Jean Paul Poirier has taken his rehabilitation into his own hands.
The P.E.I. man, who is originally from Summerside, can be seen most days at UPEI’s Robertson Library creating items with a 3D printer.
The 65-year-old has made dozens of small cars, his favourites being the Mini Cooper and MGB, with the printer before adding body filler to some, sanding them down and then painting them.
However, the activity is much than a hobby as Poirier views it as his own form of mental rehabilitation after he had a stroke last October.
“I wanted to kickstart (my recovery),” said Poirier, adding that he’s still waiting to receive formal stroke rehab. “People might find that it’s a little thing, but to me it’s big. It’s helping me develop my mind.”
The former go-kart racer and avid racing fan, whose P.E.I. license plate 33EJB on his own Mini Cooper matches Paddy Hopkirk’s 1964 Monte Carlo Rally winning number, has made dozens of creations that he has either given to friends or collected in his home.
Poirier, who spent much of his professional career working in crisis management, had his stroke while employed in Indonesia last fall. It is the second neurological catastrophe he has had to overcome, after he said he had contracted cerebral malaria in 2002.
And the road to recovery has not been easy.
After his stroke, Poirier lost the photoshop skills he once prided himself on. He also has difficulty sleeping, has trouble with his hands and experiences memory loss.
“There are a lot of things I don’t remember,” said Poirier, who first returned to Summerside after the stroke, before later moving to Cornwall.
At first, Poirier had trouble standing and would often fall down. Then his son-in-law suggested he start resting with ice packs on his head.
“I found that I would feel better and I wouldn’t tip over as much,” said Poirier, who began walking a kilometre every day later in the winter to meet with a group of friends at Tim Hortons.
He credits those friends, as well as several others in Charlottetown and his doctor in Summerside, with keeping him alive during his most difficult time.
“That was my incentive to get up in the morning. I could have stayed at my hotel and felt sorry for myself and been depressed,” said Poirier.
Then one day in February when he had to go to Charlottetown for an appointment, Poirier stopped into the library and found out about a workshop being hosted on 3D printing.
Poirier has seen how the innovative technology can be useful, not just for his own personal recovery but also for his future dream.
His plan for retirement, before he was forced into leaving his work three years early from the stroke, was to create his own MGB out of carbon fibre and fibreglass with a Lotus Evora chassis.
“At the end of November, I thought there was no way I would be able to do my retirement dream… I was getting pretty depressed,” said Poirier, who has now found some new hope through the technology.
His favourite piece he has created so far is an MGB measuring 16 inches, 1/10 the size of the actual car, that had to be printed in five separate pieces before it was glued together.
“This is the first draft of my dream car.”