If you were to meet Greg Hood today, robust at 64 and standing over six feet tall, you would never know he has survived a serious brain injury. The surgery scars have healed, he’s regained mobility, and his friendly demeanour makes you feel like you’ve known him forever.
On Friday, July 31st, 2009, he was a happy guy getting ready for work and about to kick-off a five-week holiday. He was a Culinary Arts Instructor with Camosun College, a position he had held for 26 years, training the next generation of chefs.
The aneurism began as a profound headache which left him confused and frightened. He would lose consciousness and awake in hospital days later, post-surgery with machines monitoring his vital signs.
Rehab began immediately, says Greg, and daily for the duration of his three-month stay. He graduated to outpatient rehab where clinicians helped him recover physical and cognitive abilities. Greg attributes his almost complete recovery (a hint of a limp remains) to the quality care he received as well as the support from his ex-wife.
“Dealing with the physical part was easy. I’d always been active – in the gym, golfing, playing baseball.” It was the emotional part Greg struggled with. “I lost a lot of things that meant the world to me and I did not have the wherewithal to get them back. I was a mess for awhile.”
Greg was unable to return to work and his marriage ended. He has bouts of chronic pain and has acquired epilepsy, a side-effect of recovery. “It took three years of rehab just to be able to cook again in my own kitchen.”
Early into his rehab program, he learned about the Victoria Brain Injury Society, funded in part by United Way.
“I’ve taken almost every course they have to offer,” says Greg. “This learning was new for me and very important in my moving forward.”
It was the people who work, volunteer, and seek out support at this society who helped Greg come to terms with what he had lost as a result of his injury. “That wasn’t an easy thing for me to talk about my feelings.” But talk he did, and he listened too, especially with other people like him who could relate and share their experience.
The Victoria Brain Injury Society was the antidote Greg needed. He found the family support group, the peer support group, many new friends, and the individual attention of his case manager to be essential help. Now a volunteer himself, Greg says, “It’s an honour to give back to these people who have helped me so much. And I tell everyone now to give to the United Way. They make this support possible. Without it, I don’t know where I’d be.”