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Congrats to Coping Strategies Graduates!

Today participants of the Coping Strategies program wrapped up 20 weeks of learning, laughing and friend-making.

Today's celebration included a lot of yummy treats brought in by participants, and a lot of fond memories recalled from weeks gone by.

One participant, Greg, sat down with Director of Resource Development, Nicole Nelson, to share his story and his experiences in the program.

Here is what Greg shared:

It happened in the early morning hours of July 31st 2009 while I was showering. It was my last day of work before my five week holiday. I knew right away something was wrong. There was an intense feeling in my head that I just can’t describe. I got out of the shower and asked my wife to call my work (at the time I was a chef at Camosun) and tell I had a very bad headache. Then I collapsed.

I remember the paramedics arriving, then waking up in the hospital to a nurse saying, “Make sure you watch the bone flap on his right side, and the ICP!”. I quickly learned that ICP stood for inner cranial pressure, and that they had removed a section of bone from my skull to make room for my swelling brain. I learned I had experienced a severe brain aneurysm.

The next thing I remember was asking for a glass of ice cold water. The nurse replied, “Sorry, but I’m afraid I can’t get you that…you can’t swallow”. I was in denial about the severity of my injury and was adamant that they let me leave the hospital. After all, it was the first day of my five week holiday and I wasn’t planning on spending it in the hospital,

It turns out I was paralyzed on my left side. Mentally, I couldn’t connect with my left hand. I also wasn’t able to eat, as I had lost the ability to swallow. Being a chef, I really struggled with that. I was in the hospital for months. It was such a struggle, even getting dressed. God, it was hell.

While I was in outpatient rehab, I saw a flyer for the Victoria Brain Injury Society and learned about the different programs they had to offer. I quickly signed up for the Acquired Brain Injury 101 course and the Coping Strategies program. Both programs were essential to my recovery.  

When I was a chef I would host a Greek-themed party, but since my injury I had found it extremely difficult to deal with the preparations and organization on the day of the big event. It was a lot of cooking, a lot of stress and a lot of people. Last time I hosted the evening I had a stress-induced seizure the next day. While I was taking the Coping Strategies program I hosted the event again. Fifty people showed up and the strategies I learned during the program helped me deal with so many things that had made those parties so difficult: multitasking, extreme fatigue, over-stimulation, physical pain, etc. Before the Coping program I never understood why I couldn’t just “go”, why I always had to stop. Now, I have no trouble walking away from situations when I know I am getting “flooded”.

I’ve always been a sensitive person but didn’t understand why I would get so incredibly emotional over the littlest things. Everyday situations would become extremely overwhelming but coping taught me how to manage my emotions. It has helped me to keep moving forward.

Now I make goals for myself. By next summer, my goal is to be able to walk the entire course when I am golfing. I now realize that I need the time to process how I will approach the next hole. I actually enjoy taking that time to process.

I know that I’m not at the end of the road. I’ve got a long way to go. But I’ve got my wits about me and even though I was told I may have lost my sense of humor, I can guarantee you I have not! I know I can get through this, and do it with smile.


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