April 26, 2014 12:40 am

After a devastating stroke, Invermere resident makes a remarkable recovery

VANCOUVER – For most of us, being able to perform mundane chores like emptying a dishwasher or mowing the lawn is something we take for granted, but for Norman Gagatek the fact he can even do them is the culmination of a long journey.

The Invermere resident was just 39 years old when he suffered a devastating brain stem stroke. Just a few years ago he needed help with walking, feeding himself and a variety of other challenges.

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“Norm has, against all odds, recovered to an amazing level,” said Dr. Mike Walsh, Norm’s doctor. “Miracle, super, amazing, are all words to describe Norm.”

Six years ago, doctors game Norm little chance of walking or talking again.

Local service cuts in the Invermere area meant he had to travel to Alberta for therapy. The local community rallied behind the former firefighter, and his wife kept pushing him and the medical community for his recovery.

“They basically said when he was released from Calgary’s Foothills Hospital that he would be spending the rest of his life in long-term care,” said Kim Harris, Norm’s wife. “And today he is beyond a miracle. He’s 85 per cent self-sufficient.”

Today, Gagatek still has trouble speaking, but he can communicate using a tablet and a talking word program.

“He’s back,” said Harris. “I mean, yeah, he’s a little broken physically, but he’s all there, he’s back. His mind is there.”

Norm can now walk up and down stairs and perform all kinds of routine activities. But he also gets to do something that seemed impossible a relatively short time ago – snuggle up with his two young children.

- With files from Keith Baldrey

© Shaw Media, 2014

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