Cory’s Story of Love and Tragedy

The surgeons raced against the clock to relieve the pressure in the skull by performing a Craniectomy. The life was saved, but not all was well. The impact of a blood clot that led to the emergency procedure was a life-changing stroke. This event is not from a novel or a movie scene. It is Cory’s story.

Cory loves to travel and make new friends. He is not shy about coming up to strangers to say hello. He also loves children and everywhere he goes, children are drawn to him. He loved teaching them and will find a way to teach any child, even if it meant being goofy. His favorite holiday is Halloween and goes all out with decorating and costumes. His favorite football team is Glasgow Celtic because of his connection with the city.

Cory is one of the friendliest, kindest, and funniest people you could meet.

David Cantwell (Kaohsiung 100 Pacers Football Club)

Cory Nickolas was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, on March 15, 1973. He was the older brother to Amanda and Curtis. Growing up, he loved art, music, and sports. In fact, he started taking guitar lessons when he was only five years old. And, when he wasn’t entertaining his brother and sister, he was playing hockey, baseball, and soccer. Little did he know then that his life would revolve around his love for music, entertaining people, and sports.

After high school, Cory went to the Alberta College of Art and Design. While in college, he had the opportunity to study art abroad.  He studied in Glasgow, Scotland, for one year before returning to Calgary to complete his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts.

In June of 2000, Cory was drawn to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, to teach English. He told his parents it was a six-month term…20 years later he’s still in Taiwan! In the same year, he joined the 100 Pacers Football Club. He went on to become the captain of the team from April 2006 until April 2009. The team traveled around Asia, playing in many competitions. One of his most memorable moments was in his first game with the team. According to David Cantwell of the football club, “we were playing a university team up in Tainan. The game was 6-6 with two minutes left to play and Cory scored our winning goal and we won 7-6!”

From the first time Cory started playing with the Pacers he had a huge influence on the team. Both on and off the pitch. On the pitch, he was a hard tackling midfield player. He had a great determination to win every game and he always gave 110% in every game. He also made every new player feel very welcome to the team. Off the pitch, he did so many things for the team. He was one of the players who came up with the idea of the golden leg. Presented after every game to the player who made the worst mistake in the game.

David Cantwell (Kaohsiung 100 Pacers Football Club)

Cory’s real passion is Glasgow Celtic Football Club, a club he has been following for about 30 years. Cory used to watch Celtic games every week. Often the games would start late in the evening/night, starting at 3:45 am for big Champions League and Europa League games. Cory was lucky enough to meet a couple of these ex-players on a trip to Glasgow in 2018!

In 2008, he met is fiancée, Michelle Huang. They have been business and life partners ever since. Together, they opened The Victory Inn, restaurant and pub in Kaohsiung. Cory is a self-proclaimed master chef. Most of the menu items in on The Victory Inn’s menu was created by him. He also grows his own world’s hottest peppers and makes and sells hot sauce and BBQ sauce using his home-grown peppers.

The Victory Inn has a cosy atmosphere, delicious food, and a wide selection of drinks which make it a popular spot with the local community. It also has a unique charm. It is a bit of a temple to football but to Celtic in particular. He has got a replica of the European Cup Celtic won in 1967 and lots of signed shirts and other great stuff. The bar has become a place that football fans and Celtic fans, in particular, must visit in Taiwan.

Tragedy Strikes

On December 2, 2019, Cory went in for knee surgery. The surgery was successful. But the following day, while still in the hospital recovering, he had an ischemic stroke when a blood clot went to his brain. He was given an injection to try to dissolve the clot, but it did not work. They went in with a scope through the groin and up to the brain to try and break the clot up and that was also unsuccessful. Due to pressure on the left brain, he had a hemorrhagic stroke and the doctors had to do a craniectomy (remove the skull bone on the left side) to release the pressure. The skull bone was surgically inserted into his abdomen to preserve it. He was put into a medically induced coma to allow him to recover from the trauma and allow doctors to assess any damage to the brain. At that time, Cory only had blood flow to one-third of his brain.

The doctor was going to put back his skull bone on February 2nd. However, he had serious abdomen infection in the area where they stored his skull bone on January 24th. He was sent to the ER and got it removed the next day. This emergency surgery left him in the hospital for 14 more days and postponed his skull bone implant surgery. His own skull bone was not able to be used anymore. So, they had to apply for a titanium one from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Administration Ministry of Health and Welfare. By February 12th, he had been in the hospital for a total of 64 days.

During this time Michelle stayed by Cory’s side and his close-knit group of friends were there to provide comfort and support. After hearing the devastating news, Cory’s mother Theresia, his brother Curtis and sister Amanda flew to Kaohsiung to be with him and Michelle. They got there just as he was coming out of the coma. Cory’s father, Larry, was not able to make the trip due to health issues that does not permit him to fly.

Once Cory was awake, he was still hooked up to a ventilator to breath for him and a feeding tube. It was clear that Cory had no function on the right side of his body. His right side of his face drooped, his right arm and leg were lifeless. Once the breathing tube was out, Cory could not speak. He could move his left side (arm, hand, leg, etc) but had no way to communicate. Cory tried to write with his left hand, but he suffered from Global Aphasia and could not talk or communicate. That part of his brain had too much damage.

