Ladysmith rallies behind stroke victim, young family

Kinsmen hosting beer and burger fundraiser on April 14

The Ladysmith community has rallied around a young mother, wife, friend and even a stranger to some after she suffered a devastating stroke in February.

Asked how his wife is doing now, there is a sigh of relief in Stuart Wilson’s voice as he replies “better than she was.”

“For the most part her speech is pretty good. It’s just some words she’ll get caught on and her left leg is still trailing behind her a little bit,” he said.

Every year, 6,500 people in the province will suffer a stroke, according to the Stroke Recovery Association of British Columbia.

It was on Feb. 13 when Katrina was at home with 4-year-old son Laken that Stuart’s cellphone rang and he picked up to hear a muffled sound.

Thinking it was his toddler, he spoke to him briefly and then went back to work.

“It was about four hours later I got a phone call from my office that I needed to get home right away, that there’s an emergency,” he said. “A family friend had showed up (at home) and that’s when I realized that something seriously bad had happened.”

Katrina lay there suffering for several hours and cried as her 8-year-old daughter Ella returned home from school at Ladysmith Primary to find her laying beside the couch.

“She got home from school and just went into panic mode and called 9-1-1,” Stuart said, recalling his daughter’s composure in such a traumatic moment. “It’s reassuring that she’s got her wits about her in a situation like that.”

A sudden medical event impacts all families differently. For the Wilsons, who have lived in Ladysmith for the past 12 years, it meant Stuart needed to take time off work from his job with a restoration company to care for his wife and become “mister mom” to Laken, Ella and 10-year-old James.

“You just do what you got to do,” he said. “It’s been tiring. My work has been super great with everything. I went from long days to taking care of somebody so it’s a bit of a change.”

The Wilsons’ landlord was understanding to a point, but the bills didn’t stop coming and food needed to be put on the table.

The LRCA’s food bank has also stepped up to keep the fridge and shelves stocked.

The local Kinsmen and Lions Club have been among those who have donated $500. Kinsmen are also holding a beer and burger fundraiser at the Sportsman Club on April 14 at 5 p.m. Tickets are $20 per person.

Vicky Gautreau, manager of Mr. Popper’s Sweet Shop was among those who learned of the family falling on difficult times and decided to take it upon herself to help fundraise for them.

“I got that mother hen instinct that I’m going to look after this family,” she said. “It was just a matter of sticking my nose in and saying ‘we can do this, let’s get going, we’ve got to help this family.”

Donations have been coming through the door at Mr. Poppers. Among those who contributed was a local couple who the town rallied behind when they were pregnant with twins. Now in a position to pay it forward, they gave $500.

A bottle drive and popcorn sale was organized outside of Mr. Popper’s and raised over $300.

It was on that day that Gautreau finally met Katrina and needless to say the moment was emotional.

“It was special. It was like, I see you walking, I know you’re OK, my heart is this big for you and I’ll do all I can to help you,” she said.

“She’s a real sweetheart and he’s absolutely incredible too.”

A GoFundMe page has also been set up for the family and an account set up at the Junction Bottle Depot in town.

Shaku Family Martial Arts has also donated a year membership for the three children to stay busy and take their minds off home life.

Bureaucracy has been the only area that’s fallen short. Service Canada at first was reviewing Stuart’s claim for compensation for compassionate care leave but a month later finally let him know some of the paperwork was missing.

“I work during their business hours and Katrina can’t phone them – it’s frustrating,” he said.

His wife, however, has remained positive throughout it all.

“Couldn’t ask for a better person. She’s totally family-oriented. There’s no silly games. It’s just, let’s make make the best of everything,” Stuart said.

He’s since returned to work full-time and is taking his wife to medical appointments. Each week though has different demands as weather often dictates if Stuart’s work week will be light, or require overtime.

Friends Brett Charlton, Breanne Henderson and Tana Liew have been great help for the family.

The Wilson family is grateful for the support from old friends and now new ones too while they put one foot in front of the other.

“I was totally surprised by it,” Stuart said of the community’s willingness to step up and help.

“It went from focusing on Katrina to ‘wow there’s a lot of support here’,” he said. “Words can’t describe how appreciative I am and I know Katrina is as well.”

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