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Recovery 'full-time job'

Isaac Leblanc, 28, continues to regain his strength after being hospitalized more than two years ago with a mysterious illness that left him paralyzed and unable to speak. His mother, Wendy Leblanc, was by his side supporting him the entire time.  - PHOTO BY RENEE ANDOR
Isaac Leblanc, 28, continues to regain his strength after being hospitalized more than two years ago with a mysterious illness that left him paralyzed and unable to speak. His mother, Wendy Leblanc, was by his side supporting him the entire time.
— image credit: PHOTO BY RENEE ANDOR

When asked how his physiotherapy is going, Isaac Leblanc smiles and says it's like a "full-time job."

Though he still speaks with effort, the work that the 28-year-old Courtenay man is putting in appears to be paying off.

"I'm getting stronger; my core especially is getting stronger," says Leblanc. "My hands are getting better, my arms are getting better — a lot more control."

Leblanc was hospitalized more than two years ago when he suddenly became ill. Quickly, a pain in his neck turned into paralysis from the neck down. He had full brain function but he couldn't speak and his eyes were changing colour, among other symptoms.

After long months, doctors diagnosed Leblanc with a rare form of multiple sclerosis called Marburg, though his mother, Wendy Leblanc, says the diagnosis remains uncertain and likely always will.

Wendy says the prognosis looked bleak but Isaac started to recover and he's been steadily improving for a couple of years.

He has been at Glacier View Lodge since mid-October and has been working with a physiotherapist five days per week. He also does exercises on his own every day and into the night, adds Wendy.

Isaac can now push himself in a manual wheelchair, which he says is freeing after only being able to use a heavy, bulky, motorized wheelchair. He can't yet transfer himself to a wheelchair but he's hoping to be able to do that soon.

Isaac says he's even keeping an open mind about the possibility of one day being able to walk again, and Wendy adds she won't say 'never' when talking about what Isaac can do.

Doctors "said he would never breath on his own, they said he would never talk, they said he would never move, so I don't believe in never," says Wendy.

"I mean he didn't think he'd ever be able to play on the computer again … and now he can."

Meanwhile, Isaac's family and friends have been fundraising for wheelchair-friendly home adaptations to allow Isaac to move back home. Although Wendy's application for a $20,000 grant from BC Housing's Home Adaptations for Independence program was denied, she notes the fundraising efforts have raised more than $10,000 for the project. There will be one more fundraiser, a casino night, at some point in the near future. Check the Bring Isaac Home Campaign page on Facebook for updates.

Wendy adds the home adaptations have been started, noting the foundation for an addition — which would hold a new bedroom and bathroom — has been laid thanks to Wayne Rideout of Rideout Construction.

Wendy is looking for any skilled trades workers who could volunteer some time in the near future to help with the project. As well, any building material donations would be gladly accepted.

For more information, contact Wendy Leblanc at 250-218-6489.

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