When Ron Purnell went to work on a sunny day in 1997, it felt like a normal day.
The then 67-year-old Smithers resident was working in Dease Lake changing a grocery store’s compressor on the roof when he felt a pain in his chest.
“I laid on the roof. But I thought to myself ‘no one is going to see me up here except for airplanes and there’s only one every week’,” said Purnell.
He then crawled down from the roof and the manager of the store took him to a local clinic.
Purnell had a heart attack and was given an IV.
But it was the IV that caused Purnell to have a stroke, which paralyzed the right side of his body.
He would spend the next three months in rehabilitation in Prince George.
“I thought nothing was ever going to happen to me,” said Purnell.
The 85-year-old has been a stroke survivor for the past 18 years.
Even now, he continues to go to physiotherapy twice a week and does daily exercises with an exercise ball and has begun to regain a bit of movement in his right arm.
“I can walk around at home with no assistance . . . things are getting better and it’s only through exercise,” said Purnell, adding that he isn’t on any medication.
Now, he’s is turning his struggle into a learning experience for others.
Purnell, along with physiotherapist Tracy Fowler, are leading a workshop called Living with Stroke to help people who have had strokes and their caregivers to cope with the consequences.
“The focus really is for stroke survivors and their caregivers and looking at improving the outcomes and maximizing outcomes after a stroke through looking at different aspects, how people adjust and cope and engaging them in the process of recovery,” said Fowler.
This is the first time the program will be offered in Smithers and coincides with Heart and Stroke month in February.
“Sometimes the best resource is someone who has been there — someone who can say ‘yeah, I had something similar’ or ‘I was depressed as well’. The support of the group, there certainly is some teachable moments and realizing that there are others who have had strokes and looking at the whole spectrum,” said Fowler.
The six- to eight-week course, put on by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, will include different modules such as understanding strokes, physical challenges and changes, nutrition, emotions, communication, reducing the risk of stroke and moving forward.
The program starts Wednesday, Feb. 18 at the Smithers Healthy Living Centre on Main Street. To register, call 1-888-472-4636.