November 2017 |
Just inside the doors of Health Sciences Centre’s Sherbrook Street entrance, a warm greeting awaits staff, patients and visitors coming in from the cold.
Sitting among a group of patients, wearing his signature cowboy hat, Richard St Cyr loudly greets passersby.
“Good morning!” he says cheerfully. Known as ‘Cowboy’ to dialysis staff and patients, St Cyr is the unofficial greeter for the hospital and central dialysis unit.
The group of patients he sits with chats and jokes as they wait to be transported to the sixth floor for morning dialysis. It’s just after 7 a.m. St Cyr shows off a cane he equipped with ice grips that he brought in for another patient.
The 68-year-old has been getting dialysis at HSC for about six years but has had longtime health issues.
Born in Montana, St Cyr was part of a huge family. With nearly two dozen siblings, he says he quickly learned how to fend for himself. He also admits he had a chip on shoulder.
That attitude made bull-riding a natural fit for St Cyr, who grew up surrounded by horses and rodeo.
“I used to ride bronc and bull.” He says it was the excitement of the sport that drew him in. His first ride was terrifying, but not long after, it was something he craved.
“When you get on a bronc and you slide your legs down the only thing you are thinking about is what you’re going to get out of it.”
He travelled across the U.S. riding at rodeos but eventually took on stable work as a truck driver. He ended up driving truck in Canada and settled in Manitoba, both in Portage la Prairie and Brandon. With his health failing, he hit rock bottom and wound up homeless, scraping by with little food or money.
“I lost everything,” he says.
He ended up working odd jobs in gravel pits, with road crews and in a mine and got back on his feet. But, eventually, his illness led him to getting dialysis in Winnipeg.
He misses living in a more rural area, having grown up in the country, but tries to make the best of every day. He makes an effort to be positive, which has led him to becoming the unofficial ‘greeter’ before and during his dialysis treatments.
He greets everyone but is not afraid to call out a grump.
“Why walk in with a long face. If you can’t smile – turn around and go home.”
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