It was a dark June night. The Royal Canadian Navy destroyer, HMCS Algonquin, was 150 miles off the coast of California. Tim was the Commanding Officer and getting ready for a two month deployment. One minute he was running on a treadmill in the ship’s gymnasium —the next he was waking up in the US Navy Hospital in San Diego. He had suffered a brain hemorrhage and a serious stroke, which left him unable to use his left arm or leg, or even sit up straight. He was 43 years old.
Tim’s journey to recovery brought him to Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital in Ottawa, where he spent time as both a patient in the Stroke Rehabilitation Unit and as an outpatient. Here he used every resource possible to get back on his feet. His recovery was defined by frequent visits to the hospital, hard work, and a commitment to getting his life back. This is when he was introduced to the non-immersive Virtual Reality (VR) system at Bruyère.
VR is an innovative technology being tested by Bruyère investigators Hillel Finestone, MD, and Lisa Sheehy, PhD. This system uses computer hardware and software to track a person’s movements, allowing him or her to interact with therapeutic games and activities on screen. These games are used by rehabilitation specialists to improve balance and movement in the person playing the game. Although not available when Tim was rehabilitating, the VR system is now being studied for use in the community and at home under supervision by a physical therapist at a Bruyère command centre.
“The VR game was very helpful at getting me moving again,” said Tim. “It was different from a lot of the other exercises I had to do and added an element of competition and fun to my recovery activities, which I really liked.”
Tim’s journey towards recovery was long and arduous. However thanks to a healthy dose of care, compassion, and a side of innovation, Tim is back on his feet.
Tim is now a Bruyère volunteer, lives in Ottawa with his family, and works for Canada’s Department of National Defence.
Learn more about Tim’s story on Youtube.