On the first day of his summer holidays, Rich Goulet's world went through a spin cycle.
The longtime teacher and coach at Pitt Meadows Secondary (PMSS) was alone in his Maple Ridge home July 1 when dizziness felled him.
Goulet crumpled onto his couch and, for a few moments, thought he was dying.
"Then I realized I wasn't dying, but I had this feeling in my head," Goulet recalled.
He started vomiting and after that, recalled that he "started to deal with the issue that was there."
Goulet didn't know it at the time, but he had suffered a stroke which would keep him away from PMSS classrooms on medical leave for the indefinite future. He indicates that he hopes to return sometime this year.
A brain bleed hospitalized Goulet for eight days. During that time, he was told he had rampant high blood pressure. Doctors didn't know if it was Goulet's heart or his kidneys that was the main cause of his stroke on Canada Day.
Goulet was then prescribed what he calls a "cocktail of drugs."
"I was taking 10 pills a day for most of July," he said. "And I overdosed."
This development sent Goulet back to the hospital, where he was treated for an additional eight days. During his second hospital stay, Goulet was taken off the pills and said he "started over."
His pill intake has been reduced to two pills per day, "of various sorts," Goulet shared.
It was also during his second hospital stay when Goulet realized he was getting his life back.
"July was fuzzy," he said. "The stroke affected my centre of balance."
While in hospital, Goulet connected with the PMSS community, past and present.
"There were quite a few visiting me in the hospital at the beginning," he said. "From the past decade, I would say. The people who have been fabulous have been the Severinski family. Kevin and Leroy played for me in the '80s, in my sixth or seventh year at Pitt Meadows. Their families have been awesome in helping me through this."
Also offering a huge amount of support has been Terry Fox Secondary athletic director and Pitt Meadows resident Rhonda Trunkfield, along with all of the parents from PMSS's senior boys basketball team.
When he got home from the hospital, Goulet started using exercise as a tool to combat his balance and health issues.
He walked, played a little basketball, even tried some tennis.
"The theory behind this is that if you exercise, your brain re-attaches, so my centre of balance has come back, not at 100 per cent, but I'd say quite a bit," Goulet said.
By the time August rolled around, Goulet's health had improved, but he still had a problem with his kidneys, and he's been undergoing heart tests.
After his latest visit to the cardiologist, Goulet now has to decide whether or not to undergo a procedure in the New Year. Goulet has a higher risk of suffering a blood clot.
A possible warning sign of the troublesome summer ahead came near the end of the 2010/11 school year, when Goulet started feeling run down.
"I thought if I got to summer holidays I could re-energize myself and start exercising and all this stuff," Goulet said.
"And I waited too long, obviously."
Goulet said he didn't have regular checkups done, so his blood pressure wasn't monitored consistently enough.
"Definitely, if I would have had my blood pressure checked and we dealt with that, we probably wouldn't had that event [the stroke]," Goulet said.
A healthy Goulet would have been entering his 33rd year teaching at PMSS, and 43rd as a high school teacher.
At PMSS, Goulet teaches French and physical education, and coaches the senior boys basketball team.
He is forging on, once again tackling the role of Pitt Meadows Marauders Air Force head coach, but isn't ready for the classroom just yet, because he isn't feeling 100 per cent.
In terms of teaching, Goulet said he hasn't had time to miss the profession, mainly because he hasn't "been able to get into a regular routine, yet."
"This year, I had a special schedule where my schedule started at 7 a.m.," Goulet said. "By the time I wake up, and get fed, and read the paper, most of the school day is over."
Complicating matters further is the fact Goulet is currently dealing with new medical issues, including vertigo and a reoccurrence of the gout he dealt with five years ago. This time around, the gout has struck a forefinger.
His initial bout with gout was Rich Goule in one of his big toes, and the timing couldn't have been worse - he had it the week of the B.C. AAA senior boys basketball championships.
"Oh my God! I didn't know what it was back then," Goulet said. "But I know what it is now - it's diet related."
Goulet is a highly emotional coach who often prowls the side court like a caged tiger. His fiery style has paid dividends in the form of five B.C. titles won over more than three decades. He captured the provincial championship twice with St. Thomas More, and guided the Marauders to a trio of B.C. titles, in 1983, '89, and 2000.
But the intensity of coaching basketball can potentially have a price attached to it.
"I've had various opinions from people, some of them doctors, from all the way to, 'Don't do anything,' to 'go back and teach and coach, if that's what you like to do,'" Goulet said.
Goulet went with his instinct and return to the hard court.
For Goulet, coaching is cathartic: "Most days, if I can go in and spend an hour or two coaching, that's a relief from my daily schedule and all the other things that are going on."
His health problems derailed Goulet's five-year plan towards possible retirement.
"I will get back into the classroom, eventually, and I will continue coaching," he said. "My goal was to get through the next three years- I set a goal two years ago that I would go five more years. Basically, that's what I want to do: I want to go five more years and basically take a look at it- whatever."
His medical leave has given Goulet some insight on what retirement would look like.
So, does it look good? "Not if you're in your rust years," Goulet said, with a boisterous laugh.
"It looks good if you're healthy and everything else, but it doesn't look good if one day you have vertigo and the next week you have gout."
@ Copyright 2013