HOK #129: Meet Thuy Do 

Thuy Do is a cyclist who lives in Hintonburg. Photo by Charlie Senack.

“My family is from Vietnam. They came over as boat people refugees. They had my brother there, and then my sister and I were born here in Canada. My upbringing was very different because as a refugee, you’re starting from nothing. We were living in poverty and it changes you: money, thinking, perspective; you value the little stuff so much more.

When I was 15, I had a clump of veins that were not supposed to be there—a malformation. They found out about it because I had a seizure. I had four or more operations to, essentially, go in and glue the part of the vein that wasn’t supposed to be there. 

During the second operation, I was in the ICU for 10 hours and it was abnormal because that was really long. During my first operation, I was awake in two hours. The doctors eventually knew something was very wrong and they had to operate again. During that [time], I suffered a stroke.

It took away speech, reading, writing; I have semi-paralysis and semi-paresis, which means it’s still working but abnormally. My brain has contractions and doesn’t really know how to relax. I can’t use my arm at all and I have drop foot with my leg. I don’t have a lot of ability with my feet, so I have a brace that I wear so I don’t trip when I’m walking. 

Before my stroke, I wasn’t an active person at all. After my stroke, I wanted the ability to exercise: when you don’t have it you miss it. I [had] depression, which is very common with any brain injuries, and the only thing that really worked was biking or any form of exercise. It was a flood of good hormones so I wanted to push it.

I called the Canadian Cycling Association and everything grew from there. I did national competitions and I was in Canada’s national team for the world cup. My coach says I’m progressing really rapidly even though I’m behind in the competitions. I competed this spring in Edmonton and it was amazing. I thought everyone would be in a super-competitive headspace, but everyone was really nice. I got third place and that’s why I went to the national team after.

Cycling has become my addiction—it’s like a runner’s high. My goal one day is to maybe make the Paralympics. I’m now back in school doing alternative learning styles and I like the atmosphere; it’s one-on-one with the teacher. My speech is getting better because I feel more comfortable and I am slowly getting my credits. 

I live in Hintonburg and I love the location because it’s close to downtown and [has] so many bike paths. I like to go biking in Hull a lot, and we are close to the Island Park Bridge. The community has so much character with older houses. It’s not super modern and I like that. I feel grateful to live here.”

Story and photo collected by Charlie Senack

Leave a comment