No matter what happens, Mark Stockbrocks is the kind of guy who simply never gives up.
Almost four years ago when he was barely in his 30s Stockbrocks suffered a stroke. It left him with no feeling in, or control of, his legs and left arm, and very limited control of his right arm.
It was a crippling blow for a young man who was fit enough to be an athlete and enjoyed his labouring work with Langley School District. Stockbrocks was also contemplating becoming a fire fighter.
All those dreams were quashed in an instant — but you wouldn’t know it in talking to the man who is consigned to a wheelchair.
He exudes optimism and ambition and refuses to see himself as a victim.
He also has excellent body mass and his legs and arms are not frail or atrophied either, thanks to his dedication to exercise and working out, which he hopes will one day help reconnect his brain to his muscles and nerves.
“There is a disconnect between my brain and spinal cord, I have no motor control,” says Stockbrocks.
“But I work my muscles at the physiological level, to keep in shape but also because the input stimulation of my muscles working could bring about ‘reserve mapping’ by sending signals from my muscles to my brain.”
Stockbrocks has moved from Aldergrove to a BC Housing apartment in Yaletown because there are more services available from the Coastal Health Authority than out here in the valley from Fraser Health.
Donors such as Freemasons have also provided continuing assistance, such as providing the equipment he uses in his apartment. This includes pilates and electric stimulation equipment, a standing frame that supports him as he tries to learn to walk on his feet, and a power assist cycle which he straps his feet in and which keeps his legs toned as it works his leg muscles.
Many rehabilitation practitioners have told Stockbrocks that he “might as well give up” because the recovery process can be so incremental that it can’t be measured.
“I’m grateful to be alive. It could have been so much worse… I can still talk, my facial muscles are normal and I have some control over my right hand,” says Stockbrocks.
“I can’t bring myself to give up because I just think if I had would I be saying years from now, ‘What if I had tried?’ It’s a lifelong recovery process.”
He is also grateful to his family and friends who have stood by him and continue to support him.
His mother, Pat, believes in him, so much so that she has become a constant part of his life, by counseling him, finding resources to help him and living with him as a resident caretaker and driver.
“I’m fortunate that I’m retired so I can dedicate my life to helping Mark,” says Pat.
“A lot of the agencies don’t know what’s available for people like Mark. Much of wheat we have found is by word of mouth, from people who have gone through the same situations.”
One of those resources is the warm-water shiatsu exercise offered by Joyce Wilson at her Fraser Valley Aquatic Rehabilitation facility in rural Aldergrove.
Stockbrocks comes back to Aldergrove twice a week for hour-long sessions at the facility’s swimming pool, because this is the one service that is not available anywhere else. And Stockbrocks swears by it.
“It provides core strengthening: I do squats, stretching, leg presses, trying to take steps, trying to ‘wake up’ my left arm. I swim like a seahorse,” he added with a laugh.
“I’m grateful that Joyce (Wilson) has never given up on me. Without that attitude I would not get this far. She’s the strongest woman I know, next to my mom.”
Joyce Wilson, who runs Fraser Valley Aquatic Rehabilitation with her daughter Holly, says she sees the benefits of Watsu on her clients every day.
“We do Watsu and Aquatic Integration (AI), which is an advanced form of Watsu specifically for rehab,” says Joyce. “We see improvements with balance, strength, release of tension to allow for more movement, core improvement, range of motion and cardiovascular strength.”
Fraser Valley Aquatic Rehabilitation has 43 clients, most of which heard about the centre through word of mouth.
Several of those clients turned out on Saturday, June 6 for a fundraising “Super Heroes” car wash and garage sale.
Among them was Michael Coss, a “Courage to Come Back Award’ recipient who gave a moving speech at the event on Saturday.
Coss said that after a May 18, 2006 car accident he was in a coma for six months, and bound to a wheelchair for seven years after that, before he was “back on my feet, more independent” thanks to the program at Fraser Valley Aquatic Rehabilitation.
“I have to thank Joyce and her team for helping me be a better person,” said Coss.
Mark Stockbrocks is hoping that one day he’ll also have recovered use of his limbs, but in the meantime he’s also keeping his mind busy.
Thanks to the help of the Neil Squire Society he is going through a three-month vocational rehabilitation, with the end goal of finding a suitable career. He’s hoping that perhaps copywriting will work out as a fulfilling job.
Pat and Mark are also wanting to express their gratitude to the ‘Good Samaritans’ of the Aldergrove community, Langley School District Foundation and Sts. Joachim and Ann Catholic Women’s League, who all contributed to a 2012 fundraising event in Aldergrove for Stockbrocks’ care after he was released from the G.F. Strong facility.
“It was very touching to our family especially at that dark time with this amazing show of caring and kindness,” said Pat.
Pat and Mark Stockbrocks remain forever grateful to the fundraising committee, consisting of Jean Gregson, Joan Beck, Susan Cairns, Irene Bevans, Shirley Van Meer, Diana Cruchley, Thelma Hildebrand, Joan McLoughlin, Jill Wautier, Anne Owens, Jim Quick, Betty Anne Yarych, Ellie Stewart, and assistants Sandra Kidder, Denise Begg, Irene Hill and Sonya Klemm.
Joyce Wilson works with a client at Fraser Valley Aquatic Rehabilitation’s facility in Aldergrove.