Web Wednesday

An update on Gordie Gong and his road to recovery. – http://www.thespec.com/news-story/7037971-hamilton-martial-arts-master-taking-it-one-step-at-a-time-after-strokes/

We are so happy to hear that he is doing better!

Hamilton martial arts master taking it one step at a time after strokes

Hamilton Spectator

A few months ago, Gordie Gong was in intensive care, struggling to talk after a series of strokes knocked him off his feet.

Now, the martial arts instructor is standing by the ring in his Hamilton gym with a bright smile on his face. “It feels good.”

Gong, a former world champion kick-boxer and Muay Thai fighter, just returned home from rehabilitation last week.

To get to his Ashley Street gym Monday, he wills his unsteady legs up a rickety flight of stairs.

Gong — whose balance is compromised — walks tenderly across the floor toward the heavy and speed bags.

A walker is within reach. His son, Jacey, daughter, Jeneka, and wife, Carol, are nearby to grab him if he falls. But when Gong, 62, poses for a photograph, he shakes them off.

“Get away!”

Gong’s physical fitness and mental discipline have been the cornerstones of a 40-year career that reached the apex of kick-boxing and Muay Thai fighting.

He’s a highly respected instructor and credited with introducing Canada to the Thai fighting style.

When word spread that Gong was in Hamilton General Hospital after the strokes in August, it sent shock waves across the martial arts community.

His family set up a GoFundMe campaign online, “Gordie’s Great Fight,” to help raise money to cover medical and rehabilitation costs, lost earnings and to retrofit their home.

The support has been phenomenal, Carol says. But it was her husband’s fitness that saved him, she notes.

“He wouldn’t have survived the ICU part if his heart and lungs weren’t so conditioned.”

Gong was not only physically fit; he didn’t drink or smoke, either.

So a stroke — when blood stops flowing to the brain? He didn’t seem to fit the bill.

But it’s not so simple, suggests Dr. Greg Curnew, an associate clinical professor of cardiology and general internal medicine at McMaster University.

“You can do all the right things and can still have bad things happen to you.”

Close to 50 per cent of strokes are caused by blocked arteries in the neck; 25 per cent are attributed to atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeats); but another 25 per cent are “unexplained.”

The risk of strokes and heart attacks increases significantly when we reach the age of 50, Curnew notes. That’s why people should take charge of monitoring their blood pressure and cholesterol, weight and what they eat, he advises.

“Genetics loads the gun and you pull the trigger with your lifestyle changes.”

Carol knew it was critical for her husband to get out of a hospital bed — he was parked in the burn unit — and into rehabilitation.

At first, hospital staff thought Gong was too weak for that, until they read about his martial arts prowess in The Spectator.

The next morning, staff took him to the gym and gave him a walker. He took 80 steps.

Not being able to exercise has been “terrible,” Gong says.

“I’m weak,” he acknowledges, his speech slurred but confident.

Gong has no long-term goals. He’s focused on the basics: walking, talking and sitting. But he eyes the bags, saying he wants to start shadowboxing.

“Bag and sit. Bag and sit.”

In the meantime, Jacey, his “second in command,” will run the gym, where neighbourhood kids sometimes wander in and train for free — as long as they listen and earn their keep, Gong specifies.

Jeneka says her dad is the determined, tenacious sort, who’s never let obstacles deter him before.

“Personally, I’m astounded, just the fact that he’s at home and he’s mobile. He’s surpassed a lot of what doctors said he would have.”


905-526-3264 | @TeviahMoro

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