Wayne 'the Pen Man' Joice, right, with long-time friend and caregiver Pat Pypher. (Photo: UHN)


​“Hey, Robert Redford!”

On a punishing hot July​ afternoon the gravelly sounding voice is familiar. 

A passerby turns to see a tiny man sitting in a Toronto General Hospital wheelchair.

He is smiling quietly amid the noise and bedlam of construction and traffic outside the TGH entrance on University Avenue. His leathery brown wrinkled face is unshaven. Under a grimy old baseball cap protecting him from the unrelenting sun, his glasses sit crooked and one eye wanders. 

It is Wayne. 

And most of those in the Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto know who he is.
Open-air office
He is the gnome-sized, sad-eyed man who sits on the concrete at the corner of Queen and Lee. For several years he’s been a daily fixture at what serves as his open-air office. That’s where Wayne sells pens. The cost depends on how much you’d like to give. And no one has ever been observed actually taking a pen. People do not give because they want a new ballpoint, they give because of who Wayne is.
For what is remarkable about this little man burdened with physical disabilities from ill health – is his beguiling charm and unfailing upbeat outlook. To everyone who passes by his sidewalk perch, Wayne smiles and calls out a greeting. The ladies get a, “Hello, Marylin!”. For guys, it’s, “Hey, Robert Redford,” or  “Hey, Paul Newman”.

Everyone feels good after being singled out by a flattering Wayne shout-out. Beaches resident Angela Comelli summed it up best in a recent Letter to the Editor of the Beach Metro Community News when she wrote, “It was his way of disarming and winning people over – and he did both. Wayne could make me smile on any tough day.”

What is even more disarming to the passerby on this scorching afternoon in front of the hospital is that Wayne is even there in the first place – that same letter to the editor in the publication’s June 25 edition pronounced Wayne had died. 

Yet on July 8, here was the man himself, selling pens and appearing very much alive.

“Wayne? You’re here?” asks the passerby.

“Yeah,” he replies.

The passerby continues, “But, I heard that—” 

“I know, tell them I’m not dead!” he says.
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Wayne’s story

Wayne Joice was born August 4, 1959. His early years are hazy and hurtful. He grew up an only child in Cabbagetown. He says he cannot read or write. He mentions going to a school for special needs kids on Beverly Street. He cannot remember what, if any, grades he completed. “They say I’m retarded”, he said matter of factly. 

Pat Pypher grew up with Wayne.
“He’s a little boy, I taught him how to count so he can manage his money. He can’t read or write, but I never call him retarded,” she said.
According to Pat, Wayne’s dad Floyd earned money playing the mouth organ outside Honest Ed’s on Bloor. After Floyd’s eyesight failed, he turned to selling pens on the street. That’s how Wayne learned the trade. The endearing greetings to passersby are Wayne’s own special trademark.

“I have fun and I make people laugh, I love that,” Wayne said in the patient TV room on the 7th floor of TGH’s Renal Transplant Unit. “That’s my job, make people laugh. I love people and they love me.”

He said he thinks up greetings at home while watching TV and listening to the radio. His standards also include, “Don’t worry – be Happy……Yabba Dabba Do….and, “Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building”.
Pat said Wayne used to live downtown Toronto with his mom Edith, who worked as a dishwasher and survived on an old age pension. After Edith died about 15 years ago Pat stepped up to help care for him. With her two children grown and on their own she says “Wayne has all my attention, I love him like he’s my baby. He has never smoked or drank, but he’s had kidney problems and bleeding ulcers.”

Pat eventually got him moved into an apartment in her building. “I make his meals, shave him, bathe him. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him,” she said.

Courageous friend Pat

Those last words became prophetic several years ago. Wayne had previously been diagnosed with congenital renal dysplasia and reflux nephropathy. The latter condition can lead to end stage renal disease requiring dialysis or kidney transplant. Wayne was already on dialysis when his health took a turn for the worse. He would need a kidney transplant.

On January 21, 2008 Wayne was wheeled into a 2nd floor operating room at TGH. Pat was alongside with him. She was by now his substitute decision maker, or SDM, on all matters related to his health – and more. True to her words, Pat decided to be a living donor. She gave one of her kidneys to Wayne.

“If courage lives anywhere it’s in Pat,” said UHN social worker Paul Rivers, who’s been working with Wayne ever since the transplant. “He wouldn’t be alive today if not for Pat. She provides the power of support for his recovery.”

And Wayne has needed that support. This year in particular has seen him plagued with health problems.
Pat says he contracted chicken pox in January, followed by shingles in February. And there were repeated trips to the hospital due to pneumonia.

“Food kept getting in his lungs and getting infected,” she explained.

‘Almost died two times’

On May 1, it was so bad that Pat had Wayne rushed to TGH by ambulance. 

“I ballooned everywhere” Wayne said, adding, “I almost died two times in hospital.”

TGH’s Dr. Kathryn Tinckam said Wayne was diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia. The condition occurs when foreign materials (usually stomach contents) make their way into the lungs or airways leading to the lungs leading to inflammation and infection.
Dr. Tinckam explains during the first few weeks of his admission Wayne was twice put in Intensive Care. He was treated with intubation, ventilation and antibiotics. He will have a tracheotomy for the rest of his life.

Ever since his admission in May, Wayne has remained in the care of Toronto General Hospital, where his health woes have continued. On July 12, he had surgery to correct the narrowing of his ureter that was causing obstruction.

Enduring spirit

“I feel great”, Wayne said on his 54th birthday. And he had good reason – Pat came with Chinese food, his favourite ice cream cake and several friends to celebrate.

“It’s the best hospital,” Pat said of TGH and the staff. “They are terrific with him, and he gets super care. I couldn’t do this for him.”
That’s the big issue facing Wayne today. Pat can no longer handle the level of care Wayne needs. His tracheotomy must to be suctioned twice a night. That means Wayne cannot go back to his apartment to live on his own. His next stop, said Rivers, is a Long Term Care home or Community Care Centre. But until a bed opens, Wayne remains in the care of TGH. 

Pat is walking beside Wayne down the 7th floor corridor to help him get some exercise. Wayne is pushing a walker to support himself. As she speaks about what Wayne has endured over the past 54 years, you can see the emotion well up in Pat’s eyes.

““The good Lord wants him here. I find him to be a good spirit. He’s been through so much it’s unbelievable. He’s a real strong man and he never feels sorry for himself. He impresses me,” she said.
As for Wayne, he can’t wait to get back to Queen and Lee.  “When I’m back I hope I get my spot back. If I don’t I’ll call the mayor!” he exclaimed.

Pat supports the move, saying, “He’s happy there, whatever makes him happy.”

For now, his temporary office outside the entrance to Toronto General Hospital will have to do for the Pen Man.


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