High Seas Hero

When Tim Kerr suf­fered a stroke while com­mand­ing the HMCS Al­go­nquin, he’d never en­vis­aged run­ning again, let alone with a 24 kilo­gram ruck­sack on his back

Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS - By Dave Car­pen­ter

Tim Kerr’s well ac­quainted with the term “high readi­ness.” As an of­fi­cer in the Royal Cana­dian Navy for 28 years, Kerr par­tic­i­pated in the hunt for Bin Laden af­ter 9-11, pur­sued drug traf­fick­ers in South Amer­ica and chased pi­rates off the coast of So­ma­lia. Yet noth­ing could pre­pare him for his near-death ex­pe­ri­ence while on duty as Cap­tain of the hmcs Al­go­nquin six years ago. Kerr went above and be­yond when com­plet­ing the Voyageur Chal­lenge at the Ta­ma­rack Ot­tawa Race Week­end in May. Not only did Kerr walk the 5k, 10k and half-marathon races to com­plete the chal­lenge, he did so with a ruck­sack on his back, that con­tained two steel plates weigh­ing close to 2 4 kilo­grams. As a re­sult, Kerr raised close to $7,000 in do­na­tions for the Bruyère Foun­da­tion – a cause Kerr’s in­ti­mately fa­mil­iar with. Kerr’s last naval de­ploy­ment saw him at the helm of the hmcs Al­go­nquin in the Pa­cific near Hawaii. Dur­ing a ren­dezvous with other in­ter­na­tional ships, Kerr found a win­dow of down­time and went to work­out on one of the ship’s tread­mills.

“I re­mem­ber run­ning for a few min­utes. The next thing I re­mem­ber is wak­ing up the fol­low­ing day in a hos­pi­tal with a very bad headache, un­able to use my left side,” says Kerr. Forty-three at the time and in good shape, Kerr had suf­fered a hem­or­rhagic stroke, whereby a blood ves­sel bursts and blood com­presses brain tis­sue, caus­ing the tis­sue to start to die.

An un­con­scious Kerr also be­gan to have seizures, but his crew sta­bi­lized and trans­ferred him to a nearby Aus­tralian fri­gate, which sailed at full speed to­ward sout her n Cal­i­for nia . As t he shipped ap­proached the coast , t he Amer­i­can Navy shutt led Kerr from the Al­go­nquin via he­li­copter to a naval hos­pit al near San Diego.

Kerr found out he’d had about a 50 per cent chance of mak­ing it. For­tu­nately the coin f lip went his way. “I was in icu there for about 10 days be­fore I was sta­ble enough to get trans­ferred to the Ot­tawa Civic Hos­pi­tal,” Kerr says.

As Kerr con­tin­ued to re­cover, a bed be­came avail­able at the Élis­a­beth Bruyère Hos­pi­tal stroke re­hab unit in Ot­tawa. Kerr says the hos­pi­tal staff didn’t mince words when de­scrib­ing his treat­ment, which in­cluded on­go­ing and in­ten­sive strength­en­ing and bal­ance work. The staff also made it clear that his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion would take time, with no guar­an­tees. “I felt a lot of de­spair when I first ar­rived and my progress was slow,” Kerr says. “It was so frus­trat­ing, not know­ing whether

“I re­mem­ber run­ning for a few min­utes. The next thing I re­mem­ber is wak­ing up the fol­low­ing day in a hos­pi­tal with a very bad headache, un­able to use my left side.”

any­thing was go­ing to work again.”

The turn­ing point came at his young daugh­ter So­phie’s birth­day, which Tim and his fam­ily cel­e­brated at Bruyère. “To see my daugh­ter danc­ing around my son and wife it hit home how im­por­tant it was to re­cover and be there for them – to get back to my fam­ily,” he says. Kerr also cred­its his fam­ily’s un­wa­ver­ing sup­port in get­ting him on the road to re­cov­ery, in­clud­ing his fa­ther: “My dad came ev­ery day for a month, 7:30 in the morn­ing to 7:30 at night, just mo­ti­vat­ing me and ad­vo­cat­ing for me, mak­ing sure that I got on with things.”

Slowly, Kerr started to see progress in his re­hab, which mo­ti­vated him fur­ther, and within months he left Bruyère in a walker as an out­pa­tient. A year later, Kerr was back at work, “rewired.”

For this ar­ti­cle, Kerr wanted it known that he had to lighten his load dur­ing the half-marathon por­tion of the Voyageur Chal­lenge in Ot­tawa this past May due to in­creas­ingly in­tense pain in his hip, that stemmed from an in­jury dur­ing a mil­i­tary ex­er­cise in an ar­moured ve­hi­cle years ago. The in­jury caused his fe­mur bone to drive through his hip socket, now held to­gether with pins and a plate.

“I don’t want to be made out as some hero,” says Kerr, of not com­plet­ing the chal­lenge the way he wanted to. That’s OK, Tim, we’ll cut you some slack. To do­nate to the Bruyère Foun­da­tion, go to: bruyere.org/en/Every_ Day_is_a_Gift

ABOVE Tim Kerr on the Bridge of HMCS Al­go­nquin

LEFT Kerr on course at the 2018 Ot­tawa Marathon

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