When you suffer a brain injury sometimes the only people you can relate to are those who have suffered a similar injury, said Lac La Hache’s Mike Dewing.
That is why Dewing organized the Cariboo Brain Injury Support Group in July for those who have suffered strokes and brain injuries. Dewing said the goal of the group is to give people a place to talk about their experiences and struggles.
“I want to help other people. It’s not about me, it’s about helping other people,” Dewing said. “I want to make a difference, it’s important to me.”
Since forming the group it has grown to about 15 members. While the board of directors meets in 100 Mile once a month, he has organized social events, including at Starbucks in Williams Lake.
“I met with the mayor of Williams Lake and our MLA,” he said Monday, Nov. 20.
Dewing suffered three strokes in May 2022 when his arthritis caused vasculitis in one of the major blood vessels in his brain, restricting his brain’s blood flow. Thankfully, his wife was able to get him to the 100 Mile District General Hospital where he was flown to the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops for treatment.
The experience left him largely unable to walk or talk but Dewing said he is a “stubborn old man.” Ditching his walker, he started using walking sticks instead and through perseverance is now able to walk unassisted.
“I still stagger a bit. I walk like I’m drunk and I talk like I’m drunk but I wear a shirt that says I had a stroke so people know and understand.”
During his recovery process, Dewing said one thing that helped him immensely was an online support group run by the March of Dimes Heart and Stroke Foundation and the BC Stroke Foundation where he talked with people from across Canada. Being able to engage with other people who have gone through similar hardships is incredibly helpful.
However, Dewing said he missed the ability to be able to talk to someone in person about what he was going through. That’s why he decided to found the Cariboo Brain Injury Support Group, noting that until now there hasn’t been any kind of local support for people like him.
“I know there are people in Lac La Hache, in 100 Mile, Lone Butte and Williams Lake who have had strokes. They’re probably like me and wish they could talk to people who have had strokes or a brain injury,” Dewing explained. “It’s like, if you’re a fisherman you enjoy talking to other fishermen (so it’s the same for us).”
With support from the Cariboo Mental Health Society Dewing started getting the word out about the new support group.
He has had family members, friends and other members of the support group put up pamphlets around town and founded the Cariboo Brain Injury Support page on Facebook.
During their first meeting, Dewing said eight people came out. He was visibly emotional as he described that one member suffered a brain injury in the 1980s and this was the first support group they had visited. Over the years they’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts and reaching people like them is exactly who Dewing wants to help.
“There’s support out there for you. Even if you just want to come and listen to other people about what works and what doesn’t work, it’s very, very helpful. A lot of people with brain injuries are a little embarrassed, I understand that, so if you want to participate, great, if you don’t that’s fine too.”
Anyone looking to get involved with the group or learn more are invited to contact Dewing at 604-202-1630 or Brain.Injury.email@example.com.
With files from Monica Lamb-Yorski