The following story was written by Bruce's sister-in-law, Dianna Fuoco.
Prior to June 10, 1996, Bruce Fuoco, an employee of International Hardsuits, is working as a commercial diver. Bruce is a premier pilot and instructor of the "Newtsuit", an underwater self-propelled one man suit. Bruce has instructed Italian and U.S. Navy divers, Norwegian, Japanese and Canadian divers in the operations of this suit. He instructed Dr. Dave Williams and Judy Payette at NASA. Bruce was the main diver on the Edmund Fitzgerald expedition to recover the ship's bell to commemorate the missing crew. This expedition was sponsored by National Geographic and highlighted in the January 1996 edition.
Bruce's life changed on June 10, 1996. Bruce, at 36 years of age, suffered a cardio vascular accident (stroke) while alone in his apartment. He was not found until June 12. Taken to Royal Columbian Hospital, it was a life and death struggle for the next few days. Bruce lost the use of his right side, his speech and cognitive function. Over a month, he slowly regained partial use of his leg and limited use of his arm and some speech.
In late July, Bruce moved to G.F. Strong
as an in patient. Bruce spent three months there having intensive rehabilitation. He relearned all the activities of daily living needed to sustain an independent life style. Bruce was actively involved in interaction with other patients and participated in all activities available to him with enthusiasm and optimism.
In early September, he spent his first weekend at home in his apartment, a step toward his ultimate goal of independent living. In late September, he was back in his apartment as an out patient. Spending the next 3 months as an outpatient, Bruce would travel by Handidart to G.F. Strong. It was at this time that Bruce went to Squamish to experience kayaking with the G.F. Strong group.
In February of 1997, Bruce had heart surgery to repair the hole in his heart that had passed the blood clot to his brain. After his recovery from heart surgery, Bruce attained his next goal of receiving his driver's license in the summer of 1997.
December 1, 1997: Bruce has a seizure. He loses the use of his driver's license and starts on anticonvulsant medication. Bruce is travelling by bus living independently adjusting to his disabilities. It will be 6 months before he regains his license.
Over the next 2 years, Bruce takes a keen interest in kayaking, attending the original Squamish camp every September, Thetis Island Symposium on kayaking, and starts demonstrating to other disabled people on the use of his ONE ARMED RIG (OAR).
The OAR enables a person to paddle with one arm. Bruce first saw an early version of this rig at his first Squamish camp. He has since improved the OAR going from Prototype 1 to Prototype 8.
In addition to the OAR, Bruce has developed an outrigger system that enables a handicapped kayaker to have greater stability in the water and easier access to climb back in.
Bruce moved to Nanaimo in August, 1999, to be closer to the ocean. His love of the ocean has always influenced his life decisions. It is there that he has reached his ultimate goal of starting a new life, remembering the past but not dwelling on it. Bruce works independently in his workshop using his left hand (previously right handed), thinking of different ways to improve lifestyles of one handed people. Bruce is unable to be employed, but keeps busy with many activities such as swimming, kayaking, painting, tai chi, camping, hunting and fishing, and visiting all his relatives and friends. He takes an annual scuba diving trip and although difficult for him to suit up, once in the water, he is physically equal to any able bodied person. Mentally, he is much more knowledgable than the average diver, due to his previous diving experiences. He would be a great teacher if not for his speech disability.
Bruce has had a long road to recovery. His optimism and his outgoing personality make him a pleasure to be around. Bruce lives with his yellow Labrador, "Star", who has trained to become an exceptional pet. He has many relatives and friends who greatly enjoy his visits and admire his courage to accept life as it is and enjoy every day.
When Bruce worked with the "Newtsuit", he had a motto: "Adapt, Improvise and Overcome". It is ironic that this motto is now Bruce's motivation for all his activities of daily living and all his plans for the future.