Even when things looked dire, Wendy LeBlanc’s optimism for her son’s full recovery never faltered.
Now, after four months in various hospitals, 26-year-old Comox Valley resident Isaac LeBlanc is showing signs of improvement.
Isaac started suffering from neck pain in November, and things progressed quickly from there; within a matter of weeks he was unable to speak or move his body from the neck down.
But a few weeks ago, he started to speak, and Wendy said he’s starting to move his hands and arms now too.
She’s confident he will make a full recovery.
“I know he’s going to get better, I know without a doubt in my mind,” said Wendy. “I’ve known that from the beginning; I’m not doubting that even for a second, and I know he’s going to get in my car and we’re going to go home together.”
According to Wendy, doctors were never able to officially diagnose Isaac’s illness; although they think it’s likely a very rare neurological disease called Neuromyelitis Optica or NMO, they still aren’t sure and he may never be diagnosed.
Isaac’s condition was at its worst over January and February, when his blue eyes turned grey — and doctors were concerned he may lose his vision — he lost a considerable amount of weight, and was put on a breathing machine.
Throughout the entire ordeal, Isaac’s brain was functioning normally in terms of understanding what was going on. He communicated by blinking his eyes because he couldn’t move his body or speak.
After almost four months in various hospitals with no signs of improvement, Wendy said doctors at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria were starting to give up hope.
“Three weeks ago the doctors sat us down and said ‘He’s never going to talk again, he’s never going to be off the breathing machine, he’s never going to walk, he’s never going to move, he’s never going to do anything, just take him home,'” explained Wendy.
Shortly after this talk, Wendy said she pushed doctors to take Isaac off the breathing machine, just to see if he could breath on his own.
“All of a sudden, within days, he started showing them exactly what he can do,” said Wendy.
Shortly after Isaac was taken off the breathing machine, he started talking, and Wendy said that while his speech is hard to understand, he’s been talking ever since.
Then he started to move his hands and arms a little bit, and his eyes seem to be changing back to blue.
She said doctors are changing their minds, and becoming more optimistic about Isaac’s recovery.
However, she noted Isaac lost about 40 to 45 pounds over the last four months and would need two to three years in physiotherapy at the very least because his body needs to be retrained.
“Now it’s up to the nerves to start connecting,” said Wendy. “Everything has to be retrained as if he was a newborn baby, except for his brain is completely there so that can be the frustrating part for him.”
Wendy has been beside Isaac every day since he was admitted to hospital, leaving her home in the Comox Valley and staying in Vancouver and Victoria. She’s on a fixed income of disability pay, and has been staying at a rooming house in Victoria lately.
The Comox Valley rallied to support the family by holding fundraisers and donating money to the family. Wendy said she wouldn’t have been able to support Isaac without the community’s support.
Although she said Isaac’s getting bored now, and they can’t afford the $300 plus for a TV in his new room at Victoria General Hospital, Wendy noted that Isaac’s attitude has remained positive throughout the entire ordeal.
“Even the nurses and doctors are shocked at his attitude because he has not ever cried, he’s never complained, he’s never said ‘Why me?’ just said ‘This is what it is,'” explained Wendy.
Anyone who wishes to donate to the family can contact Isaac’s aunt Debbie MacLean at 250-338-4643 for details.