On Friday, April 24, Ronnie Morris, a PhD candidate in History, suffered two major strokes, in his cerebellum and brain stem, as well as a double vertebral artery dissection. Morris had actually suffered an initial stroke a week earlier but had not displayed the usual symptoms; he thought he had the flu.
After the double dissection and a second stroke, Morris collapsed while on the phone. Following two life-saving surgeries and almost a month in intensive care, Morris is finally stable and has returned home to Brampton.
It is no exaggeration to say that as a student, Morris is a “Yorkie” through and through. Entering the university initially in 1999, he completed an Honours Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2004, specializing in Visual Arts. He then went on to complete an Honours Bachelor of Arts here, majoring in History, and graduating in 2007. After completing a Master’s in History at the University of Guelph in 2009, Morris returned to York to pursue his doctorate.
His achievements are more than academic. He is also an accomplished musician, playing bass guitar and touring with well-known Toronto-area groups such as controller.controller, Lioness and Flowers of Hell.
At York, his skills as a teaching assistant were quickly recognized in courses on the social and labour histories of modern Europe and Britain. Having completed coursework and comprehensive exams, Morris crafted a dissertation topic on the phenomenon of child welfare and ideas about juvenile delinquency in 18th-century England. Focused on London during a period when the health of young people and the regulation of their behaviour became a subject of increasing public concern, his research seeks to illuminate the lives of the children of the poor.
At the time of his setback, Morris was in the sixth year of the PhD program. He had built an impressive series of databases on poor families and children and drafted most of his dissertation chapters. He had received a graduate paper prize from the Western Conference of British Studies in 2012 and published two book reviews in academic journals. Morris served as co-president of the Graduate History Students’ Association in 2011-2012, was an active member of CUPE 3903, and was in 2014 the recipient of an award from the St. George’s Society of Toronto for his research on Britain. He made several visits to UK archives over the years, and the PhD finish line was in sight.
Morris now faces an extended and expensive road to recovery. His brain injuries caused paralysis on his right side and have affected his ability to speak. The full extent of the damage to other areas of his brain still needs to be examined, but family and friends remain optimistic he can make a full recovery. For stroke victims like Morris, who are between the ages of 20 and 64, neither OHIP nor CUPE 3903 insurance covers rehabilitation equipment, physiotherapy, and medication once they leave the hospital. The costs can be staggering, ranging from $50,000 to $200,000.
His friends have launched a funding site to assist with the post-hospital care he will require. In addition, a benefit concert and auction are in the works and are expected to happen later in the summer.
For information on how to donate and to receive updates on Ronnie Morris’s recovery, visit www.ronniemorrisrecovery.com.
Submitted by the chair of the Graduate Program in History at York University