“Colin tried some ox tail soup!”

This may not seem like front page news, but when Colin, who moved into CONNECT Hamilton in late October, tried some soup recently, the whole building celebrated it as a Life Redesign moment.

Colin’s wife, Diane, was with him that day and recognized the smell of the soup cooking as something that would appeal to Colin, who is originally from Trinidad. Diane asked Melissa Mascio, Communication Coach (Speech Language Pathologist) if Colin could try the soup. Melissa asked the “chef,” who is another man supported by CONNECT living in the same house as Colin, if he would share. After six months of subsisting on a tube feed and ice chips, Colin ate some soup.

Diane, who sat down with Colin at the dining table in his CONNECT house for this interview on November 5, described the joy she felt when she witnessed her husband tasting food again.

“His face just lit up, he was salivating,” smiled Diane. “That was really cool for Colin and for everyone in the kitchen at that time to witness.”

News of that moment was shared among the CONNECT Hamilton employees, from Life Redesign Coaches, who work in the home with Colin, to the professional coaches and leaders.

Adam Van Sickle, CONNECT’s Service Access and Transitions Leader, said that moment for Colin was the perfect CONNECT-like moment.

“The best part is that the soup was made by a man living with us in the same house as Colin. It’s a real-life, smart risk, redesign moment,” said Adam.

Back in April, Colin had a stroke, which almost killed him and landed him in the hospital. Shortly after that, he had an aneurysm. The prognosis was grim, initially, but his family rallied around him and believed he could, and would, recover. A big challenge has been his ability to communicate and swallow.

Colin was in the stroke ward until mid-July and then moved to Rehab. In September, the team at the General Hospital recommended Diane and Colin consider a move to CONNECT. Diane says Colin wasn’t on board at first.

“Colin wasn’t excited about the idea of the move at first. He was apprehensive, for some reason.”

She decided to tour CONNECT herself and was “blown away.”

“Everything about CONNECT spoke to me,” says Diane. “The building, the model, the people. I was convinced Colin needed to be here.”

Even when Diane and their two children, Sean, 30, and Nicole, 28, agreed that CONNECT was a good idea, Colin wasn’t convinced until Adam met with him to explain CONNECT’s Life Redesign Model and what to expect. Colin was sold.

Since moving into CONNECT, Colin has worked with CONNECT’s professional coaching team, including Melissa, the Communication Coach, the Play Coach (Recreation Therapist), the Independence Coach (Occupational Therapist), the Physical Coach (Physiotherapist), and the Social Wellness Coach (Social Worker). A team of Life Redesign Coaches are with him in the house throughout the days and nights and “therapy” is integrated into his every day.

“You can see how CONNECT’s approach is so effective,” said Diane. “In hospital, we were lucky if Colin was sitting up for four hours a day. And if he wasn’t sitting up, he was in bed. But here, he works with the coaches and otherwise hangs out in the kitchen for most of the day where all the action happens. I can tell he’s interested and stimulated.”

Colin uses a special tablet to communicate. He first tries to speak, which can be difficult to decipher, and then he writes his message on the tablet, which speaks for him.

As Diane spoke about Colin’s experience trying the ox tail soup, acknowledging there could be certain choking risks with him doing that, Colin wrote on his tablet, “At least they let me try.”

Some goals Colin is working towards at CONNECT include: Talking, walking, participating in the church activities he loves, eating food, and – most importantly – giving his daughter away at her wedding.

Diane said their daughter got married in Prince Edward Island in July and Colin was in the hospital and couldn’t attend. They will hold another reception in May in Hamilton to re-do their vows, wearing their wedding attire, and Colin will give her away this time.

Beyond that, Diane is hoping to retire in July and bring Colin home.

“That is my hope, but we will have to see how Colin feels at that time. CONNECT is a good transition between hospital and home. He is getting the care he needs and he is getting better every day.”

She said this entire experience has been an incredibly difficult journey, but faith in God, community, family and friends are getting them through. They have had family visit from Trinidad, London, England and Switzerland. She wipes away her tears and adds, “We’ve been married for 34 years and he’s the love of my life. I’m not about to give up on him. We will get through this.”