ELLIOTT COLUMN: Valley Events founder's health problems could spell the end of popular service 

Wendy Elliott welliott@kingscountynews.ca
Published on August 6, 2016
Wendy Elliott
TC Media

Five years ago, this column took a look at the quality of life that Wolfville resident James Skinner was missing. 

Now his ongoing health concerns are compelling him to give up a volunteer service that is uber important to our community.

James started the Valley Events website listing of everything going on in the wider Valley several years ago. It has become the go-to place to find out what’s happening.

Free and postable by arts groups, volunteer organizations and others, the site has become extremely well utilized. But, James finds he can no longer manage to keep it operating on his own.

It’s been almost a decade since he had to leave behind his job as a senior software designer at Nortel in Ottawa. Moving back to the Valley, it was obvious when I met him in 2008 that his health was compromised.

Expensive trips to see medical experts in the United States means he doesn’t need plastic cones in his nostrils to breathe anymore, but he is still not healthy. It just doesn’t show as much.

I sat down with James in 2008 because he had spent years waiting for the medical system to help relieve his breathing and sleep problems. It’s been a long, long wait.

An unplanned third surgery in a Halifax doctor’s office in 2011 went badly wrong, so James lives with Empty Nose Syndrome. He acknowledges his breathing problems are complex and date back over a dozen years.

James told me once, “I have been trying to get medical care in Canada. Throughout the entire ordeal, I have felt like doctors were not understanding what I was telling them or not taking the situation seriously enough.”

Most of his efforts at self-education were dismissed. His symptoms were misdiagnosed or ignored. In 2006, he asked for a test and it was determined he has severe sleep apnea, but not before he suffered his first stroke-like episode. 

Before the last provincial election, Kings West MLA Leo Glavine - when he was an opposition member - indicated his willingness to be an advocate for James. Prior to the vote, he indicated that we need integrated medical teams to assist individuals like him with complex medical problems when “something has gone amiss.”

James is still fighting for the kind knowledgeable medical aid he so clearly needs rather than dismissive or inept specialists.

“Given how hard I have tried it’s tempting to think it’s somehow fault of my own. I seriously don’t know how people get medical help here in Nova Scotia for anything that is slightly out of the ordinary.” 

James is connected to hundreds of sleep apnea sufferers worldwide. He created his own software to track treatment trends and posted it online for free.

Self-educated in the arts world, James has donated his technology talents to the Al Whittle Theatre and photographed multiple arts events, but his major contribution to this region, despite the onerous condition he lives with, has been the Valley Events site.

This man is worthy of true patient-centred care, but that seems to be beyond idealism in this province. I hope that volunteers of James’ calibre will step forward to help keep Valley Events going.