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Healing hero
Bret's been knocked down but he'll get back up again

By RICK BELL -- Calgary Sun

  CALGARY -- Hitman isn't here at Chinook Centre. To think he was going to cruise across the parking lot early yesterday morning is more than unrealistic.

It is absurd.

It does no justice to the stoic struggle the one-time grappling giant now faces along with many, many other stroke victims who do not happen to get their names in the paper and do not happen to receive Get Well cards from the public at large.

It's not that Bret Hart isn't touched by the genuine concern of Calgarians or his legion of fans throughout the world. He is.

So we are told early yesterday morning by those who've recently spoken with him.

But Bret now lives in a place far from those fans and his ring triumphs, distant from the kudos and the celebrity. Bret is in a world of hospital visits and pained attempts to get back what he had before setting out on his bicycle in late June, a trip ending with him lying paralysed in an intensive care bed.

And so it is. While well-wishers chow down on Spolumbo's sausages and pen their words of encouragement, Bret prepares for two serious sessions of physiotherapy.

In one therapy session, the grappler must relearn the simplest everyday tasks, like how to cut food with his one good hand. At another session, the wrestler works his left arm and his left leg, limbs once totally paralysed.

So we are also told early yesterday morning.

Ross Hart is Bret's brother and is here at Chinook Centre.

Ross knows his brother did not ask for this stroke to strike, did not anticipate it, could not imagine it occurring.

Ross also knows his brother is admired and emulated as an athlete and a strongman and will want to be back as close to his famous form as he can be before going public. Ross knows it will take awhile, perhaps a long while.

"Some people think Bret is completely out of the woods and that's a little too optimistic," says Ross.

"I'm sure Bret wants to make more gains and improvements before the public sees him. I think this is a humbling experience for him."

Every day, Bret works on his dexterity and hand strength.

He's gained quite a bit of movement on his left side. Bret is walking short distances on his own, with some difficulty. That is progress.

A few weeks ago, Bret was confined to a wheelchair.

Bret is very determined to overcome this obstacle. He is resolute in his recovery, literally taking step by measured step. Bret is compiling his autobiography, reputed to be a lengthy effort. He will also be an advocate for the Heart and Stroke Foundation when he gets healthier.

There are many who stop by at Chinook Centre.

David Swift sits at a table and talks to Bret's dad, Stu, who has seen more than his share of adversity. The 22- year-old from Campbell River, B.C., has been in Stampede Wrestling the past two years.

Swift sees Bret as a standard of greatness you try to reach, a level of achievement so rarely attained in a game largely peopled by phonies, punks and chair-busting buffoons who couldn't tell you the difference between a wrist lock and a wrist watch.

And that makes the past weeks even more a source of reflection.

"Bret is a superhero, especially to kids, and yet he almost died," says Swift.

"It makes you shake your head a little bit. How can Bret Hart, the superman of wrestling, have to learn to walk again? It's sobering. Bret is a real person. It's tough to see somebody like that go down."

But real people do go down. And some, the few and the brave, do get back up.

"This reminds me not to plan too far ahead, to go out and live life to the fullest," says the up-and-coming Swift.

Yes, live life to the fullest.

That's exactly what Bret Hart is trying to do.

More on Bret Hart




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