Mike and Sue McCormick lit the giant tree of lights in the Stan Cassidy Therapeutic Park on Dec. 6, 2016
Editor’s Note: This is a special guest post by Mike and Sue McCormick telling their story of light, hope and the difference-makers that they met at the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation. This is their family story.
In some ways, it is hard for me to imagine that I have the honour, along with my wife Sue, to be a part of the annual tree lighting ceremony. First off, you never plan to have, what I call my ‘brain event’. Secondly, while it was a long road to rehabilitation, I did it and continue to do it.
So, what was life like before my ‘brain event?’ Well, I would describe myself as normal. I was very involved in the economic development scene, both provincially and federally. I was a political junkie and loved to read. I loved being with family and helping family. In fact, I was visiting my parents when something went wrong. During the night, my brain started to bleed and the brain aneurysm started.
Somehow my father along with the family doctor figured out what was happening. The doctor called ahead to the hospital and asked to have a CT scan ready. I had the scan and was immediately sent to Saint John. Now, if it had only been the brain aneurysm, that would have been one thing. However, there was a significant complication. In Saint John, the doctors determined that I had either a heart concussion or a heart attack. They didn’t quite know what to do. If they treated the heart, it would negatively impact the brain. If they treated the brain, it would negatively impact my heart. I wasn’t expected to live and before the surgery my family said their goodbyes. I can only imagine how hard that must have been.
A few weeks later I arrived here, at this special place.
I have been an inpatient, a day patient and I continue to be an outpatient.
And while some things have changed, many have not. I retired at 53 because of my brain event. I was often scared while going through my rehabilitation. I couldn’t be alone because I often would fall. It became very difficult to do the things I used to take for granted - things like tying my shoes, getting dressed or even showering. So many abilities just disappeared. Those were tough times for me, but then there was progression. And, when I say me, I really mean we!
Those tough times lead to progress and things brightened.
What got us here tonight is the result of a strong and loving family and the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation, which has played a pivotal role in my rehabilitation. We focused on small goals and I worked my butt off! In fact, one of my great loves is watching UNB hockey. I used that as a goal. UNB was playing in the nationals in Moncton that year. I wanted to get there. People thought I was crazy! I reached my goal and I made it to Moncton to watch the game.
In many ways, I think I am the luckiest person in the world. I have met some of the most wonderful people at the Centre. The team of Dr. Connell is not just a group of people with jobs. They are people filled with passion. They are difference-makers. Words alone cannot express the gratitude I have for all of them. I want to thank all of them from the bottom of my heart. Of course, these difference makers just didn’t help patch me, they inspired us all. Our daughter Jill was so inspired that she became an Occupational Therapist.
Over the course of our journey, we have found new ways to adapt and move on together because of hard work and the people who are difference-makers. I can’t say thank you enough.
Ten years ago, when Mike got sick our lives turned upside down. We wondered how he would survive, and if he did, how would I care for him? My role went from partner to caregiver overnight. It’s not something that you can prepare for, I learned.
Imagine if your partner or your child became ill and required your care. The first emotion you might have could be fear, anger, or grief. They may be all rolled into one. But as progress is made, there is light and hope. And, while your life has changed forever, you can also add gratitude. I am so thankful for the professionals who helped us, validating every changing emotion. Not typically a straight road, rehabilitation has many challenges, including setbacks. So, we had to find a new normal. Finding a new normal became our motto. It was a focus to keep us moving.
The Stan Cassidy Centre is not just an extension of a hospital. It is a temporary home filled with professionals that are the most amazing human beings that help create your new normal. They make an incredible connection with people. They want the best for you. They see the possibilities when you may not. It’s difficult to put into words, but you can feel the love when you walk through the doors. That is what makes the difference.
I want to thank each of you for coming out to support this Centre tonight at the Tree Lighting ceremony. Each light represents a smile – a smile of a child, a parent, a spouse. This is a place of miracles and I am standing beside my miracle!
Mike and Sue McCormick
Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation