David Sandford has known West Park Healthcare Centre under many names.
“I refer to 82 Buttonwood Avenue as my hometown,” he jokes.
On Sept. 2, 1904, philanthropist Sir William Gage and the National Sanitarium Association (NSA) founded the Toronto Free Hospital for Consumptive Poor. This was one of the very first centres in Canada devoted to treating patients with advanced tuberculosis.
This was also where a young David found himself in the 1930s at the tender age of three, although by this point the hospital had been renamed the Toronto Hospital for Consumptives.
After his mother sadly passed away, David was found to have tuberculosis of the spine and kidneys, and was promptly sent to Sick Kids.
“But I was an orphan with no money, so that’s how I wound up at the Sanitarium.”
He left about a year and a half later, but his road to a full recovery was long.
“I didn’t walk until I was about nine, I had special shoes and I underwent a fairly extensive operation,” he says. It involved shaving down his leg bones to add to the vertebrae in his back.
He may have left the hospital grounds, but Sandford grew up in nearby Etobicoke. He also continued to go to SickKids until he was 18 to treat the lasting effects of TB.
By 1963 he was running an election campaign for former hockey player Red Kelly, who served as Liberal Member of Parliament from 1962-65.
“But then I got bitten – I wanted to be a politician,” Sandford says.
He was working hard, often sixteen hours a day, to get his campaign together. “But the doctors said the strain of it all, I activated a dead TB cell that was hiding somewhere in my body – because they didn’t use drugs in the ‘30s,” he says.
“They decided my lifestyle was so crazy at that time that I wasn’t going to get over this unless I put the brakes on completely. They said the only chance you’ve got is you’re going to have to go to the Weston Sanatorium and wait it out.”
The Weston Sanatorium, or just the Weston San, was another name for the Toronto Free Hospital for Consumptives. Sandford found himself back at 82 Buttonwood for nine months for treatment of his TB.
“They put me on a routine that was essentially sit around, don’t do a lot, and then they started the drugs,” he says.
Over the course of his life, Sandford served as an Alderman, and then spent five years becoming a Deacon.
But the problems in his legs from TB persisted and in 1999 Sandford underwent surgery for his knees. For physiotherapy he landed back at 82 Buttonwood – which was renamed West Park Hospital in 1976. He has been coming to what is now West Park Healthcare Centre ever since for physio “and there’s a lot of pain that comes along with my knees, but thanks to West Park it’s at a much more manageable level,” he says.
Sandford says he used to raise money for SickKids Hospital “as a way to pay my bill” for all the care he received there. At West Park, he also wants to give back by becoming a Patient Family Advisor. “I just want to help someone, if I can,” he says.