Meet Alan … retired elementary school teacher, widower, father of six, and basketball coach. He was a beloved and respected teacher, and mentor.
From 1994 to 2005, Alan participated in six Ironman® triathlons. The course demanded a 4 km swim, followed by a gruelling 180 km bike ride, topped off by a 42 km run.
In July of 2004, his beloved wife Tessa died of colon cancer. He looked after her right down to her last breath. As he brushed the hair from her eyes, he said “It’s alright sweetheart, you can go now, and I will see you soon.”
In 2005, he returned to participate in Ironman Canada and achieved his personal best time of 12 hours, 36 minutes – not bad for a 60-year-old man!
Just weeks after this triumphant achievement, Alan had a devastating stroke, which left him in a coma for two weeks.
Alan’s daughter Jenifer worked tirelessly to move him to Calgary so he could be closer to his family. She was told there was no hope for her father and that she was wasting her time. At this time Alan was communicating with facial gestures and mouthing yes or no. His body was rigid and his hands were curled up. He was being tube fed.
Alan seemed trapped in his body. Despite that, Jenifer saw something in him. “He deserved the chance to get well. It would have been easier for my Dad to die; but he didn’t, he’s still here,” she said.
Read on to discover Alan’s Second Chance …
A nurse from the long-term care centre where Alan resided suggested that Jenifer phone ARBI. She called in desperation and her prayers were answered. Mary Anne Ostapovitch, ARBI’s Program Director assessed Alan and declared, “I just know that your Dad has lots of potential.” Jenifer finally felt validated and rejoiced when her Dad was accepted into ARBI’s On-site rehabilitation program.
In 2007, Alan came to ARBI to work on his rehabilitation in earnest. With the help of his team of coaches at ARBI, Alan has made tremendous gains. In November of 2008, Alan was able to eat food for the first time. His range of motion has improved dramatically. He can sit up on his own and he speaks in a loud, clear voice. He is still fluent in French and his dry wit has returned. He learned to propel his new wheelchair within days. He is practicing walking with a four wheeled walker. Last February he played his guitar at ARBI alongside a welcomed guest, Don Felder formerly lead guitarist of the Eagles. He has been playing his guitar regularly and has recently started practicing a new song. He is also swimming again, and can complete 30 widths of the pool. What a true Ironman spirit!
Alan’s progress is perhaps due to his determination and drive. When he arrives at ARBI for his daily rehab he announces, “Let’s do it!” His enthusiasm motivates other clients and inspires the staff. He is a mentor for many! While this is the most challenging situation he has ever faced, his family sees no limitations for him now.
Indeed, he is still in the race …