Unexpected tragedy can strike at any moment, and often times it can be out of our control. Such was the case for Russel Mcneill, who suffered a stroke overnight on November 13 and has been recovering in the hospital since then.

While a sudden health problem like a stroke is difficult for a family to handle emotionally, it can also create financial challenges too. With Russel out of work and his wife Brenda Jan taking a leave of absence from her job to stay with him during his recovery, money has been tight. To help cover costs, Brenda's daughter and Russel's step-daughter Chelsea Byman organized a bottle drive. The community support was overwhelmingly positive, with $1200 raised for Russel!

"It was amazing, and the people sharing stories... I went in and I showed him the pictures and I showed him some of the comments that were posted about him and I told him the stories and he kind of looked surprised, like people are helping him, he was shocked. But when I told him that he is loved and that he everybody wants him to get better, he smiled," Chelsea said. 

There's a good chance you've met Russel, even if just for a brief moment, as he worked for Co-op gas. However, it's also possible you know him as a taxi driver, or just a friendly face in town.

"Every time I picked up bottles and I ran into the person they had amazing stories about Russ, which was nice to see. He grew up here and he drove taxi for years until he opened his own business and then he drove for that taxi company before they left. It was nice to see that they had an impact on this town and how helpful they were to their customers and the community supported us," Chelsea said.

bottle driveThe entire kitchen was filled with bottles from the bottle drive
Photo Courtesy: Chelsea Byman

Chelsea explained that Russel's stroke was massive, which has left him non-verbal at the moment, and has also made it difficult for him to comprehend sentences. However, she added Russel does respond by smiling, laughing, nodding, shaking his head, and more. As for Brenda, she spends as much time with her husband as she can, as it greatly lifts Russel's spirits and has helped in the recovery process. Recovering from such a large stroke could take a long time and may have lasting effects, but Brenda is hopeful for the future and is excited for him to come back home.

"It's going to be a long journey, I'm going to be off for about 3 months. I push him everyday I'm in there because I want him home, we support each other. He's my companion, we do everything together besides work, but otherwise when we go out, always together, we go do something. I'm just waiting for him to come home." Brenda said. 

Brenda is prepared for the long recovery process, as early analysis from doctors thinks he'll be in the hospital for 6-12 months, but she said there's already been promising moments.

"He has improved, he can put his sock on his left foot. He can put his shoe on his left foot because his right side is still paralyzed. He tries to put his shirt on, but again, because of his right side, he has a hard time with his right arm," Brenda said. 

The bottle drive was an incredible success, and Chelsea said she has other ideas for fundraising as well. This could include a baking fundraiser, as well as a fundraising dinner and silent auction at Mike's Bar and Grill on January 21. 

If you're interested in supporting Russel and his family during his recover, you can reach out to this email: brenda.jan66@gmail.com.

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