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Coming Back

Dr. Mike Franklyn
Photo: Claudia Hung

Dr. Mike Franklyn returns to Council following a devastating stroke

By Mark Sampson

Dr. Mike Franklyn knew something was seriously wrong when he dropped a cookie on the kitchen floor, which, he says, “is heresy for me.”

It was the evening of October 17, 2018, and Dr. Franklyn was at his Sudbury home catching up on emails when he first noticed something amiss. He came out to the living room to tell his wife that the left side of his computer keyboard hadn’t been “working” properly. Even after dropping the cookie moments later, he still didn’t appreciate that the issue was with him. It was only later, when he was in the bathroom getting ready for bed and abruptly lost the use of the entire left side of his body, that he realized something was terribly wrong. His wife called 911.

Dr. Franklyn, then 59 years of age, had suffered a very rare form of stroke called a sagittal cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). He was rushed to hospital and diagnosed with a bleed on his brain. A third of his skull had to be removed to relieve the pressure, and he spent 17 days comatose in the ICU, followed by four months of difficult rehabilitation. The effects of the stroke have been nothing short of devastating, both physically and psychologically. He still doesn’t have the use of his left arm and needs assistance with many everyday tasks. “The loss of independence, of bodily function, not being able to drive, needing four people to help me shower – it has all been very hard,” he says.

He spent 17 days comatose in the ICU, followed by four months of difficult rehabilitation.

Yet, with the help of a personal support-care worker and the encouragement of family, friends, and colleagues, Dr. Franklyn appeared at the CPSO Council’s meeting in March 2019, less than six months after the stroke, ready to represent District 8 after capturing the seat in the last election. This is his second stint on Council; he was previously the academic representative for the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM). Now, fulfilling the duties of having a seat on Council will come with an added level of challenge, but it’s one Dr. Franklyn is determined to meet.

“I really missed being on Council,” he says, “taking part in conversations, often about controversial issues, building consensus with colleagues, all the informational sessions, gaining broad awareness of political or policy issues and trends. It’s great to be back in the saddle.”

With so much change happening at the CPSO, Dr. Franklyn says it’s an interesting time to be back doing College work. He has been very impressed with the CPSO’s new Registrar and CEO, Dr. Nancy Whitmore, with her candour and transparency, and he is very much in favour of our move toward right-touch regulation. He is especially pleased to see the College refocus its quality improvement and assessment efforts toward at-risk physicians, using data tools that look at various risk and support factors. “As physicians, we’re expected to practise evidence-based medicine,” he says, “and so I think it’s critical that we also practise evidence-based regulation, that we hold ourselves to that same standard.”

He has specialized in addictions, especially among pregnant women, and has focused on what he calls “poverty medicine,” helping some of Ontario’s most vulnerable people

Beyond his work on Council, Dr. Franklyn also sits on a number of CPSO committees, including Quality Assurance (QAC) and Discipline. With his extensive clinical background, he has a lot to contribute. He has 25 years of experience practising obstetrics and family medicine. He has specialized in addictions, especially among pregnant women, and has focused on what he calls “poverty medicine,” helping some of Ontario’s most vulnerable people. He has been on the front lines of northern Ontario’s battle against the opioid crisis. He has also worked extensively with Ontario First Nations, flying into remote northwestern areas to treat patients in their own communities. He is also a scholar and educator, teaching both undergraduate and postgraduate students at NOSM.

CPSO President Dr. Brenda Copps was chair of the QAC when she heard the news of Dr. Franklyn’s stroke. She says there was grave concern on the committee about his well-being and whether he would ever be able to resume his College roles. But now, she suspects that the challenges he must face in his own recovery will heighten his passion for patient advocacy.

“Mike has never let his CPSO colleagues stray from our mandate to protect the public,” said Dr. Copps. His input has always been patient-centred and he consistently reflects the perspectives of the disenfranchised and marginalized, including those with addictions, she said.

Still, the lingering effects of Dr. Franklyn’s stroke continue to dominate much of his life. He had to make the very difficult decision of closing his family practice last July. But he says he still believes he has so much to contribute, and the stroke has allowed him to focus on other aspects of his career that are equally important. “For a so-called retired guy, I’m awfully busy,” he says of his work with the College, his teaching duties, and work he wants to do in medical consultancy.

A big part of pulling it all off, he says, is negotiating with his wife about how busy he should be. Dr. Franklyn understands more fully now the reality of “caretaker burnout,” and he has come to appreciate what is most important — the support of his family, friends and colleagues. With their help, he remains undaunted in his efforts to contribute to his profession. He says his work with the College, interacting with physician and public members of Council and CPSO staff, and contributing to medical regulation, continues to be so intellectually stimulating and professionally rewarding. For any physicians, medical students or residents who may be on the fence about contributing to medical regulation, Dr. Franklyn has a clear message. “Just go for it. Don’t miss out on getting involved in your College early in your career.”