A Real Turning Point


"Mr Shhh....um Schott, Can you come with me?" Did I pronounce that right? I replied, "Yes". 

We walked to a pair of doors, he held up a key card and they opened. My mind immediately registered that we were walking into the Emergency Room. I had gone in for a CT Scan as a precaution after two days of an unrelenting migraine. 

I asked, "Why are we walking toward the ER"?

 He replied, "We saw something and need to see it with a better image".

"Better Image, what did you see", I asked. Since we were deep in the new normal of Covid, all I could see were his eyes. This confused the logical part of me and it started to wander toward panic, because I could not read his expression. 

"I can't say other than the Doctor wants to do a MRI to get a better look"

"Look at what?" I thought and apparently uttered at the same moment. My mind was firing at a rapid uncontrollable rate and it was overriding any restraint that I was trying to exert. The next thing I knew, I was being admitted. Any control of the situation I thought I had, was evaporating with every passing second. 

The next few hours were surreal. The more questions I asked, the more vague the answers got. Finally, my head clamped in a fixture and looking through a oval opening, I was slid into the MRI machine. The shot for pain relief I had at four o'clock was wearing off, my head was pounding. The void of white inside the MRI was driving my vision insane. I had no choice but to lay still, the clamp at my temple ensuring compliance to the instructions. I officially was no longer in control of anything. 

Once back in my room in the ER, the nurse came in with a shocked look on her face. "I'm not supposed to say anything, but" she said. "You are too young to have a stroke". It took me a minute to figure out what she was saying. It was like she was speaking a foreign language. "Your BP is low, vitals are great. I see a lot of people come through here and this doesn't make any sense". I said, "it doesn't make sense to you! It really makes no sense to me. I take care of myself!"

The Doctor came in and confirmed what I though was only a rumor, it couldn't be true. At 53 and in seemingly great health, I had a stroke. The next 3 days were a deep dive into and endless array of tests and questions. Countless vials of blood were taken and still no answers. They upped the ante and I was transferred to another hospital and into ICU. The gravity of the situation just seemed to get more dire and still no answers. Finally, an Interventional Neurologist appeared along with what seemed to be a small army of nurses. I was on the phone with my wife at the time and I was to be wheeled down to have an Angiography done. I had a million questions, Lesley listened in and and I could hear the panic in her voice as it started to crack. The Doctor was under pressure to get me to Radiology quickly because they had a full schedule. With more confusion than I started out with, I was wheeled through ICU and down to Radiology. What I saw on that trip will forever be cemented in my memory. Covid Patients on respirators, clinging onto life, alone. I had 19 roommates on my ward, 17 were there battling with the virus. 

Finally, after three days, we had an answer. An Ischemic Stroke of the PICA Artery caused by scar tissue from a previous TBI. I was involved in a rear end collision three years ago. The results from that were a severe concussion, vertigo, balance and vision issues. It also fractured two vertebrae. I was very very lucky and all indications were that this was also related.  With the diagnosis complete, I was growing increasingly combative with the doctors. They were not giving me complete answers and failed to share that evidence of healing needed to be observed as a condition of my release. Two more days to sit and think about what all of this meant. The Cardiology Team gave me options for heart monitoring. they wanted to rule out Arrhythmia as a risk factor and then proceeded to spout off 70's era Cholesterol information as a reason to put me on Statins. I pushed them on their interpretation of my numbers, knowing that they were relying on the old criteria. I took a hard stand in disagreeing with them. My differential numbers and particle size test were spot on perfect. A indication that my diet was working extremely well. They wanted me to change the way I ate, disregarding the new era diagnostic criteria. (I will go into more detail on this in a later installment). I was growing increasingly disgusted with the team and the food I as forced to eat was obviously processed crap! I wanted out.

Finally, I got my release orders. The Neurologist came into my room with his Nurse Practitioner, shutting the door behind them. They sat down with me and spelled out what all of this meant. In a very stern tone he said,"You can not contract this virus, it would be disastrous for  you". He went on to explain that the blood flow through my left PICA artery was diminished. The inflammatory response of Covid to the blood meant that clotting factors would increase substantially. The anti-coagulant I was prescribed, would not be able to protect me from this inflammatory response. Getting the virus would likely result in another stroke with far more dire consequences. This was truly a "Holy Shit" moment. For the next week, under severe physical restrictions,  I had time to sort it out. How would this affect my family? How am I going to run my business? How is this going to affect my paddling? All questions, that the answers depended on two factors, my perspective and attitude. At the time, all I wanted was to get out on the water. My happy place, source of inspiration and where I sort things out. 

