On a sunny day in 2006, Marco Chorbajian was enjoying a cup of coffee at home with his wife when he suddenly felt tired, so he lay down for a nap.
An hour later, he awoke and picked up a Sudoku puzzle, and was alarmed to discover he couldn’t hold a pen. Worried, his wife decided to take him to the hospital. By the time they got there, Marco could no longer walk.
Marco, then 69, had suffered a stroke that left him unable to move or speak. He remained in the hospital for three months.
“It was very frightening,” Marco recalls. “All I wanted to do was die.”
A visit from his young grandson transformed Marco’s mental outlook and inspired him to fight for recovery. He checked himself out of the hospital and started physiotherapy. He began to swim daily, and after 18 months of walking in the pool he shifted his rehabilitation to land, working his way up to walking 5,000 steps a day all over the city.
An avid tennis player, Marco was devastated when the nurses told him he would never play again. He decided to prove them wrong. He took his tennis racquet to bed with him at night, even though he couldn’t grip it. Eventually he was able to return to playing tennis twice a week. And he completed the Vancouver Sun Run several times.
Research is improving stroke recovery
Today, more Canadians are surviving strokes due to advances in awareness and medical services. Stroke recovery is a journey that can continue for years or a lifetime. Research funded by Heart & Stroke has made great strides to improve and advance stroke recovery. Marco is living proof.
“Working with researchers like Dr. Janice Eng saved my life,” says Marco. He credits Dr. Eng with showing him the importance of exercise in his recovery.
She and other Heart & Stroke researchers continue to find new, innovative best practices to help people like Marco make a fuller recovery from stroke.
Working with researchers like Dr. Janice Eng saved my life.
For example, Dr. Eng and her team at the University of British Columbia are testing a robotic “exoskeleton” to see if it can help stroke survivors improve their walking. The apparatus straps onto the patient’s legs and controls hip and knee movement through a computerized system carried in a backpack.
As for Marco, he has shared his experience with other stroke survivors across Metro Vancouver to offer advice, encouragement and support.
“I decided that stroke survival is going to be my life’s work,” he says. “I want to help any stroke survivor any way I can.”