support from VAC came a little easier.