By Gerry Barker
June 6, 2019
I was a 13 year-pld patient in the former Hospital for Sick Children on College Street in Toronto.
I had been in a coma for two weeks with a massive undetermined infection and I was in an isolation ward. My mother was not allowed in the room and had to stand on a fire escape platform and talk to me through the window.
My first recollection of coming out of the coma was looking up at the front page of the Globe and Mail with the Headline:
D-DAY ALLIES LAND IN NORMANDY
Over the next few days my condition improved with one exception. I had developed an abcess behind my left eye that had to have a rubber tube inserted to drain the matter. Periodically, the tube passage behind the eye would close and had to be forced open with forceps.
What saved my life was Penicillin that entered my body through long gold needles inserted around my ankles and supplied it intreveniously.
I was six weeks in the hospital and my mother was told that I had osteomelitus in the bone orbit around the eye socket. He said they would have to graft bone from my forearm to cure that situation.
My mother was not prepared to have me go through that procedure and requested a second opinion.
I’ll never forget Dr.Phillips who burst into my room followed by a group of nurses and medical students. He removed the eye bandage and poked a needle-like device and inspected the orbital area.
“Where do you live Gerry?”
I told him in Aurora.
“Good” he said, “that’s on my way to the cottage. I’ll drop in and check you out in a week.,” he said. “ You can go home.”
I never heard from him again. But I’ll remember those words to this day. Maybe he had a flat tire and couldn’t replace it. It was wartime and everything was rationed.
My best friend came down to see me and said I looked terrible, just skin and bones.
By September, my mother and grandmother were involved in war services to pilots in training and then young women navel personnel known as WRENS in Ottawa. We had an apartment across the street from the Prime Minister’s residence and next door to the famous World War 1 pilot, Billy Bishop.
In 1945, we returned to our home in Aurora. I had recovered and developed a sudden interest in girls.
In 1947, I enlisted in the Queen’s York Rangers, 1st American Regiment, Royal Canadian Armoured Corps as a trooper. In 1951, I graduated as a First Lieutenant at the Armoured Corps school in Base Borden. I spent nine years in both active duty with the regular forces and the reserves.
When I joined the staff of the Toronto Star, my military career ended in 1957. That lasted until 2007 when I was invited to join the Ranger’s Regimental Council. I met many former colleagues with whom I served. The council was engaged in fund raising for projects that lay outside government funding.
My association with the military remains a part of my life and still has a great influence.
Four members of the Barker family served in World War 1. Two, John and Thomas were killed in action. Mt father served in France and Siberia while my Aunt Gladys served as a nursing sister overseas in that period.
My mother and father named me after John and Thomas, uncles I never knew.
I will never forget June 6, 1944. It was the beginning of Canada’s new age and growing into a major economic power in the world. Let us not forget those men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice on on our behalf.