Veteran says Ottawa refusing to help treat debilitating condition
Omar Sachedina and Karolyn Coorsh, CTV News
Published Wednesday, May 14, 2014 9:57PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 15, 2014 12:13AM EDT
For Claude Rainville, every waking hour is spent trying to stifle the constant ringing in his head.
A former sergeant in the Canadian military who served in Haiti and Syria, Rainville suffers from tinnitus, a condition that gives him a high-pitched ringing in his ears.
He says the condition was brought on by the 5,000 hours he spent aboard an ear-splitting C-130 Hercules during the span of his 20-plus year career in the military.
“The noise in my head there, it’s so hard that some days I just don’t want to wake up because when I sleep at least I don’t hear it,” Rainville said in an interview with CTV News. “As soon as I get my eyes open, I hear that noise and it’s there.”
To make matters worse, the condition amplifies his post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Because it brings me back,” Rainville said. “I go into another parallel world. It’s like as if I were wearing my uniform again.”
Rainville left the military in 1998, but his condition has deteriorated in the last five years. Between the time he left the military and 2007, Rainville was employed in a dozen jobs and suffered two bouts of depression.
His wife, Jenny Migneault, says she is afraid for her husband, whom she has to care for over the past five years, at the expense of her own schooling and career.
“I’m afraid he will decide to end his life because he cannot tolerate that sound anymore,” Migneault said.
The couple has tried desperately to get help for tinnitus, which is treatable.
Back in 2008, Veterans Affairs’ own medical examiner acknowledged that Rainville has tinnitus, and since then, they have been fighting for funding for specialized treatment at a Montreal clinic.
“I did all the steps that they wanted,” Rainville said. It’s still pending. I don’t know what they’re doing.”
Estimates for the treatment shows an initial evaluation would cost $620, but it’s money the family doesn’t have.
Former veterans’ ombudsman Col. Pat Stogran, who has in the past criticized the government for denying veterans much-needed services and benefits, recognizes the hardship.
“600 bucks is chump change, but it could be life defining for some people,” Stogran told CTV News.
“Now I can’t work anymore, I have to stay with him,” Migneault said. “His tinnitus affects his driving. The ends of the month are tough sometimes. I’m a great cook. I can cook with nothing.”
After being contacted by CTV News, Veterans' Affairs said it's directed officials to reach out to Rainville immediately, to ensure he gets what he needs.
Rainville says he just wants to get better. "I want my quality of life," he said.
As the couple fights to get Rainville the help he needs, they are also trying to draw attention to the need for caregiving status for spouses of military personnel suffering from PTSD.
“I’m not recognized anywhere, so basically that leaves us like this, “ Migneault said.