A Letter to Paul Hyman from his Client, Douglas Sparkes

Hi Paul,

You helped me to return to work as a Bass Trombonist in one of Canada's top 3 orchestras, the Vancouver Symphony. Your work on my hand and arm enabled me to start back at work in 5 1/2 months time after being out for a year and a quarter with a debilitating full stroke, where I didn't receive any medical help for 36 hours after the stroke happened. Not only that , I had scores of " 0 " on each and every test on my hand for the first 6 weeks after the stroke occurred. To go from zero, to a score of 85, when the average score of 10, is not only awesome, but according my Neurologist, Dr.Philip Teal, one of the best in the country, he said my recovery was "Miraculous". And we just saw him again last week, and he considers me a miracle. He has been referring me to anyone in the press that is interested in a great recovery story. There is one coming out in January, for the "Stroke & Heart" foundation, that will tell my story and his.

When you have a stroke, after you are released from the hospital, there's nothing more they can do for you !!! It's only guys like you that have anything good to offer guys like me. And the thousands of other guys that don't have a chance to see you, well I feel so sorry for them, that they will be missing out on a great chance of recovering from the results of their strokes.

Most sincerely,
Douglas Sparkes
Bass Trombonist

A letter about Paul Hyman from Doug Sparkes to Great West Life Insurance

Dear Pat & Lonnie,

I'm writing this letter to thank you again for the opportunity to work with Paul Hyman for two beautiful weeks doing his fantastic Psychophysical Integration sessions.

He was so very thoroughly comprehensive and inventive in assisting me with my recovery.

I have made several  leaps in many areas. My hand is moving better, and I'm able to move my arm better (I can reach 7th position finally on the trombone).

I am feeling more confident and in a better frame of mind to be able to return to work.

What has been especially helpful has been the personal program that Paul created for me to continue my progress. I've been amazed how much I've accomplished within the last two weeks.

I wish other people would have the same opportunity to work with Paul Hyman, because he is Fantastic.

Sincerely yours, a very grateful,

Douglas Sparkes

Bass Trombonist

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

An article by Janis Warren, published in British Columbia's Tri City News, July 29, 2014:

Stroke of genius for VSO player


Douglas Sparkes was the bass trombonist with the Hamilton Philharmonic and the National Arts Centre Orchestra and had been tapped to play with the Canadian Brass when he got a call that changed his life.

The year was 1974 and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra had invited him to come on board. How could he say no? he remembered. The gig was in Vancouver —much warmer than his native Ontario — and the VSO had a good reputation. Now in his 41st season, Sparkes has solidified his reputation with the Grammy- and Juno-award winning large ensemble.

Over the years, he has taught at UBC and other academies, founded the VSO School of Music and performed some of the toughest works ever written for musicians.

In December 2012, Sparkes said the VSO tackled two of the hardest compositions for an orchestra: Schubert's Unfinished Symphony No. 8 in B-minor, D759, and Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 in E-major.

That night, there was a guest conductor; however, VSO maestro Bramwell Tovey was in the audience, just to hear Sparkes play.

That's because it was the Coquitlam resident's first show since he suffered a stroke 16 months earlier.

It was a day he'll never forget. On Sept. 1, 2011, a Labour Day weekend, he and his wife, Natasha Boyko, a VSO cellist, were staying at a friend's cottage on a steep hill on Valdez Island, which is unreachable by BC Ferries.

It was 1:05 a.m. "I remember that [time] because I woke up and I couldn't move and I was trying to wake up my wife," he said.

When she realized what was happening, she ran down the hill and alerted their host. He contacted the Coast Guard but then his phone died. Several hours later, about half a dozen Coast Guard members reached the Gulf island by Hovercraft.

With their arms over their heads, the crew carried Sparkes down the hill on a stretcher, through the forest and placed him on the watercraft to transport him and his wife to Tsawwassen. Sparkes stayed overnight at the Richmond Hospital but were later told the machines weren't working so he had to be moved to Vancouver General Hospital.

Sparkes was lucky to get the transfer because on duty at VGH that day was Dr. Phillip Teal, one of the Canada's leading neurologists, a clinical professor at UBC's department of medicine and a Sauder Family-Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC/Yukon professor in clinical stroke research.

By the time surgery was ordered, 36 hours had passed. Boyko, who by then was resting at home and replaced at the hospital by their son, was asked to return for an experimental operation that required going up Sparkes' groin to remove a blood clot from his carotid artery.

