Tim Bolger remembers making coffee at 3:30 a.m., at his home in Winsloe, just north of Charlottetown, on Nov. 20, 2015. What he didn't know was a blood clot was lodged in his neck, causing one of three strokes he'd have before getting to the emergency room.
"I remember getting up to make the coffee, I don't remember the other three incidents, including calling work and telling them I wouldn't be in that day cause I wasn't feeling well."
The youth counsellor, 52, hasn't been to work since. He's one of 800 Prince Edward Islanders dealing with the aftermath of stroke. Another 80 Islanders will lose their lives to stroke this year.
Bolger's been working hard to get back to the life he knew, but he's also spent time advocating for services he needed after leaving hospital.
"In the new year, with the urging of my wife, I contacted the stroke team and said, 'OK I'm ready to get to work here," said Bolger.
"I probably would have waited just because I have faith in the system that it's going to work for me."
Support for caregivers neededHeart & Stroke Canada called on all the provinces Wednesday to ensure stroke victims get the rehab help they need more quickly.
"Once they start asking those questions the healthcare system will be there and able to help provide any supports they need," said Jill Cameron, an expert in stroke rehabilitation at the University of Toronto.
"We're not in a place yet where it's standard practice to prepare or support family members who take on this caregiving role," said Cameron.
Advocating for himselfBolger said after being discharged by the stroke team, he had to make another call to secure occupational therapy.
"I think the services are available, but I think you need caregivers to push you along to say, 'Now you need to do this,'" he said.
Tim Bolger has put in hundreds of hours in the rehab unit and had about 20 sessions with an occupational therapist. He's not sure when he'll get back to work, or how his job will change to accommodate the lingering effects of the stroke.
Eighteen months after making that early morning pot of coffee, Bolger said he's put in the long exhausting hours in rehab, and at home, overcoming the challenges. His advice to those who'll walk the same road is to keep fighting for the help you need.
"I think it's easy to avoid it because of the impact it can have, but I still think going through it was better than not going through it," he said.