Perspective, an ever changing point from which we view any situation. Lesley and I had a serious conversation in the week following my return home. She asked what this all means and what it changes. My answer was simple, "perspective". Turning Point Boatworks is growing small business, thirsty for many things. Time and attention are in the most demand. The slow, imperceptible shift from doing what I wanted, towards doing what I had to do, was so subtle it took a major event to bring it to light. The business was born from the passion I have for paddling, in particular open water paddling. It had taken over every spare minute. Dreams I had, plans made, were shoved aside to push this business to what I saw it becoming.  The cost in all of this, time on the water. 

I take my heath seriously, the way I eat, my physical fitness was a result of honing in on what I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to be the best rough water paddler I could be. I was too heavy and out of shape. I started eating right and focusing on strength training along with functional fitness. All of it was to be a better paddler, which helped me be a better person. Along with the business robbing time from paddling, a nagging hip injury that I sustained while assisting a fellow paddler in need, had reached a point where I could not work around it. Diagnosed as a torn Labrum in my right hip, I was seldom found in the gym anymore. I was drifting away from what got me here. I was scheduled for a Cortisone Injection and then the stroke happened. It would have to wait. 

So, having time on my hands and a certain amount of disappointment that life was on hold, I came up with a goal. It is the same goal I had when I started Turning Point. To ride the Green Wave at Skookumchuck Narrows in MY boat. I had lost sight of that goal and time was no longer a guarantee. It never was, I just took it for granted. So the fire was lit again, I guess the amount of hurdles in front of me make it more appealing and a bigger "Win" when it all goes down. I need to get my hip in working order, clearance from the doctors to start training again all while staying isolated to avoid exposure. I like a challenge, so this is going to be a good one. 

I've faced many challenges in my lifetime, EVERYONE has. I've learned that challenges, or hard times, always result in clearing away of things that needed to be removed anyway. When I started to realize this, I learned to accept, not fight them, and things got clearer as to what needed to be done. With having a stroke, there are a lot of unknowns going forward. I am going to move in a direction with a singular goal in mind. In the words of Dan Crenshaw, Retired Navy Seal, Author and Texas Congressman, having a plan "b" is the foundation for quitting. I will not have a plan "b" and I will achieve what I set out to do. For some crazy reason, I seem to thrive in uncertainty. 

This is the first of the series that will chronicle the road back to top form in paddling and life. This will be a realtime journey to share my experience. If it inspires, then great. It is my story and you can pull what you want from it. Everyone is different and different solutions are required for every situation.This is my dream and I am letting anyone, willing to listen, along for the ride. I'll dig a little into some past stuff that is relevant to the story along the way. "From Stroke to Skooks" is the story and getting there will be one hell of a ride. We're targeting late spring of 2021 to be in Vancouver and I've had a lot of offers of help to get this done. It will start with building a pair of custom Petrel Plays for the trip. They will be a pair of the most cutting edge kayaks out there. For the trip, it will be completely self supported. No hotels, no restaurants. It will be another jaunt across the country with plenty of stops along the way to take in the stuff most pass by without a second thought. It's going to be epic!


  1. I look forward to following your journey - al aspects, the physical, the emotional and the spiritual. Good luck.

  2. Wow! I like your spirit. Can’t wait to read about your progress!

  3. Thanks for your openness and inspiration in this blog Joey.I am in such a similar position to yourself.Same age,same business,similar ambitions,and a definate plan A.Having these goals lets me look past the hurdles ,apply the appropriate trimming strokes in the water and glide forward.Great read and stay healthy buddy.Cheers from Aus.Ross Boardman -Synergy Paddlesports Australia.

    1. Thanks Ross! It's been a tricky year to stay the course. Pandemic, election year and now this. Everyone complained that 2019 was so tough! Anyway, love your videos and your work. I've picked up a few tricks from you as well. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Hi Joey, howard spira here and just heard about this from a caleva paddle instructor (sorry, i am terrible with names) i met at Riley's Lock who was remarking on my night heron and asked if i had ever heard of joey schott.....anyway, he told me about this post. i was shocked to hear the news and wanted to wish you best. you and your writing are inspirational. b safe and let us know if there is anything we can do to help in your journey.

    1. Hey Howard, I know several folks that teach with Calleva. Great group of people! It is a small world, nice to get reminders of that from time to time. Thank you, I am doing well, back to working out again and doing the things that probably saved me from it being much worse. Take care and see you soon!


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