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Tributes, support flood airwaves for coach Canadian

Dave Canadian is well-known, loved and going through an ordeal of his life, and the community stepped up to help with a gofundme campaign and a day-long tribute Saturday on K103 Radio.

Legendary local wrestling coach Dave Canadian is fighting a battle no hip toss or fireman’s carry will be able to pin.

The former Kahnawake Survival School wrestling coach and North American Indigenous Games chef de mission is chronically ill, and in need of a double lung transplant soon.

“It’s gotten to the point where he’s going to need it for sure,” said Dave’s wife Margie Canadian, who’s caring for her husband 24/7. “He’s not on the list yet, but he’s doing all the testing.”

Dave has pulmonary hypertension and was diagnosed with scleroderma around two years ago, the autoimmune, rheumatic and chronic disease that hardens connective tissue in the body. The late K103.7 Radio host Lori Jacobs suffered from the same illness.

“He was only diagnosed two-and-a-half years ago, and it was the cardiologist that looked at him and asked, ‘were you ever tested for scleroderma,’ and he said, ‘no,’” said Margie. “Sure enough, and it’s the scleroderma that’s inside of him. It’s what’s attacking his lungs.”

Margie explained that her husband started extensive tests at the Jewish General Hospital before the new year, and has continued throughout January, so he can be put on a transplant list as soon as possible.

“Nineteen straight days in the hospital,” said Margie. “He’s very ill… David’s been poked and prodded and everything.”

Dave was in the hospital yesterday, and will meet transplant doctors on the seventh to go over all the results.

“After that, he (the doctor) said it could take up to a week or two weeks,” said Margie, who added that the transplant nurse assured the couple that Dave would be considered an emergency case.

“As soon as they can find a perfect donor, they’re going to do it,” said Margie. “They’re trying to hurry this before it really does damage to the heart.”

Once a transplant is performed, recovery times can last up to three weeks in the hospital, and then many months at home.

Margie recounted what the doctor told Dave about his illness, and what it is doing to his body.

“He goes, ‘David. Look at your lungs. It’s like a wildfire spreading inside and we’re just trying to contain it because the lungs are closing down,” she said. “He doesn’t have a lot of energy. He’s on oxygen 24/7.”

When resting, Dave uses eight litres of oxygen, and can’t climb eight steps to enter his house without completely exhausting himself.

“He can’t do it. He gets terribly winded because he can’t breath,” said Margie.

The community has jumped to support Canadian.

A Gofundme campaign is underway, looking for $20,000 to assist the family, and K103.7 Radio hosted a tribute day Saturday, prompting buckets of community members and friends to call in and share memories they have of Dave on air.

Mackenzie Whyte has worked with Dave for years with the Indigenous Games and Team Kahnawake, and said the idea to have a tribute day and fundraiser came about organically.

“I knew about two years ago, he was no longer working with me when he got his diagnosis, but at the time there wasn’t as much hope as there is now,” she said.

Whyte is encouraged and optimistic that Dave has begun the tests and is confident he will get his the transplant and recover.

“The stars are lining up for him, so we’re all hoping the best for him,” she said.

Whyte is not surprised at the immediate support for Dave.

“He’s been involved with our department, with our community, with the youth, through wrestling for so many years. Everybody knows Dave. He’s such a good soul. Nobody deserves this disease, and if there’s some way we can lighten the load for his family and him in this time, that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Whyte.

Margie said former wrestlers and friends have stopped by to support Dave during his illness.

“A lot of the past wrestlers have been here,” said Margie. “Big help I’m telling you.”

KSS assistant wrestling coach Garrett Jacobs swung by the couple’s house to fix the Canadians’ generator.

He wrestled for Dave at KSS and knows full well the impact his coach had on himself and those who have met him.

“When you wrestled for Dave you knew you were in good hands, all you had to do was show up, work and Dave would help you develop your skills,” said Jacobs. “Dave was not a friend but more like a father, so you treated him with a different kind of respect.”

“A lot of his past wrestlers are here, they’re helping us,” said Margie.

Though suffering and in pain, Dave was at last year’s NAIG in Toronto. This reporter spent about a half hour debating the strengths and weaknesses of the team, as per normal. Margie said he was suffering greatly at the time, but did not want to miss the event he’s been a part of for decades.

“He really made it a goal to go,” said Margie.

Outpourings of support will no doubt continue in the coming months from across the community.

“He’s touched so many lives, and you can’t help but try to help him,” said Whyte.

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