No blood was flowing on the left side of his brain.

The family was told there was a 30% chance of success. "They tried three times," Boyko said. "If they didn't get it, no more Doug."

Fortunately, it was removed on the fourth attempt. While in intensive care at VGH, Dr. Teal visited Sparkes every day — sometimes by himself, sometimes with a team — to assess his condition and ask him simple questions: what day was it? what time? how many fingers was he holding up? ("I couldn't tell him the answer. I was paralyzed on my right side because the stroke was on the left in the head," Sparkes said) and what year was it? ("I said 1911").

Meanwhile, the couple was advised by their naturopathic physician and acupuncturist, Dr. Larry Chan, a co-founder of Integrative Healing Arts, to get an appointment immediately for a hyperbaric chamber to improve the oxygen to his brain.

Before the end of September, Sparkes was on the second floor of Port Moody's Eagle Ridge Hospital, ready to start rehabilitation. "I just remember I couldn't do anything: I couldn't hardly speak or use my right hand at all. My feet weren't working. I was bed bound."

Speech, physical and occupational therapy was ordered. For the latter, the Eagle Ridge team asked him to do a series of tests — i.e., put pins in holes, turn over a checkers' bin, squeeze a revolver-shaped device — but his scores were "zero, zero and zero," Sparkes said.

By then, Boyko had secured a spot at a hyperbaric medicine clinic in New Westminster. Sparkes underwent 1.5 hours a day for a month, with Boyko waiting outside the chamber.

His recovery was nothing short of miraculous: The first week of his appointments, Boyko pushed her husband through the front door in a wheelchair. A week later, he was arriving in a walker and, the following week, a cane. "By the fourth week, I was walking in and out on my own. It was bloody amazing," Sparkes said.

Best of all, his occupational therapy scores shot up dramatically, too: from 0 to 28.5 in a week to 72 in the fourth week. By January 2012, when he was released from Eagle Ridge Hospital — two months after he concluded his first round of hyperbaric appointments —his score was more than 85.

"I asked them what the score is for an average person who has not had a stroke. It's 10."

Sparkes later had another month in the hyperbaric chamber, a treatment that he fully credits to speeding up his recovery. By April of 2012, eight months after he sustained the stroke, he was driving a car on his own. "It's just as good as it was before. In fact, at first, it was better."

He also returned to entertaining, often cooking for members of the symphony. Still, Sparkes admits he's not his usual self. Having a stroke "is just bloody awful. Since it happened, I never got back to normal. It's debilitating but I've been fighting hard to get back."

It takes him longer to practise. "I used to look at the music the night before. Now, I need some weeks in advance" to get ready for the 170 or so concerts a year with the VSO.

To be a professional musician in a symphony orchestra, "You have to be there 100%," Boyko said.

For his return concert in December 2012 — a week after his 65th birthday — the VSO had another bass trombonist on standby but Sparkes was able to show he was back for good.

Afterward, Tovey confessed he was nervous before the show began but "he said as soon as you started playing, I just relaxed," Sparkes said.

Last Thursday, Sparkes and the VSO played their last show for the summer season, a pops concert at the Orpheum called On Broadway! with Steven Reineke conducting and Ashley Brown and Ryan Silverman on vocals.

They will re-start on Sept. 27 with Tovey as conductor and !non Barnatan on piano for his VSO debut, performing Kelly Marie Murphy's A Thousand Natural Shocks, Brahm's Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-minor and Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra, a nod to the composer's 150th birthday.

The VSO's 96th season also includes guest appearances by the world-renowned Yo-Yo Ma and Lang Lang.

Said Sparkes, "Some weeks more than others, it's a challenge but I've managed to meet all the challenges so far."


Naoki Chiba, Medicine Professional Corporation, Guelph GI & Surgery Clinic

5 March 2014

To whom it may concern;

Re: Paul Hyman, letter of endorsement

Paul is an unique and experienced sensory integration therapist. He is truly one of a kind, having integrated modalities from numerous areas, mostly Trager, Brain gym (educational kinesiology). Bal-A-Vis-X and Touch for Health. He also has experience and training in acupuncture_ massage as a personal trainer etc and integrates all his experience into his unique approach_

He did have practical experience through Diversicare with neurologically challenged

I suffered a stroke in July 2013 and had a lot of balance and strength issues. I was weak on the left side, particularly my hand and had poor proprioception on the left. I am a medical doctor and have a masters degree in evidence based medicine. Paul has training outside of mainstream medicine that I did not understand, but I gave him a try and to my surprise. He achieved some inexplicable stability in my muscles with his methods. Although a sceptic,  I hired him to do a consecutive, intensive 6-8h daily program for 10 days, 5 months after my stroke to try to improve my condition so that I could return to work.

