Howard Rocket is determined to give back to patients at Toronto Rehab because he’s been there.
In October of 1995 he experienced a massive stroke weeks after hitting his head during a touch football game. A blood clot was lodged deep in his brain, but due to the extraordinary care at Toronto Western Hospital, Howard survived. Survival however, was just the beginning.
The next important step for Howard was rehabilitation at Toronto Rehab where he had to learn to walk, talk and communicate again. The process was made smoother with the help of his inter-professional health care team. Words and speaking came back to him and were perfected at Toronto Rehab.
He came to Toronto Rehab in a wheel chair, and then he learned to walk with a cane. After a lot of hard work, he began to walk on his own. Today, he walks without aids.
“When you have a stroke, you think at first you will be permanently limited,” he says. “You learn that you will be able to do things, but you will just have to do them differently. The brain is a powerful thing.”
Prior to his injury, Howard worked as a dentist and businessman. After his stroke and recovery, he became a motivational speaker and a published author with his 1999 autobiographical book A Stroke of Luck.
All proceeds from his book have contributed to a fund to establish The Rocket Family Upper Extremity Clinic
at Toronto Rehab. Howard returns to Toronto Rehab regularly to provide talks for stroke patients and families
He shows people they can, and will, improve. “If you believe you can do it then you have a chance,” he says. “Set goals and believe you can get better. If you do – you will get there.”
“People don’t necessarily realize what Toronto Rehab is doing, but it is so powerful. Eighteen years ago this October I had my stroke and I would not be where I am today without Toronto Rehab,” he says. “Toronto Western saved my life, but Toronto Rehab gave me back my life.”
He credits his family – his wife Deborah, and daughters Amie and Dana, for inspiring him with their strength and giving him constant support. They helped him focus not on what was lost, but the world that was out there waiting for him. His grandchildren are also a great source of inspiration – they give him the motivation to stay healthy for himself and for them.
"I had the courage in me, but I needed a pathway and Toronto Rehab provided it for me – they gave me the opportunity to make progress,” he says. “Now I don’t feel I am different than anyone else. I believed I could do it. Things can happen – believe it.
Watch this inspiring video of Howard Rocket
. After 20 years of paralysis, he can now move his left arm thanks to the Functional Electrical Stimulation therapy at Toronto Rehab’s Rocket Family Clinic.