Stroke doesnít slow skills of Bayou Gauche woodworker
Started off building boats as a boy
Kyle Barnett - Aug 23, 2012
Todd LeBlanc was 12 years old when his father gave him an ax and a mitre saw.
"After that they knew were to find me when it was raining," the 49-year-old Bayou Gauche resident said while sitting in his mobility scooter in his woodshed.
LeBlanc said his family moved to the area when he was four-years-old and lived in a trailer on the lot while his family built their home themselves. Since his father Dufrene Sr. passed away in 2001, LeBlanc has taken over the property, but the woodshed out back has always been his domain.
LeBlanc used to build wooden boats and furniture in the shed.
He points out termite damage on the house.
"If I was able, Iíd get to work on that," he said.
LeBlancís health problems began post-Katrina when he was rehabilitating homes in New Orleans and had a heart attack. After open heart surgery and a triple bypass, LeBlanc said he did not take care of himself.
"I drank like a fish. I smoked too much," LeBlanc said. "I didnít listen to doctorís orders."
Then in 2009, he said he woke up one day and could not move the left side of his body.
"My friend came in and I got his attention by knocking on the wall with my other hand," LeBlanc said.
After being transported to a local hospital, he regained movement and was later given medicine and discharged. He had no health insurance at the time. Later that night LeBlanc had another stroke, this time a major one. In all LeBlanc said he had four strokes in a 24-hour period and would spend the next two weeks in a coma.
LeBlanc pointed to a crumbling boat in his backyard.
"That was the last boat I built for myself," LeBlanc said. "After I woke up I asked them if I could finish my boat. They said it was done already. I couldnít remember finishing it."
LeBlanc said he underwent surgery to repair blood vessels in his brain.
"This is the man that saved my life," he said pointing at a photo of Dr. Steve Ramee, formerly a cardiologist at St. Charles Parish Hospital. "They were getting ready to pull the plug on me."
After waking up from the coma LeBlanc began therapy, but still has only limited movement in his left side.
Now, instead of building larger pieces in his shop he builds toys.
LeBlanc points to a number of blueprints for toys he has bought from a catalog.
"I cheat, but I have some of my own designs too," LeBlanc said. "If I didnít do this Iíd go crazy."
LeBlanc points out a tread made of small pieces of wood connected by tiny wooden dowels he made for an excavator he is putting together.
"It takes me about an hour to put one of those together," LeBlanc said. "In that amount of time I would have smoked ten cigarettes before."
He points to a stack of a dozen square wooden blocks.
"By the end of the week Iíll have all of those turned into gumball machines," LeBlanc said. "They are so popular I am beginning to wish I didnít make them."
When asked why he did not just raise the price on his customers he responded, "I donít want to do that to people. Thatís how I got into trouble before," LeBlanc said. "I deserve to be in this chair, I really do. I did a lot of bad things to people. Itís karma."
LeBlanc said he began making toys as gifts for his friends. friends.
"I told everyone who came to visit me in the hospital I was going to make an excavator for them," LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc said he never intended to sell the toys to begin with, but people began requesting them.
LeBlanc sells his toys for anywhere from $75-125 depending on the type of toy.
You can contact him at Duck9595@att.net if you would like to find out more information.
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