The Glass is Half Full

Something special happens at Classic LifeCare when client Abraham calls. From the admin team to Client Care Coordinators to nurses, people start to gush.

"He is so amazing. He is the most inspiring person," says Client Care Coordinator Anna Su.

"He is just such a positive man," says Nursing Supervisor Simi Banipal, with a smile.

"He is a pleasure to talk to. Such an inspiration!" gushes Patricia Barrie, Administrator.

Abraham - better known to friends and family as Abe - has an infectious smile, a warm and welcoming demeanor, and an obvious zest for life. But he has certainly seen his share of dark days.

Just a few years ago, Abe had been off work dealing with some depression. He had struggled with his marriage and was taking some time to get back to the things he loved like boating, fishing and getting healthier. Suddenly everything changed.

"I had this awful chest pain and thought I was having a heart attack," he recalls. "I went to the hospital but they sent me home. That night, my body went completely numb."

Nobody recognized it at the time, but Abe had suffered a spinal infarction, which is a stroke of the spinal cord. Because the damage to his spinal cord occurred quite high, he became paralyzed from the chest down.

He describes the first week after his injury as shocking. He wasn't in pain because of the paralysis, but he was in disbelief of what had happened to him and during that first week in the hospital, his family decided to leave him.

"My wife and children decided to leave. I couldn't believe it. I was full of anger and depression and tried to do something stupid. I was in a very bad place."

When he was at his lowest point, something amazing happened to Abe. Like a switch turning on, his whole outlook changed. He started to cling to the idea that life is too short to be so miserable.

"I said to myself, 'Pick up your life and go, Abe.' And that changed everything. I stopped complaining altogether and decided to start living."

Born in Fiji, Abe immigrated to Canada when he was 14 years old. His family settled in Richmond, he attended Richmond High School and he married at a fairly young age and moved to Coquitlam.

He worked in a mill for a few years, worked as a truck driver and a crane operator, and was in a manufacturing business for many years. Once he had the stroke, he moved back to Richmond.

Following the stroke, Abe spent three months at Royal Columbian Hospital before he was transferred to G.F. Strong. He said that's when things started to improve for him physically.

"I received a lot of positive reinforcement and encouragement at G.F. Strong. I started really trying to get motion back. When I first had my stroke, I couldn't sit, I had no strength in my hands and fingers, I had so little mobility. Now, I can sit no problem and I have strength back in my hands."

Since moving into his own apartment and working on his rehabilitation every day, Abe is a new man with a new zest for life.

He started a new hobby - photography - which inspires him to explore Vancouver, be in nature, and put a lot of kilometres on his electric wheelchair. Whether exploring Stanley Park, the Vancouver Aquarium, Science World, taking in movies, enjoying a variety of restaurants, he is anything but homebound. He considers his wheelchair his car.

"I wore out my first wheelchair. It was still under warranty so I got a new one. I have already put 791 miles on this one since summer."

He also bought a van, which he will be able to drive using his hands next year.

"My goal next year is to travel across Canada, either by train or in my van. I love to drive."

Abe says he has had a very positive experience with Classic LifeCare and appreciates the relationships he has built with the office staff, Client Care Coordinators, Nursing Supervisors and Health Care Workers.

"I couldn't have gotten through all of this without help. Especially without my parents and my sister. From the moment I woke up in the hospital after the stroke, they have been there for me and will do anything to help me. I am so grateful for their support."

Abe, sitting in front of his Christmas tree, which his sister decorated for him, looks around his living room and smiles to himself.

"The good Lord gave me two hands and a mind to think. He didn't take everything away from me. And I am going to make the best of it and live life to the fullest."

See below for a few of Abe's nature photos.