HALIFAX, NS – George Crocker had a life-altering event in March, 2015.
Now the Marystown native is sharing his personal story on how a major stroke changed everything for him.
His e-book is titled “Threading the Needles of Life; A Quiet Reflection.”
Crocker, who now makes his home in Halifax, was working 14-day shift with Vale in Newfoundland and Labrador at the time of his stroke.
“The last stint I was there, probably about two-thirds through, I wasn’t feeling that great,” he told the Southern Gazette in a recent interview.
Crocker said he brushed it off, thinking he was getting the flu. He took the day off work to give himself time to feel better.
When he awoke the next morning in his camp at the worksite he was unable to open his right eye. When it did open, he saw double and triple.
He asked one of the other staff at Vale to take him to the medical centre in nearby Whitbourne.
There, doctors determined his blood pressure was high and needed to be stabilized.
“Probably every 20 to 30 minutes they called me in to check my blood pressure again . . . it wasn’t stabilized, so then they wrote me a prescription to go to the pharmacy to grab some (blood pressure) pills and go home.”
On suggestion of his fiancée, Nancy, Crocker had someone drive him to the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre.
Again, his blood pressure was “way up.”
The following week Crocker returned home to Halifax, but was still having problems with high blood pressure.
The crisis came when he went to sit down one day.
“I missed the couch and I sat on the floor, then I flopped over onto the floor.”
Crocker said he remembers trying to motivate himself to get up.
“I can’t remember much after that,” he said. “I remember trying to push myself up, but my legs and arms wouldn’t work; Nancy said I started yelling to her but I don’t remember that.”
His fianceé called 911 and Crocker was taken to hospital in Halifax.
“She said it was like a movie – all these people were waiting for me to come,” explained Crocker. “Doctors and nurses . . . waiting for them to wheel me into emergency, because the paramedics called ahead … and they expected that I had a stroke or some kind of a brain problem going on.”
Crocker was given an anticlotting agent to help break down blood clots, a treatment he said was working until doctors discovered he had several clots in his brain.
Doctors informed his son, daughter and fiancée they needed to do brain surgery to remove the clots and save Crocker’s life, and that a tear in his carotid artery could pose an increased risk during the surgery.
Doctors performed a thrombectomy to remove the clots.
Crocker said at the time, the surgery was only offered in three provinces in Canada.
Since then he said it has been introduced across Canada except Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island.
“If I hadn’t come home (back to Halifax) I’d probably be dead.”
Crocker said when he awoke after surgery he was unaware of where he was or what had happened.
“Nancy and my two kids, Suzanne and Stefan, were sitting on the edge of my (hospital) bed and I said, ‘What am I doing here?’
At that point he had no feeling in his left arm or leg.
Crocker spent 90 days recovering in hospital.
With the assistance of medical staff, and his son, Crocker slowly started to walk again.
He said at first it was a hard process, but got better the more he progressed.
He has been walking unassisted since.
Telling his story
Crocker said it’s difficult for some people to understand the impact a brain injury can have on your life unless they experience it.
“I was really at the pinnacle of my career, feeling the best of health when I got the brain injury,” he said. “I was feeling good, and making good money and then … went from there to zero overnight.”
Knowing what he worked so hard to achieve was gone was hard to accept.
“It’s like a death in the family,” he said. “You go through a mourning of what you lost. You feel like you lost your life.
“You’ve got nowhere to go and nothing to do.”
Crocker said he had to accept what he calls a “new normal.”
“People used to say to me ‘I wish I had the old you back.’
“The problem is, the day that I had the surgery, the old me died.”
Accepting that has been difficult, he admits.
“You know yourself that you’ll never be the same. You remember who you were, but you’ll never be that way again probably in your lifetime.”
During his recovery period, Crocker spent a lot of time reading.
“I found that it would helped . . . take my mind off my problems.”
After getting involved with the Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia he realized there were no books about brain injury written by people who have survived them.
Friends and family suggested he tell his own story.
“The more I wrote, the better I felt,” he said.
Once he started writing he couldn’t stop, although typing was difficult due to ongoing issues with his right hand.
Crocker said writing his book was a way to make people aware of what those suffering from brain injuries are going through.
He also hopes to share how he overcame some of the challenges, as well as things he learned from others.