Tony’s Journey: Introduction (Part 1 of 6)
Here’s the thing about acquired brain injuries: everyone’s experience is different. For some, recovery might be fairly quick, and for others, it might be a lifelong process. That’s why we created Between the Lines–to give brain injury survivors a platform to share their unique story.
In this series, brain injury survivor Tony Mok shares his experience with an acquired brain injury, and all that he’s learned from the recovery process. But first, let’s paint a picture of him for you: Tony is a congenial, loving husband and father of three. He enjoys sports, Star Wars, and watching The Big Bang Theory with his wife. He also spent many years as a Supervisor in the fast-paced fast food world, and like many dads, spent his off-hours ferrying his kids to hockey practice and cooking for the family. His life was like most British Columbians’.
But all of this came to a stop in 2009. One night, as Tony and his wife were settling into bed, Tony’s wife noticed a change in his speech patterns. He wasn’t speaking normally, and was difficult to understand. He couldn’t recognize it at the time, but Tony was experiencing a life-threatening stroke. He very likely would have died, if his wife hadn’t known to call 911.
The challenges of stroke recovery
The next days, weeks and years would go on to be intensely challenging for Tony and his family. He could no longer do many of the things he enjoyed or was expected to do, from mountain biking to cooking to working a full-time job. It took time, but because Tony was able to get the medical attention and emotional support he needed, he was able to make progress in his recovery.
Part of progress meant accepting his new reality. Through sessions with various medical professionals, Tony learned that he enjoyed being outdoors. So while he could no longer play contact sports, he could volunteer at a nearby golf course. He grew to enjoy and appreciate time spent in his backyard garden. There were many ups and downs over the decade following his stroke, but Tony learned to lean into his passions where he could.
As with every journey, Tony’s recovery is a continuous process. The unexpected can, and did happen–in the summer of 2020, Tony had a second stroke. It came out of the blue, and had nothing to do with his lifestyle; this is, unfortunately, something that can happen to stroke survivors. So for now, Tony’s taking it easy and managing his blood pressure as best a person can, spending time in his garden while halting his volunteer work at the golf course so that he can focus on his health and his family..
As he continues his journey as a brain injury survivor, Tony has graciously taken some time to speak with the BC Brain Injury Association (of which he was formerly a Board Member) about his experience with an acquired brain injury. Together, we’ve created a visualization of his journey from the years 2009-2019, which contain Tony’s reflections on his life and the transformations that have taken place, as well as the support systems and personal work that enabled him to reach acceptance and understanding. Of his experience, he also shared this bit of wisdom:
“Mental health and brain injuries are largely invisible. Don’t judge [a person] until you know what is going on.”
This is true not just for Tony, but many people with brain injuries. And by sharing Tony’s story, we hope to raise awareness and understanding for all brain injury survivors and their loved ones.
Below, you can see Tony’s “Between the Lines,” a visualization of Tony’s 2009-2019 journey, in his own words.
Over the next few weeks, stay tuned because we will be doing a deeper dive into Tony’s journey. We will explore:
- How stroke awareness saves lives
- How facing real fears is the key to recovery
- How counselling holds families together
- Slowing down and getting back to basics
- Finding purpose in what you love