This week we had cause to realize a lot of things. Chief among these is a very personal understanding of two things: that regular physical exercise can save your life and; that the team of dedicated nurses, doctors and support staff at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre is worth their weight in gold.
At every turn in this hospital, there is evidence of the gratitude people feel toward this place. There is little wonder why.
Here, people can look inside your heart and tell you when it is a ticking time bomb and then they do this thing called ‘open heart surgery.’
What a terrifying prospect to have to face: the idea of somebody having to slice into your body; break through your chest bone; slice through major arteries and re-route them; then stitch you back up and; finally, watch you like a hawk to make sure you recover from what they just did to you.
The options are there. They tell you that you can do nothing or get balloons put in. Every option is risky. But, you have to decide on something and, then it’s up to this team of people to make sure nothing goes wrong.
We sat here and watched them look after their patients. We watched as they watched and quickly responded. We saw the daily rounds and consultations and, we saw that never for a second did any of the staff that works in the cardiac department or the ICU forget that they were caring for human beings.
You’d think it would be easy to get jaded in a job like this: simple to forget to treat each person with the dignity that they deserve. But watching the tired faces at the end of their shifts, you know they care. They celebrate the wins, work endlessly on the difficult cases and mourn the losses.
The doctors don’t just pass by you on the way to the operating room. They come see you and let you know who they are and consult with you. The choice is always yours but, they instil confidence and personally check on you after. They want to see their patients and, when they shake your hand, you feel the strength and trust that comes from experience.
It doesn’t stop there. They know it’s hard it is for everybody. The family isn’t forgotten. They don’t just shove the loved ones out-of-the-way and expect them to wait silently until they are ready to talk to you. They know how important it is to let people feel as included as they want or need to be.
When you enter this place, you don’t lose your humanity. Nobody forgets that one day it’s you, the next day it might be them.
But how we ended up here has a lot to do with regular exercise. Heart disease is complicated. You can eat well, exercise and take care of yourself but, still end up with blocked arteries. What taking care of your body does is help you recognize when something isn’t right faster. Then, if they do discover that your heart could explode at any second, your ability to handle the operation and experience a smoother recovery is significantly improved.
It’s still a long road to health. But it’s easier.
Watching somebody you love with all of your beings go through something like this, feeling helpless and waiting for any chance to ease their journey you have to count your blessings. In this case, those blessings are access to Sunnybrook Health Science Centre and that a certain gym membership was used actively and regularly.