Mathew Bradbury takes a break during a cold training ride. VOICE PHOTO

Mathew Bradbury organizes info meeting on seniors mental health services

BY SAMUEL PICCOLO
The VOICE

Six years ago, Mathew Bradbury’s mother, Beth, was living in a nursing home in Niagara Falls, and struggling with her mental health.

“My mom battled with clinical depression for much of her life,” said Bradbury, who is the pastor at Pelham Friends Church in Fonthill.

“She was in and out of the hospital. But when she got older, and she had physical pain as well, and was in a wheelchair, things became harder.”

Despite the devotion of the employees of the home, Bradbury said that his mother’s interactions with them were difficult and that her quality of life was negatively affected.

“There was amazing staff doing their best. Really high-compassion, high-patience people. But they can’t be experts in everything. They said, ‘We love your mom, but we’re having a hard time.’”

Then a social worker referred her to St. Joseph’s seniors mental health service.

“There’s no wing in a hospital in Niagara for seniors with mental health challenges,” said Bradbury.

St. Joseph’s Healthcare is based at the hospital in Hamilton, but the organization also has a satellite office in St. Catharines, from which it provides support to hard-to-serve seniors in need.

“St. Joe’s came to us,” said Bradbury. “We had a roundtable discussion with all of their experts, and really came up with a specialized plan for my mom. And they found time for a two-week in-patient observation for her, when they brought her to Hamilton and could get to know what she needed. Her quality of life went up. She no longer felt like she was being misunderstood, and like she didn’t have any hope.”

Bradbury’s mother has since passed away, though he says that the help from St. Joseph’s made a real difference near the end of her life. Now, Bradbury is hoping to raise awareness of and money for the program.

“I’ll be doing the Paris-to-Ancaster cyclocross race in April,” he said. “I’m going to try and raise three thousand dollars for St. Joe’s. But I also thought, ‘Why not try and tell the story?’

Bradbury decided to organize an information session about St. Joseph’s seniors mental health service. It will be held at the Niagara Region headquarters near Brock University, on April 12, 5 to 7 PM.

“It will be just a meet-and-greet drop-in,” said Bradbury. “I’ll be talking about my mom’s story, and Julia Baxter from St. Joseph’s will be there to talk about their services. I just want people to know about it.”

Bradbury will also talk about the Paris-to-Ancaster bike race. Cyclocross races have courses in which which riders must traverse grass, mud, and sand—in addition to roads—and often have steep or impassable sections in which riders carry their bikes.

The Paris to Ancaster race is in its 25th year, with the 70-kilometre day modelled after the famous Paris to Roubaix event in France.

Cyclocross racing originated in Europe, where it is said that in the early 20th century road racers raced between towns and were permitted to cut across farmers’ fields and climb fences. This was often called ‘steeple-chase,’ since the sole visible mark in the next village was the church.

The Paris-to-Ancaster race attracts all sorts of cyclists, from Olympians to weekend riders.

“Everyone goes off in waves,” said Bradbury. “The racers go off first and then they’re gone. You don’t see them again. Then there’s the rest of us behind. But it’s great. You race against yourself.”

Cycling has long been a passion of Bradbury’s. When he was in Grade 9, a knee injury meant that he could no longer participate in gym class. He took up biking instead, and started the first cycling club at his high school in Crystal Beach.

He once rode his road bike (with thin tires) through a snowstorm from Kitchener to Guelph just to see his future wife.

“I had to knock on my uncle’s door and ask him to drive me home. And then he got a speeding ticket while he did! I’ve never let him forget that.”

When Bradbury was living in Nepal with his young family, he had a three-wheel trailer that he would attach to the back of his bike and tow his son to school through Katmandu’s serpentine streets.

“The city would be just waking up. It was my favourite time of day,” Bradbury said last fall.

“The motorcycle traffic wasn’t as bad then as it was now, and I would be weaving in and out of the other bikes, with diesel fumes in the air.”

Bradbury got around Katmandu mostly by bicycle, carrying water jugs, groceries, and, his favourite, fried samosas.

“Locals would even carry around propane tanks [on their bikes]. I never tried that, though.”

Even now, Bradbury will often commute by bike from his home in Wellandport to his church opposite Harold Black Park. He has a substantial collection of bikes, and likes to work on them mechanically too.

While a knee injury at the beginning of last year stopped him from racing Paris-to-Ancaster, he had knee surgery at the end of the year and is back on the bike, training.

“I told someone ‘laparoscopic.’ And they said, no, that’s not right. It was arthroscopic! But either way, I could walk on it right away,” said Bradbury.

Bradbury’s mother used St. Joseph’s services for two years, and some of the challenges with her mental health receded.

“If I ever needed support like that, I’d want the kind of help that St. Joe’s provided for my mum,” said Bradbury. “The money that we raise will all go towards research for their work.”

Those interested in donating to Bradbury can visit his page at goo.gl/21zSnb