Daejeong, le 20 avril 2021
A few days ago I accompanied runners from Stephanie’s school on a Terry Fox Run. I was a marshal on my bike. While waiting before the run started, a teacher came to me to comment on the scar on my leg: “Wow, that’s some scar. Did you have a knee replacement?” I gave a short explanation. Here is the longer version.
My family doctor, Robert, became more than my doctor. We had time to develop a friendship. We have children of the same age and met at the pool and at different child activities. In 2012, he had been my doctor for almost thirty years. I had not seen him for over a year and a half, so, on my way back from work, I stopped at his office to organize a routine appointment for the next month.
The evening preceding my visit, my wife and I were talking. I told her “I don’t know what I should tell Robert tomorrow. I feel good. I’m not sick. Maybe I should tell him that I’m a little more tired than usual, especially in the evening.” “That’s good” she says, “tell him that. You could also add that you’re more crabby than usual in the evening”.
The next day, Thursday, my appointment is immediately after work. As usual when I see him, Robert and I talk of this and that while he goes through his exam and he makes me talk about myself. I end up telling him about a slight pressure I sensed in the middle of my chest when walking outside in the cold of the winter, pressure that immediately went away after slowing down. He then takes my blood pressure.
“Oh Alain, I don’t like this. Come back and see me tomorrow morning after a good night’s rest. I want to take this pressure again.”
“I can’t tomorrow morning. I have to be at City Hall for the Council meeting.”
“I don’t care about your Council. You will be here first thing.”
After leaving a message on my secretary’s voice mail for her to advise the Chair of Council, I present myself at Robert’s office in my full City Councilor suit attire. He does not let me over the threshold.
“I just came back from the hospital. They’re waiting for you for a stress test.”
“Robert, I told you I have a Council meeting this morning. I’ll go some other time.”
“And I told you I don’t give a s… about your Council meeting. Go get your running shoes and get to the hospital immediately.”
OK. I go back home to change and call my secretary back to tell her I will be later than expected. Stephanie decides to come with me.
After getting explanations about how this stress test will work, I meet a cardiologist. He tells me the test will take between 12 and 15 minutes but to tell him anytime if I feel the need to stop. I start walking and am supposed to finish by running. After four minutes of walking the cardiologist stops everything telling me he has seen enough. I am unplugged and he invites me to sit. He then proceeds to inform me that my heart has some blockages. He will immediately send me to another hospital for more thorough exams.
“OK” I reply. “I know this hospital. My wife used to work there. Just give me the room number. I’ll go back home to get my car and go there now.”
“There is something you don’t understand. I told you to sit because I don’t want you to get up. Somebody is coming for you with a wheelchair. You’re going there in an ambulance.”
“What? I just walked her from my home…”
At the Royal Victoria hospital, two cardiologists are waiting for me. They immediately proceed to color my blood to examine the flow through a giant screen. I see my heart beat, the blood going in and out of it. They show me my arteries.
“This one is blocked at 95%. This other one blocked at 93%. The blockages are too serious, you need bypass surgery. You will be operated on within a week.”
I am sent back to my local hospital where I spend the night in the cardiac ICU. I am plugged to an IV to control my blood pressure. I don’t feel sick at all. After a while, I need to go to the bathroom so I ask the nurse to equip me with a rolling pole for me to walk with this IV.
“Sir, you’re in the ICU. There is no bathroom here. Our patients are very sick and can’t get up.”
She brings me a pan.
In early evening, the doctor comes by and permits me to get up and walk, slowly. The next morning I get to go home but am told to do nothing but wait for the call for the surgery. The next Wednesday I got three bypasses.
I did not know I was sick. Two months later I was back on my bike, better than ever. I now have two scars. One in the middle of my chest. One on my left leg from the inside of my knee to the bottom on my ankle where they got the veins used to build the bridges.
I was told by all the medical professionals I met that I was a very lucky man. In my condition no one understood why I did not have a heart attack. Those always have consequences, sometimes benign, sometimes much more important, sometimes deadly. Thank you Robert for saving my life!