After 10 days, my left hand was stronger, more agile and I could perform tasks better with better co-ordination. My overall and core balance improved, my gait improved. I was able to walk much more normally as a result of this. I felt the improvements allowed me to be more 'normal' and hence improved and hence able to return to work with greater confidence.

My insurance company refused to recognize Paul's qualifications and treatment as a medical return to work program and so I did not get coverage. Regardless of whatever category Paul fits into, what he does integrates so many things and reflects his experience, that there is no real classification as to what he did to achieve the many results I report. Sensory integration is as accurate a term as one could use, but there is no recognized sensory integration society.

I endorse Paul's unique training and experience.


Naoki Chiba, MD, MSc, FRCPC,

AGAF Gastroenterology Clinical Professor, McMaster University,

Chief of Internal Medicine, Guelph General Hospital

“Paul Hyman has been the leader in our Brain Gym(R) & MORE program he designed for seniors for Diversicare Canada Management Services. Paul has made a tremendous difference in the lives of our residents as well as their family members and our staff.  In addition, Paul has reached out and helped so many other groups such as children, people with disabilities, Acquired Brain Injury survivors, and those with mental health concerns.  He truly is making a difference in peoples’ lives by using his vast knowledge and skills to help those in need.”

- Karen Kotanko, Sales and Marketing, Diversicare Canada Management Service Inc., www.diversicare.ca

"Paul has developed a fitness/movement program which has proven very beneficial to our well-elderly and our folks in the intermediate care unit. This program has helped our Parkinson/Stroke Residents in particular and has brought out an awareness among others of their physical abilities. Paul has worked with some of our elderly on an individual basis when needed and it is this quality of professionalism and caring that has endeared him to our residents." 

- Social Director, Toronto, ON

“Paul provides quality programming to seniors in the community, and in this case, the nursing home community. Paul has brought fresh ideas to motivate our residents, many of whom are chronically ill. He instructs the participants on proper moving techniques, wellness tips and brain fitness exercises. The residents feel that he is the best presenter we have ever had. He interacts extremely well with seniors and makes classes FUN!”

- Michelle Vermeeren, Recreation Director

From parents of children with Autism and Learning Disabilities:  

“Great job!” Fun, creative, great learning opportunity. I learned about using physical activities to advance learning developmental stages. I will use the techniques to progress my 5 year old’s speech, and balance for walking.”

“Informative & Educational.” Found motor planning interesting. Different exercises to help stimulate my child. Encouraging play with my son through Brain Fitness. Enjoyed group participation.”

“Excellent presentation. Very important and useful for the mental development of your children. Everything that I learned was very informative and I would like to learn more exercises. I will apply them on my sons.”

REGARDING Acquired Brain Injury:  

“One of our residents in could not speak, recognize items or walk.  After our staff worked with her using the Brain Gym® & More program that Paul developed, she is able to speak and walk again, and can recognize and even count money again.  Her husband is hopeful that he will be able to take her back home again soon.”

- K.K. Diversicare Canada Management Service Inc.

REGARDING Stroke Recovery:

"Paul’s excellent communication and interpersonal skills enabled him to communicate in a clear, concise, and enthusiastic manner with physically challenged seniors from multi-culturally diverse backgrounds in our Stroke Recovery Club. Thanks to Paul’s effort and encouragement our clients have implemented his suggestions, with great success. Not only is there a noticeable improvement in their physical functioning, but he has also increased their confidence and independence. Paul has been a great asset to the Stroke Club."

- Stroke Club Co-ordinator Central Neighbourhood House

“We have a General Manager whose father had a massive stroke after surgery and was in Long-Term Care.  She started using the techniques she learned from Paul and was able to move her father back to his home.  Within months he could walk again and is currently back to playing cards with his friends.”

- K.K. Diversicare Canada Management Service Inc.

For more information on Private Stroke Recovery Sessions with Paul, click HERE.

REGARDING Addictions:  

“Paul made the difficult, easy.”

“Paul knows his stuff. Took time with me. Taught me how to relax. Excellent, the knowledge of mind & body is extremely helpful to my recovery.”

