Spinal Cord Injury BC

Impact Stories

mike-inouye
Peer Member

Mike Inouye

“I was working at Royal Roads University, and the last thing I remember was having a coffee on my break. I woke up and there I was in Jubilee Hospital.”

Meet Mike Inouye, electrician by trade, welder, fabricator and builder of hot rods and cars. A talented and resourceful man whose life changed in 2017 during a seemingly normal day working as Electrical Foreman for Houle Electric, his employer of 40 years.

“I was working at Royal Roads University, and the last thing I remember was having a coffee on my break. I woke up and there I was in Jubilee Hospital.”

Mike had been experiencing extreme fatigue leading up to the incident at work. “I went to the doctor and told him I was lacking energy to do anything,” he remembers. “I used to be able to go work in the garage for eight hours, now I could only be out there for 10 minutes. I knew that something wasn’t right.”

A dissected aorta was the cause of Mike’s collapse. This is a serious and often fatal condition where the inner layer of the aorta—the large blood vessel that branches off the heart—tears. As blood rushes through the tear, it causes the layers of the aorta to separate.

Mike was lucky to survive this incident, but while in surgery, it’s believed he had a stroke which led to paralysis from the chest down.

“I remember being in the Jubilee Hospital, and not being able to move,” he recalls.

This is where Mike met SCI BC’s Peer Program Coordinator, Scott Heron. “Scott told me, if I ever needed to ask a personal question, to go for it,” he says, “So when something doesn’t feel right in my body, I call Scott.”

After about a month at Jubilee Hospital, Mike was transferred to Victoria General Hospital for a six month stay focused on rehab. “Most of the people there had strokes but were still ambulatory, and the rehab for a stroke is very different for someone who has been paralyzed.”

He feels he could have benefited from more education specific to his paralysis and day-to-day things like transfers. But Mike’s an industrious man, and back home, he figured out a lot on his own by watching YouTube videos, and by inventing devices that have helped him adapt. He still putters around in his workshop building and welding, “It keeps me feeling sane and balanced,” he says.

Still, there were moments when Mike couldn’t invent solutions to his problems. One such issue was when Mike’s feet started to swell and become discoloured. An issue doctors tried to solve with a prescription for water retention.

“When the pills didn’t work, I called Scott Heron.”  Scott, who lives nearby in Victoria, has helped Mike work through a number of problems and is always there to help Mike understand the complications surrounding his injury.  “Scott let me know this is a fairly common issue for people who use a wheelchair,” he explains, “He thought my feet were at the wrong elevation and putting extra pressure on the back of my knees, and that this was causing my feet to swell. He was right! As soon as I raised my feet up, the pressure reduced and everything changed,” he says, “But I wouldn’t have known this unless I talked to him.”

By becoming an SCI BC member, Mike was brought into the fold of amazing people who have lived experience with SCI. He has been able to experience the value of talking with someone who understands what he’s going through time and time again. Whether it’s answering questions, sharing advice, or just returning a phone call—SCI BC’s Peer Program is always there to help solve any problem, big or small.