By Kathy McGrath
Less than a year ago, the Theodorou family lived like many others in our community, busy with work and focused on raising a young daughter. Bill, the family’s main breadwinner, ran a heating and cooling business and his wife, Karen, worked as an integration specialist, often commuting by GO train.
All of that changed last spring when Bill fell ill with a persistent staphylococcus infection that, despite treatment with antibiotics, worked its way into his heart and brain. The illness, which produced flu-like symptoms, caused a stroke, a brain aneurysm and required two open-heart surgeries to replace a heart valve. Needless to say, their family life has changed dramatically.
Bill, 49, is finally home after spending many months in hospital, but a long scar running over his scalp is a reminder of the brain surgery he underwent to contain the hemorrhage.
While he has recovered from the paralysis that affected his right side, he still suffers from aphasia, a condition that makes speech extremely difficult. His cognitive functioning is still not what it used to be and, as might be expected, depression has set in.
He has been unable to work for the past six months and the business is at a standstill because his partner (his only sibling) died several years ago. Right now, Bill’s wife Karen, a tiny powerhouse of positivity and support, speaks for him in telling his unusual story – one that has baffled the city’s top cardiologists and neurologists. While Bill can’t speak, the frustration is evident in his eyes.
“Bill’s a proud person and he wants to work,” Karen explains. “He is a people person so it’s really important for him to regain his communication skills.” To that end, Bill recently started intensive speech therapy on top of cardiac therapy. Doctors say it could take him a year to recover.
Bill had many local customers and it has become evident how highly they think of the affable contractor. When Bill’s friend posted the family’s story on the West Rouge Residents Facebook page, accolades started pouring in from those who depended on Bill to fix their furnaces and air conditioners.
“He really does care about his customers,” wrote Marie Nufer. “He is the most honest man I have ever dealt with.” Another resident describes how Bill often gave seniors a break on labour charges.
Karen Hill added, “I remember Bill coming to our house during Thanksgiving dinner because the furnace had conked out.”
Penny Lee, a neighbour of Bill and Karen’s in the Lawrence and Port Union area, set up a GoFundMe account to help the family, which now relies solely on Karen’s income. Fortunately, she is able to work from home and schedules her work around Bill’s many appointments because he is still not able to drive.
Comments on the GoFundMe page also attest to Bill’s work ethic.
“Bill is a wonderful, giving person who came through for my family during the big ice storm a few years ago,” wrote Mike Thomas. “We had no power and our gas fireplace was also on the fritz. He was able to come by at a moment’s notice and get it working. He also resurrected my AC on several occasions and never let me spend more than I had to. When it came time to purchase a new AC and furnace, Bill was very fair and extremely fast. Our thoughts are with him and his family and we wish him a swift recovery.”
So far, $3,500 has been raised for the family. The money will help them pay bills, fund medical expenses and help with vehicle repairs. Unfortunately, Bill cancelled his disability insurance several years ago when Karen was out of work and money was tight. Readers who wish to help Bill and Karen can visit:
https://www.gofundme.com/manage/je6dp-support-for-bill-and-family. The GoFundMe account can also be reached through the West Rouge Residents Facebook page.