Interview with Kevin Munn
I work as a peer outreach worker at Victoria Disability Resource Centre. I work several times a week; I work five hours twice a week and three hours every second Friday. [At work] I reach out to people in the community that are isolated, lonely, [have] nobody to talk to. [Doesn’t] matter what age, [just checking in, talking about] what they’re doing, or what their disability is. Myself and three other coworkers phone and talk with people, just check in - it’s nice for them to hear a different voice sometimes. My main part of it is that I work doing groups on zoom. I facilitate a peer group where we talk about different things, like struggles people have, and offer support. We are going to start doing TedTalks on different things. We do coffee socials where they come and just chat and connect with people. Both of those groups are twice a month and they’re two hours long each time. We just started another group that begins on the 24th - it’s once a month - and it’s going to be a hobby group for two hours where people will share their hobby, talk about it, and people can ask questions!
It’s not what I used to do, but it’s nice to still be a part of the community and helpout, and the resource center is a great place to work. Before that I was a counsellor with a specialty in addiction, and before that I was 23 years in the military.
I was working full time, but my brain injury started as a stroke, so I was in hospital for a bunch of months - I was paralyzed, could not talk, all of that. So I got help and worked through all of that and was on disability. And then through some time and help from the Disability Resource Center and other things, I went back to working as a counsellor. I was working at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre and then I had another attack - a brain attack - when I was working there, that looked like a stroke. I have a type of neurological nerve disorder now from my stroke and head injuries before that, so the damaged part of my brain tells my body to do something, but the nerves don’t always hear. I get overwhelmed with stuff, so I can’t do the counselling job I used to do, so now I do this job where I am still on disability, but I can work doing that too.
Around 8 years ago I had a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) and then around seven years ago I had the major stroke. I was in hospital and diagnosed with a stroke and I followed doctors and they shipped me from one hospital to another that had better rehab. I was there for months and months and I got speech and mobility, and physio, and everything, and I did all what they said. And then I went back to the first hospital and was there for a bit and then I had to live with friends while I went to outpatient therapy.
I cannot drive. Physically I think I could but I get too much stuff going on; I get overwhelmed. And if I’m walking and that happens, I can lean on a wall or something, but if I’m driving, that would not be good, so medically I cannot drive. I get overwhelmed sometimes. Sometimes I have trouble finding my words. And my right side gets slower, especially when I’m tired and overwhelmed.
With my stroke my taste buds changed, so a lot of stuff I used to like I don’t like the taste of anymore. Being a counsellor I would talk and support people; I was usually three steps ahead of them when I was guiding and asking questions, well now that’s gone because I’m more in the moment. In some ways that sucks, like for work and stuff, but for being with people it takes away some of the drama and chaos, it’s kind of nice. It’s frustrating, but it's more nice than it's frustrating. But doing a lot better! But sometimes when I tell my jokes people wish I had lost my voice again!
[Living during the pandemic,] I still see a brain doctor, the one who diagnosed me, but all the appointments are over zoom. I still do my exercises, I bought an exercise bike and kettle bells to do things here instead of going to the gym. After the pandemic I am hoping to go back to my hometown of Thunder Bay and have my Dad’s celebration of life and burial with my family and friends. My Dad passed away in July 2020, so we could not gather or travel together.
Interviewed by Jasper Delichte