The road to recovery after a stroke is a long one, but much success can be found along the way. Nobody knows this quite like Parksville resident Battista Rizutto, who recently received the 2014 Phyllis Delaney Life After Stroke Award for Outstanding Achievement
“He’s a remarkable person,” said Oceanside Stroke Recovery Branch (OSRB) coordinator Kathleen Frivali, who nominated Rizutto for the honour.
The award, which is named after the founder of the Stroke Recovery Association of B.C., recognizes stroke survivors and caregivers who demonstrate “courage, determination and achievement deserves public recognition.” There are four categories recognized each year, including outstanding achievement. This is presented to a stroke survivor “who has overcome exceptional circumstances” and has shown “special courage in overcoming physical, communication or emotional problems” or made exceptional contributions to their community.
Rizutto fits the award criteria perfectly.
Frivali wrote in her nomination form how Rizutto, who was living in Calgary at the time, suffered a stroke in 2005 after having two, five-hour-long surgeries over three days. He became blind in one eye, paralyzed and slurred in speech.
Not long after, doctors also found he then suffered from blood clots and gall bladder issues. However, Suzanne Rizutto, Battista’s wife, decided against putting her husband on the operating table again.
“I thought, ‘He can’t take another surgery,'” she said. “I was afraid he wasn’t going to make it.”
So, Rizutto remained in hospital on blood thinners and a changed diet for six months. Yet, despite all of these extra medical problems, Rizutto also started therapy to overcome his stroke. When he was released, he continued his work at the university and the YMCA before getting a private therapist.
By the time the couple moved to Parksville five years ago, Rizutto had recovered his speech, sight and a majority of his mobility.
“I think it’s important we have individuals like him,” said Parksville Mayor Chris Burger, who presented the Life After Stroke award to Rizutto last week and is impressed how the stroke survivor has shown that “you can make progress and recovery.”
Despite all his achievements, however, Rizutto still wanted to move forward. That’s when the OSRB, whose members he and Suzanne randomly met when out to breakfast one day, stepped in.
According to Frivali, the OSRB is a “talented group of people working hard at recovery.” Made up of around 70 stroke survivors, caregivers and volunteers, the group meets every Friday at St. Columba Presbyterian Church to work with various specialists. The OSRB has five therapists on staff—two for speech, one for exercise, one for art, and one for music—as well as a counsellor that works with caregivers.
There is also a strong social aspect to the group. The members meet for lunch, pot lucks and barbecues, as well as work with local community supporters to host a series of fundraisers throughout the year to pay for their therapists and rent at the church. This social aspect plays a huge part in the recovery process. It gives the opportunity for the group’s members to gain the support needed to avoid depression, which is common after a stroke.
“People get better faster when they’re happy,” explained Frivali.
“It helps to get out,” agreed Rizutto, who is especially keen on helping out with the raffle. (In fact, he’s so dedicated that he refused to miss his shift in 2013 after breaking several ribs when his scooter fell on him as he made his way to the table).
And so with this continued support and therapy, Rizutto keeps gaining ground in his recovery. However, with the Phyllis Delaney Life After Stroke Award, he now also has a reminder of how far he’s already come.
To learn more about the Oceanside Stroke Recovery Branch, please call 250-586-6766.