Mike’s Story

Photo of Mike, stroke patient at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital.

After experiencing a stroke, the Glenrose helped Mike become … well, just Mike again. And he couldn’t have asked for more.  

“The Glenrose changed my life in many ways,” says Mike Burrell, stroke recovery patient at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital. On December 8, 2023, Mike laid down for a nap before heading out for hockey. Not long after laying down, Mike realized that his right arm and leg were numb. After attempting to call out to his wife for help, he also realized that he was also unable to speak. What started out as an average day rapidly changed. Mike was having a stroke.  

After being ambulanced to the University of Alberta Hospital, doctors concluded that Mike suffered an ischemic stroke – the most common type that occurs when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. His next week was spent in critical care getting his body stabilized enough to be transferred to the Glenrose.  

“When I arrived at the Glenrose by ambulance and on a gurney, I had no movement or feeling in my leg or my arm on my right side.”  

Despite the hurdles ahead of him, Mike carried himself through his rehabilitation journey with a strikingly positive outlook. Forming a fast friendship with his roommate, his room was no stranger to the sounds of belly laughs and snorts, and music accompanied by wheelchair dancing through imaginary ‘car wash’ curtains. In the evenings they hosted Oilers games and movies in the third-floor atrium using his laptop and projector.  

Through a mere change in perspective, Mike’s recovery transformed. “After about a week into my recovery, I knew that I was mad at my arm and my leg. That’s when I had an epiphany.” In an effort to alleviate some of the pressure he was putting on his body to recover, Mike gave his limbs names. His arm, which he so thoughtfully named ‘Hans Gruber’ received its name from the main antagonist from the 1988 film, Die Hard, after he watched the “holiday movie” with his new friends at the Glenrose. And his family named his leg ‘Ferris Bueller’, after the quote unquote “high school slacker” from the popular comedy, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  

By treating his limbs less like adults and more like children (and instilling a little fun into his situation) Mike began to look at his arm and leg as individuals.  

Through weeks of intense physical therapy, Mike worked his lower body gradually transitioning from a wheelchair to a walker, to walking assisted with the aid of a therapist and doing stairs. Occupational therapy helped Mike build back strength and dexterity in his hand, relearning how to push and pull and perform daily tasks. 

Reflecting on the days after his stroke, Mike remembers those moments of fear for the future. “I thought – I may never ski again, never play hockey, cycle, or sail. And now I know that ‘hell yeah I will!’”. In fact, on April 27th, Mike was able to skate with a walker to center ice to take the opening faceoff for his team, Grey Matters, at the charity event Alzheimer’s Faceoff. 

“Besides having my kids, (being at the Glenrose) was the most exceptional experience I have ever gone through.”  

During his stay, Mike posted a daily bumper sticker to his wheelchair with the help of the night clerk on his unit. As for his final sticker: “I thank you Glenrose folks … I came in on a gurney, and now I’m leaving on my own two feet.”  

Help patients like Mike find independence after stroke with a donation to the Glenrose Hospital Foundation today.

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