On Tuesday night, a trimmer Fabio Belli attended his first city council meeting since suffering a stroke in mid-November.
Belli, who's completing his first term as councillor in Ward 8, described in detail the stroke he suffered on the night of Nov. 16, when he realized he wasn't feeling right.
“I was sitting on a Lay-z-boy, feeling some numbness on my left side, thinking it was circulation,” Belli said, speaking near the end of Tuesday's meeting. “So I thought maybe I should stand up. As soon as I stand up, the room starts spinning and I realize there's something wrong here.”
He made it halfway upstairs before collapsing, calling on his wife to call an ambulance. He was on the stairs at this point and is starting to realize that this is something serious.
“The left side of my body is completely paralyzed at this time. I slur my words, and I can tell you this much: I'm having a stroke.”
A few minutes later, the ambulance arrives and two “big guys – thank God” come in and lift him downstairs. Poking fun at himself, Belli said he overheard one of the attendants say, 'thank God I didn't go to the gym today.'”
But it was no laughing matter, he said, adding that he could hear his youngest daughter, who is 4, crying out, “daddy's going to die, daddy's going to die.'
“The only thing going through my mind is, 'I don't know if I'm going to live to see tomorrow.' ”
By the time he arrived at Health Sciences North, his speech was back to normal and feeling was coming back to his left side. He would find out later that a blood clot on the right side of his brain caused the paralysis and stroke. Luckily, it dissolved, sparing him any long-term effects.
After a battery of tests at the hospital, he felt almost normal and was ready to go home. But the doctor dismissed that notion, and ordered more tests.
“You're young – this should not be happening,” Belli's doctor told him.
He ends up spending four nights in hospital, two in the stroke ward. A friend of his who works there told him there were eight other patients under age 40 who had also suffered strokes. His oldest daughter, age 6, called him at the hospital, crying, “Daddy, when are you going to come home? I miss you.”
And the next day, when his father tells him that “you need to be there for your daughters. – they're 6 and 4, and you need to see them get married,” Belli said he realized just how much he needed to change the way he lives.
“I (was) taking things for granted, but I knew I had to make changes in my life,” he said. “I had been overweight, not very active, and I had to make some changes – life changes.”
He's since lost 30 pounds, and says he's committed to making the lifestyle changes permanent. He views each day in a whole new light, and reflected, “I'm so grateful to be here today.”
Despite his health setbacks, Belli was the first incumbent to file to run for reelection. It was something he discussed with his physician.
“The doctor said to me, 'Mr. Belli, maybe you should think about quitting council.' And I said to the doctor, 'I think I'm going to have a heart attack if you tell me that.' ”