Plans to finish a 6,400-km trek across Canada have been put on hold after Brandon Harrison suffered a brain aneurysm that caused a massive stroke.
Harrison, from Calgary, and his father Michael Floyd started the cross-Canada longboard ride Long for Life in St. John’s, Nfld., on May 14. On Saturday, Day 115, they were in Red Deer when Harrison had to get off his board.
“We were on our cruise, hanging out at this one location and he just sat down and called me over a couple of minutes later,” said Floyd. “He could tell, he said ‘I can’t move my arm or my leg.’ It started to progress and it got pretty bad.”
An ambulance arrived quickly and Harrison was taken to Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
“They assessed him there and shipped him off to Calgary very quickly for the emergency,” said Floyd.
Floyd has been back and forth between Red Deer and Calgary ever since. Harrison has been unconscious since the incident and is in serious condition.
Floyd said his son has been intubated the entire time and not breathing on his own.
“It deteriorated to the point where they put him right under,” said Floyd.
This wasn’t Harrison’s first stroke. He had one when he was 15 when AV malformations, purposeless blood vessels, in his brain burst.
As a result, he had localized blindness in his left eye and impaired mobility in his left upper body. Through rehabilitation, he was able to recover his mobility.
He also had a mild stroke two years ago after a blood vessel burst. But he recovered and embarked on his summer-long longboard ride with his father.
“This is way more difficult, this is way worse than any of the previous,” said Floyd. “Even with the cancer, when he dealt with that, that was different. It’s not as on the surface as something like this.
“It is hard to watch, but we follow the same theories that we’re out there talking about. We trust in the outcome, it’s going to be a battle and it will be a long one, but he’ll win.”
Diagnosed with cancer at two-and-a-half years old, Harrison was given a 25 per cent chance to live. He had a fist-sized tumour on his spine but after extensive treatment, he was declared cancer-free.
He and his father embarked on the ride to raise both money and awareness for cancer and heart and stroke disease research.
The aneurysm leaves their plans to finish the trek on hold.
“We had a discussion along this trek that should anything happen, we didn’t think about what might happen, but we know what his vision is and what he wants to see is bigger than us,” said Floyd. “Long for Life continues. We’ll put it on hold, but we’ll rally the community and the riders and finish it for him.
“And when he’s ready, he’ll complete it too. Long for Life does not stop.”
In the past, once the swelling went down and the pressure subsided, Harrison’s lost vision and feeling in the left side of his body returned. Now Floyd and the Long for Life team have to wait for the swelling to subside to find out what has to happen next.
Harrison could bounce back and be ready to go in a few weeks, as was the case two years ago. Or it could take longer and physiotherapy may be required.
Harrison’s 20th birthday is today. The family and Long for Life organization hope people will rally behind Harrison and show their support by posting on Facebook or on the web at www.longforlife.ca.