Spotlight: Paul Bak

Stroke Survivor Returns to Sport

Paul on a trip to Newfoundland in 2018

Paul Bak’s life was filled with physical activity. The owner of a construction company, he was a keen sportsman; he loved playing hockey and golf, hitting the slopes on his skis or snowboard – anything that got him outside.

Everything changed in 2016, when he had a stroke. All of a sudden, he felt as if he were “walking on water”, and then he collapsed. Paul was rushed to the hospital where he was stabilized and treated for a stroke. After two weeks in the hospital, and another three weeks at home, he began his rehabilitation at West Park as a day patient. For three months, he and his wife Alicia spent three days a week at West Park, working on his physical and cognitive recovery.

At West Park, Paul found a caring staff and a supportive community at the weekly Stroke Support Group meetings. Paul says of these meetings, “They gave me hope and encouragement that things will get back to normal eventually. Being in a group of other stroke survivors made me know I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t the only one going through it.”

As a caregiver, Alicia also found a supportive community at West Park. “People would look at Paul and say ‘he’s fine’. They didn’t understand. Then I would go to West Park as a caregiver and they would know what I was talking about,” she says.

“Paul’s recovery was unknown and I had no idea what was going to unfold. West Park kept me grounded. It was a foundational piece of strength to make our way through this."

The staff at West Park had Paul undergo a variety of treatments and activities to help him get his life back. Paul was eager to begin golfing again, so West Park occupational therapists worked with him on swinging his arm. He had botox injections to help with spasticity. He worked on the skills needed to get driving again. He underwent cognitive exercises, and used sit-down exercise machines to build strength.

While Paul has been unable to get back to hockey, and struggles with some fine motor skills like using zippers or tying his shoes, he has gotten back to most of the activities he loves. He golfs – one-handed – plays tennis, hikes, and kayaks. He even got his driver’s licence back – a moment he says of “total elation.”

“At West Park, I was given hope and support to move forward. I wouldn’t be able to be where I am today if it weren’t for West Park.”

Alicia Tyson produced a documentary on Paul’s – and two other West Park patients’ – recovery. Watch it now:

This profile originally appeared in the 2022 Report to Donors. Click here to read the full report.