pt. 2 -- Meet Inspiration: Glen McCarthy
When Glen McCarthy woke up, lying immobile on his back, staring at the ceiling of his hospital room, he began question his life, wondering how he ended up there.
The avid cyclist – who was in prime physical condition at 56 years old – was having a hard time accepting that the night before he had been rushed to the emergency room at Mackenzie Health by paramedics, just in time to receive treatment for his second stroke.
“I felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under me,” Glen said, reflecting back on that day in March of last year.
In 2010, at the age 50, Glen had his first stroke shortly after having a TIA, (transient ischemic attack,) a sort of stroke warning.
Glen suffered some slight brain damage and loss of peripheral vision at that time.
But despite that earlier stroke, not to mention a family history of heart disease, Glen was still at a loss when he woke up in the hospital and learned he just had a second stroke.
Among all the confusion banging around in his brain, one distinct thought, one feeling stood out clear: “I was determined to work as hard as I could to get back on my feet. There was no way I was going to use a cane or a walker.”
Following the first stroke, he had focused on recovering in four months’ time so he could go on the rigorous European cycling trip he had planned for the Tour de France route.
“I said ‘game on’. I said to whoever is pulling the strings, ‘if that’s your best shot, watch this’.”
He did, of course, take that trip, cycling two mountain passes a day.
But here he was again, despite an active and healthy lifestyle, facing another recovery from a stroke – a more serious one this time.
He could not walk, was numb on his left side, was having difficulty swallowing, and his left arm was impaired. Despite all that, Glen was the first among his fellow “fallen comrades” on the Integrated Stroke Unit to begin walking again.
One of the first things he did was cover those walls of his hospital room with his “adventure in France” cycling photographs to give him visual inspiration every waking moment during his 5-1/2 week stay.
He was eager to begin his rehabilitation, which was facilitated by his excellent physical condition.
“Every day, I had a little milestone, they were thrilled with my progress,” he said.
After being discharged last April, Glen has returned to his King City home, where he lives with his wife, Isabel. His daughter, Megan, 23, who lives in Australia, took a leave from her job to assist her dad in his recovery for several months. His other daughter, Lauren, 25, lives in Toronto.
On the wall above his desk at home are some of the cycling photographs that bolstered his determination in the early weeks following his stroke. A framed note and photograph of Olympic cycling medallist Steve Bauer holds a place of honour: “To Glen, I heard you are having a rough time. Be positive, keep focused on getting well. You will be back in action soon. Perhaps on the bike! Get well, Steve Bauer.”
And of course, not to anyone’s surprise, Glen is now back at it, cycling in the Ride for coming up on Sunday June 26, 2016 at Copper Creek Golf Course in York Region.
Next week, we’ll conclude the inspirational story of Glen McCarthy and fill you in on all the details for the upcoming Ride For Health.