Speedskater offers firsthand experience as Heart and Stroke Foundation ambassador
Published Wednesday, January 4, 2017 3:12PM MST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 4, 2017 3:22PM MST
Canadian speed skating star Denny Morrison is seldom caught on the ice but a frightening experience during a cycling trip temporarily slowed the world class athlete.
In the spring of 2016, at the age of 30, Morrison suffered a stroke while travelling in Arizona. His girlfriend, fellow speedskater Josie Spence, was Morrison’s cycling partner on the trip. She recognized the symptoms and rushed Morrison to hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“He had just woken up from a nap and so I thought kind of initially he was super groggy,” recalls Spence. “Then, as we progressed, as we walked further and as we continued our conversation further, I realized more symptoms of a stroke.”
The hospital confirmed Morrison had suffered a stroke. The speed skater returned to Calgary where he continued to receive treatment at the Foothills Medical Centre.
After the incident, few expected Morrison would recover in time for the start of the World Cup Circuit by November but he proved his doubters wrong. Morrison returned to competition and became a champion for stroke awareness.
Morrison had agreed to speak at a Heart and Stroke Foundation fundraising event that had been scheduled for after the cycling trip. Officials with the organization offered Morrison an oppprtunity to back out of the engagement but the speed skater seized the chance to share his tale.
“I was still on board and now I had a much more meaningful story to share,” said Morrison. “What I noticed right away when I started working with Heart and Stroke was that sharing my story was more impactful than any story I've ever shared before in my life.”
Morrison said his previous speeches focused on overcoming adversity to achieve goals, mentioning his own path to the Olympic Games. Now, he was part of the community and the audience, including fellow stroke survivors, could relate to the story of his stroke.
“There were people in the crowd coming up to me and Josie after we spoke, tears in their eyes and sharing their stories with me.”
Morrison and Spence both volunteer their time with the Heart and Stroke Foundation and they will participate in the organization’s ‘Ski for Heart’ fundraiser at Lake Louise on January 21, 2017 as co-chairs. Attendees will have the opportunity to skate on the lake alongside the two World Cup speed skaters.
For allowing his experience to educate others on recognizing stroke symptoms, Denny Morrison is this week’s Inspiring Albertan.
With files from CTV's Darrel Janz