Reporter Amy Reid’s father George during a tough moment in physiotherapy on Monday, March 19 at the NeuroMotion clinic. (Photo: Amy Reid)

Reporter Amy Reid’s father George during a tough moment in physiotherapy on Monday, March 19 at the NeuroMotion clinic. (Photo: Amy Reid)

Life after stroke: My father’s journey has new hope thanks to Surrey clinic

Brain injury recovery is a long, painful road but never stop fighting

“What’s your goal, George?” a NeuroMotion physiotherapist asks my father right off the top of his first session at the Surrey-based clinic.

Using his right hand — the only one he has use of — he taps the arm of his wheelchair.

“To get out of this thing,” he replies without skipping a beat, a cheeky grin and a sparkle returning to his eyes that I haven’t seen in years — not since the strokes that landed him in that chair in the first place.

Here, in this clinic in the City Centre 1 building across from Surrey Memorial Hospital, I have met others with brain injuries like my father’s. The clinic treats people with neurological impairments, using neuroscientific principles and state-of-the-art equipment to retrain movement.

In this newspaper, I’ve told their stories of determination, of overcoming brain injuries, of re-training one’s body to work again and proving just how much the human spirit is capable of.

First, I met Michael Coss inside the very same clinic in 2017, who learned to walk again with a cane after being wheelchair-bound for seven years following a tragic car accident that almost took his life.

Not only does Coss walk today, but he’s done a one-kilometre Terry Fox Run, the Vancouver Sun Run and even the Sheraton Climb the Wall event, which involves climbing more than 700 stairs.

See also: Iron Soldier fights to walk again as he leaves legacy in Surrey

See also: VIDEOS: Surrey neuroscience innovation highlighted during Brain Awareness Week

Then, during Brain Awareness Week in March, I met retired Army Reserve captain Trevor Greene, aka the Iron Soldier, who was hit in the head with an axe in Afghanistan. Today, he does therapy at the NeuroMotion clinic, pushing boundaries and teaching the world new things about the ability of the brain to rewire itself.

It was those stories that helped me get my dad inside the building, but on this day, it was my father’s spirit that blew me away.

It’s been five years since tragedy struck our family.

Five years since my father suffered TIAs while alone in his home. Called transient ischemic attacks, TIAs mimic the symptoms of a stroke but don’t tend to leave permanent damage to the brain. They are a warning sign a serious stroke may be on its way.

I checked on dad that day, and he answered the door in a daze, but claimed to be sick so I didn’t think much of it.

That is, until I returned a few days later and was forced to break into his home and found him awake but unable to speak. Unable to move or respond in any way.

I’ll never forget that moment, but most surreal of all was sitting in the hospital when a neurosurgeon sat me down and told me to prepare myself for the worst.

He was preparing me for the very realistic possibility of my father’s death.

I’ll never forget how close my brother clutched me at that moment. My head fell as I began to sob in his arms. The doctor went on to say there was a blood clot in my father’s brain. We didn’t yet know how large it was, but it was in a troubling spot near the entrance to the brain. A spot where, if it burst, Dad could die.

George Reid in Surrey Memorial Hospital after his strokes, with his dog Sammy. (Photo: Amy Reid)

The doctor then explained that because we didn’t know how long ago the stroke had hit, some medical measures were no longer available to us.

By some miracle, my father survived. But he suffered further strokes in hospital. It was a never-ending cycle: Two steps forward and five steps back.

For weeks, I sat by my father’s hospital bed and watched as he learned to hold a toothbrush again. Learned to feed himself. For a long time, he couldn’t do either. He would just stare at them. Even with verbal prompting, he couldn’t pick up a comb, let alone run it through his hair.

I held back tears as he called me by my mother’s name, called my daughter by mine. Or, even worse, he couldn’t remember our names at all.

In those darkest moments, there were times I thought death might have been a kinder fate. An optimist at my core, this ordeal shook that trait more than anything ever has.

I have fond memories sitting in my backyard with my children sitting on his lap, just one summer before the strokes, them laughing hysterically while he told them a joke.

I remember him cooking eggs for my son in the morning when he would visit. I remember my son yelling, “Big Bubba!” and jumping up on him every time he walked through my front door.

