Community Health

Every Day is a Gift

 By Tim Kerr

It was my last deployment before my family and I were set to move to Ottawa.

There I was, Commanding Officer of a Canadian Navy warship, at sea about 150 miles off the coast of California. I had finally found time to get to the fitness room to fit in my regular workout for the day. I remember putting on my headphones and getting on the treadmill.

Then everything went dark…until I woke up in the naval hospital in San Diego.

I was only 43 years old. I was in great shape, from my time in the military. I ate well. I exercised. But I suffered a brain hemorrhage and a stroke that day.

HMCS Algonquin

After my crew saved my life by rushing me to the naval hospital ashore, doctors told me I would need to travel elsewhere for my rehabilitation. Even in San Diego, my neurosurgeon knew of Bruyère’s incredible work and reputation, and recommended that I seek care in Ottawa.

Once stabilized with my wife by my side, the Canadian Armed Forces flew me to Ottawa, and together we began our journey with my stroke rehabilitation. We knew that the road ahead of us would long – but we also hoped we were going to be in the best hands with Bruyère.

It was hard not to feel discouraged in the days that followed my stroke. My body felt like it belonged to someone else. I couldn’t use my left side, or even sit up straight, and was confined to a wheelchair, all while undergoing countless tests to try and determine the cause of my brain hemorrhage.

But the staff and volunteers at Bruyère believed in me. They explained every step of my treatment, outlining my recovery in stages. I began to see a glimmer of hope, and gained a bit of strength with each passing day.

We celebrated my daughter’s eighth birthday in the hospital. As I sat in my wheelchair watching her dance around a conference room, I felt myself losing hope, but resolved to do everything I could to recover for her and my son. My family needed me.

I continued my rehabilitation at home as Bruyère outpatient, visiting physiotherapists and doctors frequently in the months that followed.

Today, I can say that I’m almost back to where I was before that fateful day at sea. My body feels like my own again. And on May 25th and 26th, I embarked on the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend Lumberjack Challenge (4 races, 59.2km over the course of two days) to help raise both awareness and funds in support of Bruyère.

The road to recovery hasn’t been an easy one. But after more than a year of intensive rehabilitation at Elisabeth Bruyère Hospital, I’m told by people, now, that you would never know I had been the victim of a stroke. They tell me I’m lucky.

But I know my survival and rehabilitation isn’t a matter of luck. It’s a result of the exceptional care I received in the hands of Bruyère’s talented medical staff.

I didn’t truly understand the important role that Bruyère plays in our community until I needed rehabilitation. As someone who has benefited from their expert medical care, I’m now determined to raise awareness for the hospital and give back to the same institution that gave me so much. Having a stroke at only 43 years old showed me that a lot of things are outside of our control in life. But what is within our control is what we do with the time that we are afforded. I now choose to help bring attention to the importance of having these types of facilities available for people in need.

None of us wants to imagine that we or a loved one could ever need the services that Bruyère offers – but tens of thousands of patients each year rely on its life-saving and life-changing care and rehabilitation.

The support of this remarkable hospital means everything to patients like myself – people fighting for their lives, and for a return to “normal”. The unwavering support allowing for the funding of vital hospital equipment and tools, investment in lifesaving research, and the ability to improve the quality of life for everyone who walks through Bruyère’s doors.

I can’t imagine what my life would look like today, were it not for Bruyère. And I want others to have the same access to world-class health care when they need it the most.

Visit https://www.bruyere.org/en/waystogive to read more patient stories of the life-changing work being done, and to see how you can contribute to the work of Bruyère.