Campbell River’s Stu Neill was driving down Alder Street, towards his work site, when all of a sudden the world started spinning.
Alarmed, but unsure of what was happening, Neill kept driving until he reached his painting crew near the Jubilee Parkway subdivision.
“I arrived at the job site. At that time my right side was paralyzed so I leaned on the horn and the workers came running out and I was rushed to the hospital,” Neill recalls. “In a heartbeat, my life changed.”
At the age of 55, Neill had suffered a stroke, caused by a blood clot that formed in his brain stem, which controls the heart and breathing. Neill says a doctor told him he was lucky to be alive, that for most who suffer a brainstem stroke it spells sudden death.
“I consider myself very lucky, we don’t always get a second chance,” Neill says.
But he did and he’s making the most of it.
Before his stroke, which he suffered nine months ago, on New Year’s Day, Neill smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, had a bad diet, and a stressful, but well-paying job. Neill owned the largest painting company on the North Island, Top Line Painting.
After two months of recovery at Victoria General Hospital, where he learned to talk and walk again, and ongoing physiotherapy at Campbell River hospital, Neill was forced to give up his painting company.
“It was too high pressure,” Neill says. “If I continued I was going to have another stroke so I decided to get into something a little more rewarding.”
His new business is close to his heart. Errands 4 U is ran by Neill alone and is all about helping others. Any errand you can think of, Neill will do it.
Since the business was incorporated three months ago, Neill has largely been called upon by seniors with help getting to and from medical appointments.
Just last week he drove a woman who woke up feeling ill to see her doctor, waited for her at the clinic, then drove her to the pharmacy to pick up her prescription before driving her back home again.
Neill charges a flat rate of $25 per errand but he’s flexible on the charges.
Other errands Neill will do include: picking up groceries, feeding pets while the owners are away, checking on people’s homes while they’re on vacation, and pick up and delivery to the docks.
He’s also driven a few people around who have come over on the ferry from Quadra Island, so they don’t need to bring their vehicles over.
“I do all types of errands,” Neill says. “Everything and anything you can think of.”
For Neill, it’s humbling work and he enjoys every aspect of it.
“The work I’m doing is much more rewarding than what I was doing before and for that I’m very grateful. It was a second chance to do something meaningful,” Neill says. “There’s a lot of great people in this town who you’ll never meet unless you do this type of work.”
While it’s been an adjustment for Neill and his wife to go from two good incomes down to one, Neill says he’s better for it.
“I kinda learned the hard way there’s more important things in life,” Neill says. “Quite often we’re worried about monetary things instead of our health and relationships. I don’t think we’re here for a big pay day.”
Neill says he realizes his new line of work may not make him financially rich, but he’s living a richer life. He’s changed his unhealthy lifestyle and he exercises at least once every day; he hasn’t had a single cigarette since the stroke.
Now his challenge is to form a client base for Errands 4 U. The Alder Medical Clinic and Evergreen Seniors Home (where Neill volunteers for Meals on Wheels program) have both circulated Neill’s business cards which has kept him going for the past three months.
Neill also hopes his story will help others become more aware of their health.
While he had no immediate warning signs the morning of his stroke, Neill says he had been suffering from short dizzy spells for six months to a year before the stroke.
Still, Neill says the stroke completely caught him off guard.
“I thought I was in outstanding physical shape,” Neill says. “I could run with the best of them, seven days a week and then bang it was over for me. Between the cigarettes and the bad diet it almost killed me and thank God I came back from it and I’m not going to make the same mistake a second time.”
Neill encourages anyone who needs errands done to contact him at Errands 4 U. Neill can be reached at 250-202-2292 or by e-mail at email@example.com