“It’s an irony lost on no one that George was injured doing something around the house,” says Nancy, his wife. It was November 18, 2015, and George, a high school teacher and very busy athletics coach, was at home. A handyman was cleaning the eaves of the Fotopoulos home in Oakville, when George decided that this would be a good time to get help putting up the Christmas lights. He set up a ladder and climbed up. “The last thing I remember,” says George, “was throwing the end of the string to the guy.” Then he fell.
Nancy was about to board a plane for a work commitment when she got a call from one of their daughters – something had happened to dad. Taken first to his local hospital, where imaging revealed a subarachnoid hemorrhage, indicating a traumatic brain injury, and several fractures to his face, ribs and right wrist, George was transferred to St. Michael’s and admitted for assessment by our Trauma and Acute Care Surgery Service. He would be in a coma for five days. Rushing to Emergency, Nancy was met by one of the hospital’s chaplains, who helped her and her daughters navigate a very busy unit and reassured her that George was in good hands.
Everyone was “absolutely amazing,” Nancy says. “From the moment we arrived, we were supported at every step. It was incredibly reassuring to have a dedicated nurse on his case in the Intensive Care Unit, who, like the team, was cautiously optimistic about George’s recovery. But the nurse did say, ‘He’ll be home for Christmas – mark my words.’”
George remembers waking up in the ICU with his family around him, although he has almost no recollection of his time there. He would be at St. Michael’s for two weeks – “All the care was awesome,” he says – and then go to a rehab hospital to help him get moving again.
The Fotopoulos family, pictured left to right: Cori, Nancy, George, Allie
From the moment we arrived, we were supported at every step. It was incredibly reassuring to have a dedicated nurse on his case in the Intensive Care Unit, who, like the team, was cautiously optimistic about George’s recovery. But the nurse did say, ‘He’ll be home for Christmas – mark my words.’ — Nancy Fotopoulos
A year later, George is back to all his normal activities: his golf game is as good as ever and he’s back to teaching and coaching with virtually no residual effects from his accident. The only thing he hasn’t done this year is hang Christmas lights. Very grateful to St. Michael’s for his care, George now considers his birthday to be November 23 – the day he came out of the coma and got a second chance. Adds Nancy, “We know we were fortunate to be in a city where there is such care.”