Independence Rocks

Mike and JenMike and StephanieMike Sylvia 1

It’s cold, wet and gloomy outside, a definite umbrella day, but the sun is shining inside the facility housing the Acquired Brain Injury Program (ABI) of Semiahmoo House Society. Mike Roth, who attends the program regularly, obviously plays a great part in this positive energy. Mike has a striking and infectious smile that lights up the meeting room where he sits next to Sylvia Hoeree, ABI Program Manager.

Mike Roth’s story is one of determination, optimism, confidence and independence.

Mike was on top of the world in the summer of 2002. At age 23, he had just landed his dream job as a mechanic for a prominent imported car dealership. Shortly after, fate struck. As he was riding his motorcycle to meet with friends in Mission, Mike collided with another vehicle. When he woke up from a coma in the hospital weeks later, he could only move his eyes and his left leg.

With the determination of his family to get him the support he needed and his medical team, he started his recovery program right away. Mike’s family worked very hard. They took him to Watsu therapy three times a week and to other beneficial therapies. They encouraged him through an extensive physio routine twice a week. Mike was determined. With a positive attitude, he challenged himself and embraced the recovery process which took years. “Mike was a fighter and he continues to be one,” says Sylvia.

Sylvia and Mike have a long history together. After the accident, Mike spent about a year in a recovery centre where Sylvia was employed as a Rehabilitation Educator and worked with Mike on his recovery. After Mike left the centre, his parents hired her services to work with him one-on-one for about a year.

Three years later, Sylvia, now employed at Semiahmoo House Society, was sitting at her desk when she overheard a familiar voice. She came out of her office and found Mike applying to attend the day activities provided by the newly established ABI Program.

Sylvia recalls a conversation that she and Mike had many years ago while Mike was still under the care of the other agency. “He asked me: Do you think I’ll ever drive again? I told him, you can do anything you set your mind to do. A few years ago, he got his driver’s licence and bought a car. He drives again! Now, it brings tears to my eyes when I think about the progress he has made”.

Mike’s recovery has gone a long way but the brain injury has left him with some mobility issues. That doesn’t stop him from being physically active. “A few years ago, I climbed the Grouse Grind and only fell 3 times,” Mike says laughingly. In addition, he and his friend and caregiver, Jen, went on day trips all over the Lower Mainland, walking for hours around Canada Place, Stanley Park, the Beaches and surrounding areas.

Mike met Jen for the first time in December 2008 when he picked her up at the airport as she arrived from the Philippines to start her new job as his caregiver. Over the months, they did many activities together and developed a close friendship. One day, they decided to go somewhere different and embark on a new adventure to Vancouver Island. “On the trip, I asked Jen if she would go out with me. She agreed and right after that, we had our first date at Butchart Gardens,” Mike confesses with a smile.

After months of dating, they planned on getting married. Although they’d already discussed it, Mike wanted to surprise her with a proper proposal. He had bought an engagement ring and he contemplated creative ways to get on his proverbial knee. He was thinking about an un-forgetful setting, a very nice restaurant perhaps…

One morning, he woke up suddenly at 5 a.m. His eyes were wide open and he couldn’t go back to sleep. So, he got up, went to the drawer where he kept the ring and put it on his own finger. Then, he entered the room where Jen was sleeping, got her up and asked her to marry him. “I was too excited; I couldn’t wait any longer,” admits Mike.

Early in 2012, they had a nice and quaint wedding at the Kwomais Lodge in South Surrey. Then, on December 7th of the same year, Stephanie Rose Roth arrived, Mike and Jen’s beautiful baby girl. Mike grins widely as he speaks of his family.

Jen is very special to Mike. His faces lights up when he says: “She’s so gentle and loving. She has completed my life and now I am a husband and father.”

Mike and his family live in a house in South Surrey that he purchased with his parents a few years ago. The house has 2 suites and his parents moved in one of them. The living arrangement accommodates the extended family perfectly.

Mike has a sparkle and an amazingly uplifting personality. He looks truly happy with his life. He has independence and the loving support of his wife, child, parents, brothers, and friends, including those at ABI. Mike’s closing words are: “Independence rocks. My recovery never stops and I maintain a positive attitude.”

Louise Tremblay, The Semiahmoo Foundation

Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. 

The Semiahmoo Foundation, located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.

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