University of Victoria
The Ring - The University of Victoria's Community Newspaper

February 20, 2003 · Vol 29 · No 4

On the road to recovery
“The more steps you take, the more confident you are, “says UVic’s athletics director of his recovery from a stroke


MacDonaldby Patty Pitts


Walking the length of a basketball court took on special significance this month for UVic’s athletics and recreational services director Wayne MacDonald. To gain release from the Gorge Road Hospital, he had to prove to his physiotherapists that he could walk the equivalent of an end-to-end rush and return to centre court — unassisted. And he did.


Now back in his Cadboro Bay home, MacDonald continues to recover from the serious stroke he had last fall that sent him to the Gorge for nearly four months of rehabilitation before being released “for bad behaviour.”


MacDonald jokes about having to learn to perform simple tasks all over again (“I had to play cards. I hate playing cards.”) but turns serious when describing the staff at the hospital. “I can’t say enough about these people. They’re very committed. When you go there, your feet hit the floor.”


That was a welcome change from being bedridden for nearly six weeks following his stroke. MacDonald was at home, recuperating from a cardiac day procedure, and fell asleep on the couch while watching television. Waking up, he tried to stand up to search for the TV remote and fell. His left side was paralyzed and wife Nancy found him on the floor early in the morning.


The gains he made at Victoria General Hospital were modest. “I could sit on the side of the bed, with help, and after three weeks I could sit in a wheelchair.” Even accomplishing that was exhausting. “You have to get in shape to be able to sit up for eight hours. That was hard.”


Enduring pain from pre-existing arthritis in his hips and shoulder, made worse from restricted movement, MacDonald entered the Gorge Hospital’s daily regime of occupational and physical therapy. “The first day I was here our physiotherapist came into our room [MacDonald shared with three other patients] and she said ‘Good morning, gentlemen. Let’s get at it!’” The full days of mental and physical exercise achieved amazing results. “There was one guy who came in after being in bed for 78 days. Within a week, you could see a big change in him.”


With the help of the Handidart (MacDonald and his wife have since customized a van), he was able to attend some Vikes basketball games while still in rehab but had to leave before game end due to the limited public transit schedule. Lacking a computer in the Gorge, MacDonald occasionally took the bus to his McKinnon Gym office to listen over the Internet to play-by-play of his son Kirk playing hockey for Rensselaer Polytechnic in upstate New York. Each outing required extensive planning.


“I’m an impulsive person, and I can’t do anything impulsively anymore,” he admits. At home, he’ll continue physiotherapy twice a week but he’ll miss the occupational therapy carefully developed to stimulate damaged circuits in the brain. He fully accepts the need for a transitional phase between physiotherapy at the Gorge and a return to work, but is concerned for some of the patients he saw who will never be employed again.


“I plan to take advantage of the UVic return-to-work program,” says MacDonald of the initiative that allows returning employees to increase their workload gradually. “But a lot of patients from the Gorge never work again. It’s not because they can’t, but because their employers write them off.”


MacDonald is already making use of his new-found computer access to keep in touch with staff at athletics and follow the athletes’ progress. “I really miss the buzz on campus. UVic always has an energy about it.” He acknowledges that his rehabilitation is an ongoing process.


“You’re not going to win any races. The more steps you take, the more confident you are and there’s less of a chance of falling.” Looking back over his progress of the last six months he adds, “The human body is an amazing thing.”


Photo caption: MacDonald kept a photo of his hockey-playing son, Kirk, with him at the Gorge Road Hospital. (Patty Pitts photo).











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