“Extremely well prepared, sympathetic and caring. Made me feel secure and hopeful to a better future.”

“Gave me a new look towards LIFE. Confident, Refreshing.”

"Paul’s approach successfully overcomes many of the resistances our clients present. He is able to gently engage them in a range, of activities and experiences, challenging them to discover their own inner resources."

- Julie Thompson, Coordinator, Therapeutic Recreation Services, Donwood Institute, Toronto, ON

“Paul is innovative and ingenious in finding ways to motivate clients to make changes in their lives – not only to make the changes, but also to keep them. While at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health created programs that addressed not only client needs but also gave them hope for lasting change. Paul also worked with the CAMH Women’s program being one of the only male therapists working in that program. He used his extensive qualifications and skills not only therapeutically but also giving the women an opportunity to experience a healthy professional relationship with a man.”  

- Marilyn K. Parker, HSC Stress Management Therapist, Toronto, ON


“Thank you for your valuable time, participation and exceptional contribution to the 37″ Summer Institute. Your assistance was invaluable in engaging  participants and encouraging  them “to look beyond the diagnoses”, in order to create holistic and person centered services. Your work has provided our consumers, service providers, and leaders with new skills and tools that will promote recovery throughout our region. As a result, we are all better prepared to create recovery plans and deliver services that are guided by our clients and that reflect their unique life goals.”

- Carol Kuprevich, EDD, 37th Summer Institute Director Delaware Health & Social Services Division of Substance Abuse & Mental Health

“Thank you for providing a stimulating session for the undergraduate medical students. The informal feedback I received from the students indicated that not only they enjoyed your presentation but they found it quite enlightening and informative. I really enjoyed our conversation following the presentation. You have given me something to think about. Keep up your energetic and enthusiastic mission in life.”

- Chandrakant P. Shah, MD, FRCPC Department of Preventive Medicine and Biostatistics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto

“I would like to thank you for the contribution you made to our pilot gambling project. Your input and support were critical to us in the planning, development and subsequent formation stages of our program.”

- James N. Milligan Director MAARS. and Gambling Services

“On behalf of the Learning in Motion (LIM) Planning Committee, and the Toronto Region staff, we would like to thank you for your informative, high energy and interactive workshop at the Learning in Motion Toronto Region Staff Conference. In keeping with the theme of the conference, your presentation on Brain Gym® addressed the themes of wellness, learning and skills building contributed to the success of this event. Your workshop was informative and provided some key messages for participants in enhancing their own best performance.”

- Nillen Wong, Co-chair, LIM Planning Committee Ministry of Community and Social Services Ministry of Children and Youth Services

"Paul is able to engage participants to actively participate in group and I know personally and anecdotally that Paul’s efforts have had lasting and positive impacts on participants’ outcomes, including advice, tools and techniques which continue to be employed long after the presentation."

- Coulson Mills, B.A., LL.B. Barrister, Solicitor & Notary Public, Toronto, ON

“It was Paul’s innovative manner of teaching Therapeutic Recreation and passion for his work that inspired me as a student to pursue my career in TR in addiction.  Paul has his own technique of presenting information by tapping into all the senses.  He uses an eclectic variety of instruments and tactics so that clients not only understand his message but also feel the impact on their beings and lives. Paul also has an amazing ability to think outside the box.”

- Recreation Therapist, Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH)

What Educators say about BFI’s training:

“Awesome” “How to apply to secondary students when placed with LD, Autism, in typical classrooms.”

“This is a very powerful and effective training to enhance student performance and participation in multiple ways: academically, socially, emotionally, cognitively and behaviourally.”

“Simple yet effective. I would describe it as one of the best professional development training I’ve done. This is positive/result oriented – quick and honouring.”

“The training was excellent, very hands-on and educational. So much of this course is the opportunity to practice all of the exercises.”      

“Wonderful facilitation, Paul I found you to be very open and inviting. Your combined expertise and presentation style makes for a lively session.”

What Therapists say about BFI's training: 

“Techniques to help your client relax feel safe and are more open to learning in treatment.”

“Will be recommending the program for city wide training.”

“A precursor to mindfulness.”

“Easy activities that promote inner peace but don’t require expensive supplies.”

“Lots of interactive activities to use with moms and kids.”

“Lots of fun, interaction, hands-on learning, useful tools.”

“Easier to achieve “mindfulness” work & relaxation skills to help clients feel safe & grounded.”


Click HERE to Contact Brain Fitness International