Playing golf with doctors becomes a problem when the player turns into the patient. A struggling heart adjusts to an interrupted flow of blood, and establishes a new normal, but doctors know when all is not well and they’re not shy about speaking up.
That’s the short version of what happened to me in July 2017. What I had come to think of as normal breathing, especially on a hot day at the top of a steep hill at the Cataraqui Golf and Country Club, was, to my trained medical companions, an alarming shortness of breath. The observation triggered a process of discovery that forced me to agree to undergo a cardiac stress test.
By October 4, after the situation became more critical, my heart was in the hands of the remarkable team at Kingston Health Sciences Centre’s (KHSC) Cardiac Sciences Unit, receiving the coronary artery bypass surgery that saved my life.
At the hospital, the medical staff told me recovery would take four to six weeks. I began by doing a little bit of work every day, and increasing the pace, steadily. About halfway through the fifth week I had an epiphany that my life had more or less returned to normal.
Today, nearly three years after my surgery, I no longer suffer from the episodic breathing issues. I tease them at the golf course by saying, “Golf saved my life!” But there’s some truth to that: the steady level of exertion triggered symptoms I and others might not have otherwise noticed until it was too late.
Looking back, my patient experience supported my confidence in our local healthcare system, much of which is owing to the talented doctors and nurses who make recovery stories like mine possible. As a community we must come together to build a hospital environment where the next generation of surgeons can imagine practicing their remarkable trade. Our own lives, and those of our loved ones, will depend on it.