Ally | Scarborough, ON
“In my late 50s, I’d been having trouble climbing stairs and I’d been sent for a couple of stress tests. The results weren’t good. I thought I was just going in to the hospital for some more tests, but then I got a phone call from the cardiologist’s office the day before. ‘Bring pyjamas.’
They had decided I needed an angioplasty and possibly a stent. I showed up at the hospital with a packed suitcase. I didn’t know what to expect. When I arrived, a pair of volunteers introduced themselves. They had both been through the exact procedures I was about to have and they were there to sit with me, talk with me, and help reduce my anxiety. One of them actually took his shirt off and showed me his surgery scars. It was so unexpected, and so reassuring.
In the end, the cardiologist didn’t put in a stent that day. The blockage was in the back of my heart, so he couldn’t operate on it. Instead I was sent to physio-cardiac rehab, for my heart and because I was a bit overweight. I did the full six months at the rehab program. I’m very proud of that. A lot of people don’t complete the full six months. I hung the certificate up in my bedroom.
“A pair of volunteers…had both been through the exact procedures I was about to have and they were there to sit with me, talk with me, and help reduce my anxiety.”
The people I met through the program were so incredible, and it made me think back to those two volunteers at the hospital, who had taken an hour out of their day just to sit and talk with someone they’d never met.
I decided to get involved with a support group based out of Sunnybrook Hospital and then I started doing a lot of work in the community, raising awareness of edema and about cardiac rehab. During the pandemic lockdowns, I recorded myself doing my cardiac rehab exercises at home to post for the community so that others could follow along even when they couldn’t go to their rehab or their gym. I was actually nominated for and awarded the Queen Elizabeth Platinum Jubilee Medal for this work, and the COVID Award for my efforts.
To this day, I credit that cardiologist with saving my life. He didn’t put in the stent, but he got me started on the path that would allow me to take control of my health. And he put me in the position to meet some of my dearest friends.”