The following weeks were understandably stressful. With Michelle now being Cory’s full-time nurse, she was no longer able to work and earn an income. Cory no longer had an income from his teaching job and with them both unable to work and manage the Victory Inn, Michelle has had to rely on the dedicated staff, family, and friends to deal with the daily workings of the Restaurant/Pub.

Road to Recovery

While Cory was recovering from the stroke and relearning to eat and walk, the skull bone that got infected had to be incinerated. This was another bump in the road because it was just a week before the scheduled surgery to put the skull bone back.

As Cory continued with his daily therapies, he gradually regained strength to walk with a walker. He still has limited function with his right arm and hand and limited speech.

A titanium skull prosthetic was created for Cory’s head and on February 29, 2020 his skull-bone implant surgery was a success. The only hiccup afterwards was a treatable Shingles virus in his back and in his eye, which was affecting his vision.

Cory’s Soulmate

Throughout Cory’s ordeal, Michelle has been his nurse and companion 24/7. She was there from the beginning and it was she who noticed the stroke symptoms Cory was showing and alerted the medical staff. Her presence at the hospital and swift actions surely saved Cory’s life.

Michelle has fought to get the best health care for Cory during this time. She arranged for every recommended procedure and therapy available and pushes Cory when he needs it. To Cory’s family, Michelle’s support, encouragement, and sometimes nagging, means the world to Cory and his progress. Michelle’s family is also like Cory’s family away from home. They are there to support Michelle and Cory and are there when Michelle just needs a break.

We feel blessed that Michelle is able to be there with him, stand up for him, speak for him, comfort him, care for him and love him in our absence.

Theresia, Cory’s Mom

Outlook

His right side still has deficiencies. Being right-handed and an artist with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts, he is struggling to come to terms with his disability and the fact that he may never be the same.

In any room of 100 people he would make friends with every single person if time allowed for it.  People are naturally drawn to him, especially kids. He was a very good story teller, capturing everyone’s attention even if he was describing something silly that happened on a night out. He used to love biking – he biked everywhere in Calgary and showed up to pub covered in dirt from the ride. He once got in a pretty bad accident that gave him a concussion and the scar under his nose.

Clair Rankin, Cory’s Friend

Cory is scheduled to enter the Rehabilitation ward for 28 days of intense physiotherapy. After that, Michelle and his family will discuss the best options for his continued recovery. Relocation back to Canada may be the best option for Cory. He can be closer to his family and 6 nephews and niece for support. He can also receive English speech therapy for his Global Aphasia with the hope that he may be able to communicate once again.

Lessons from Cory

If you have symptoms, see a doctor. Do NOT wait!!! Weeks before Cory’s knee surgery, he showed symptoms like numbness and tingling in his hand. Had he told his doctor, they may have investigated it and took additional scans or testing. Also, do not be scared to go to the doctor for your annual physicals and do not be scared to ask for help. Do not be stubborn, asking for help or going to the doctor is not a sign of weakness. Having a busy schedule is not an excuse. There’s no greater gift than health.

Giving Back

Cory is the type of person everyone wants to be around. He is outgoing, charming, charismatic, and full of good stories. He makes friends everywhere he goes and has stayed in contact with most of them over the years. He would give the shirt off of his back to help anyone who needed it.

Now, it is Cory who needs help. Cory’s livelihood has been taken away. He is unable to talk and therefore cannot go back to teaching. He is unable to create works of art as he did before, and he is no longer able to market, promote and run The Victory Inn as he used to. You can help by visiting The Victory Inn for great food and drinks, it would go a long way to helping Cory. Also, if you can come out to fundraisers sponsored by his friends and the local community, it would make a huge difference. Finally, if you can donate to his GoFundMe page, no matter how small, or share it, you would be helping Cory through his long recovery.

Many people have already given so much for Cory. The community has been unbelievably helpful in supporting his recovery. Cory, Michelle, and his family would like to thank everyone who have donated or have been following Cory’s recovery around the world. They want to thank family and friends, Cory’s high school friend, Michelle Young, for recognizing the need and starting the GoFundMe page, the hospital, doctors and nurses, physiotherapists, all patrons and the staff of The Victory Inn. They also want to give special thanks to all the Kaohsiung organizations, restaurants, and pubs who have contributed:

  • Kaohsiung 100 Pacer Football Club and teammates
  • The lighthouse bar& grill
  • Arkansas Diner
  • German Soul Kaohsiung
  • Foster  Hewitt’s
  • The Mercury
  • AMC language School Sin-Ming Branch
  • Haxstrong Charity
  • Fleming Yachts
  • BMM
  • Go Where American Style Bistro
  • TipTop Language School Zuoying Kaohsiung
  • Greendale English Academy
  • Ms. Ma.
  • Fairy Tale English Language Center
  • American English School
  • Legends Bar & Grill
  • Cory’s Kitchen
  • The Magic spoon Fudge Company
  • Sarkii
  • Bring The Rocks
  • Don Burrito Mexican Restaurant
  • Taiwanish
  • Big Bear Sports
  • We Are South
  • Conway’s

The Kaohsiung community is lucky Cory stayed in Taiwan. As evidenced from the enormous support from friends and organizations in Kaohsiung, he has built a stronger community that extends beyond foreigners.

In writing Cory’s Story, My Kaohsiung would like to thank Michelle for sharing Cory’s story. We get to know Cory a little better and how wonderful and generous he is. We also want to thank Ferdia for helping us write Cory’s story. He first met Cory while playing football with the Kaohsiung 100 Pacers in 2002.


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