The contrast between who he was before and after his strokes, even today while writing this column, brings me to tears. I still carry guilt about not finding him sooner. I often think about how different his life might be today.

But along the way, we’ve both learned to celebrate the little victories. Eventually, he could brush his hair. He could put a shirt on by himself. He could put on deodorant.

Today, he can hold conversations very well. He can do many more things on his own, but still requires a full-time caregiver, and has a wonderful woman named Elizabeth taking care of him in a suite in Bridgeview.

George Reid smiles at Surrey’s Neuromotion clinic ahead of his first appointment in March. (Photo: Amy Reid)

But he’s quite isolated, still unable to walk, unable to use a washroom on his own, and is on many medications that leave him tired and exhausted.

I’ve been trying to get him into Pauline Martin’s NeuroMotion clinic since I saw firsthand the life-changing work she’s done with others who have suffered brain injuries.

It’s not always easy to motivate someone with a brain injury. Strokes take something from you.

But this NeuroMotion clinic has helped so many others in far worse situations than my dad. Something kept pushing me to nag him, and nag him, and nag some more. Finally, he agreed.

I have trouble putting into words how appreciative I am that my line of work exposed me to the clinic in the first place, because this visit was the first bright light I’ve seen in my dad in longer than I care to admit. I heard a laugh I haven’t heard in five years. I saw a sparkle in his eye that I’d almost forget existed — even when the session got tough today. I saw motivation in him that I’ve been dying to see for so long. It’s been a long, trying road and it’s crazy to think it’s already been five years.

But if this is how far we’ve come in five years without the help of amazing specialists at NeuroMotion, I am undoubtedly optimistic about what the next five years will hold.

For those who have family members who suffer brain injuries, just know anything is possible if you believe. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I think it takes a village to recover from something of this magnitude, as well.

NeuroMotion and the team there is truly the first time I’ve felt my dad finally has a village. The one that he needs to push him, to motivate him, and to keep that spark alive inside of him.

It’s the first step down a new road (pun intended — that one’s for you, dad).

Amazingly, he’s taken his first steps since the stroke in the few weeks that he’s been at NeuroMotion.

My jaw dropped and my eyes filled with tears on Wednesday as I learned he had walked across the room, with support from the physiotherapists.

They push him – hard – and it’s exactly what he needs both physically and mentally.

Will my father walk on his own again?

I’ll have to quote renowned neuroscientist Dr. Ryan D’Arcy, who told Trevor Greene this same thing in the same building just a few weeks before: “We don’t know. But we’re not going to say no.”

See also: Stricken by stroke, a Surrey teen ballerina is determined to dance again one day

See also: ‘Game-changing’ Surrey-born technology tests brain vital signs



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Amy on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Statue of Lady Justice at B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey man found guilty in 2018 murder of his wife

Rizig Bona’s next court date is today

(file photo)
LETTER: Handgun ban would only hurt lawful gun owners

Reader says this will penalize lawful gun owners

Live Well Exercise Clinic CEO Sara Hodson and Trevor Linden’s Club 16 partner Carl Ulmer are pushing for gym memberships and services to become tax deductible. (Contributed photo)
Semiahmoo Peninsula fitness pros leading charge on tax-deductible gym memberships

Live Well Exercise Clinic CEO Sara Hodson pitched idea to deputy prime minister

(Photo: Now-Leader).
Surrey Schools seeking community input for 2021-22 budget

Majority of it is pre-allocated, but room to address priorities in the community

An example of a Surrey Police cruiser, showcased at Mayor Doug McCallum’s State of the City Address at Civic Hotel in May of 2019. (File photo: Amy Reid)
Surrey Police Service hires first three inspectors as ‘next layer of leadership’

Three men have more than 80 years of combined experience

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of deceased Vancouver Island Hells Angels prospect to be divided between wife and secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Burnaby Mounties responded to 56 complaints and issued 10 tickets to people flouting COVID-19 restrictions in February. (Patrick Davies/100 Mile Free Press)
COVID denier fined $2,300 for hosting gathering in her home: Burnaby RCMP

The woman told Mounties she does not believe the pandemic is real

Most Read