Paul Carr might have a particular hill on Lakeshore Drive to thank for his life. For it was when he was out cycling that he felt an unusual tightness in his chest while going up the hill that fell at the 18 km mark of his 50 km ride.
“I’d recently finished my career in education and was teaching part time at Lakehead University, which gave me more time to focus on my fitness,” he recalled. “In particular, I took up road biking, which I really enjoyed. I was a fitness buff and in relatively good shape.”
“It was during one of my rides, that I initially noticed some pain my chest while going up a hill. Thinking it was just indigestion, I took a small break, and continued to finish my ride,” he said. “A few days later, I went back to do the exact same 50 km ride, and again, I got that same feeling at the exact same spot, but still thinking it wasn’t anything concerning, I finished the ride.”
“The next day was Saturday and I was in a golf tournament. Part way through the round, I found myself struggling to push my cart up hill,” he said. “That, along with the symptoms I’d been having on my rides, concerned me.”
However, it wasn’t until Monday that Paul drove himself to the Emergency Department after feeling unwell on Sunday.
“When I walked into the Emergency, it became apparent to me that I was coming face-to-face with my mortality,” he said. “I was finally getting to the point where I was accepting that something was wrong, and I had been denying it previously. I was somewhat emotional and a bit fragile.”
Paul got checked right away and bloodwork determined he had had a heart attack. “I was very, very surprised, as was the doctor who indicated I had no risk factors for heart disease. I was fit, I didn’t smoke, and I ate well. I never thought it would be me!”
“I can clearly remember thinking ‘I’ve got lots of life left to live and I still have kids in school’.”
“All I can say about the entire time I was in the Hospital was that the care was, without a doubt, world-class,” he said. “You have a certain expectation that the clinical care will be very good, which it undeniably was, but you don’t necessarily think about the caring that goes along with it. When I think of ‘caring’, I think about the whole experience I had, from being treated with respect and kindness, to the little things like a reassuring hand squeeze when I went into the Cath Lab for my stent. I really don’t think that anything about my stay in the Hospital could have been improved.”
Following his treatment, Paul, like many others, participated in the cardiac rehab program. “It was outstanding,” he said. “Along with cardiac unit, they gave me my life back. I’ve been able to play hockey, bike, ski, golf and more and, I have the energy to do so. I think so many people wonder when and if they’ll be able to get back to ‘normal’ after a heart attack. My entire treatment certainly gave me the confidence and encouragement that I could.”
“I consider myself very fortunate to have been given a second chance and am so grateful to everyone who was involved in my care,” said Paul. “When you go to the Hospital, at least in my case, I was worried, emotional and wasn’t myself. Even then, I was treated with such caring. Cardiac care is truly a team effort, and by that I mean, every single person plays a role; in the clinical care, in the caring they provide and in the funds that are raised to support the equipment we have here.”
“We are extremely fortunate to have the level of care we have in our community,” he said. “I was so impressed with my care that I became a Patient Family Advisor for the Hospital. It’s my way of giving back and supporting the Hospital as we continue to grow and expand our health care offerings, such as cardiac surgery. Thanks to my role, I’ve been able to see just how well we compare to other Hospitals and we are truly outstanding, as shown by our Accreditation Canada scores. It makes me very proud of the work that’s done at our Hospital and the people who do it. I’m happy I’m alive to contribute to our future.”