From healthy to heart surgery

Ron Watteyne is adamant no one should take their health for granted

  • Aug. 3, 2016 8:00 a.m.
Ron in St. Paul’s Hospital after open heart surgery in June 2016.

Ron in St. Paul’s Hospital after open heart surgery in June 2016.

Many men take their health for granted, skipping regular check ups and ignoring little aches and pains. Ron Watteyne has words of caution for those individuals.

“If you have a sweet truck that you love, routine maintenance is an absolute must,” he said.

“Well, your body is no different. It requires routine maintenances and regular check ups and believe me it’s worth a whole lot more than a truck.”

It was during just such a routine check up that Ron’s doctor noticed something irregular in his heart and sent him for an echocardiogram.

Sure enough, Ron’s heart had a bicuspid aortic valve where there should have been a tricuspid valve.

“This is genetic,” Ron said.

And so Ron’s sisters and son were also tested but so far there’s no signs of the condition.

“But that doesn’t mean it won’t surface in future generations,” he said.

That was three and half years ago and at the time the condition was considered mild. Ron was referred to a cardiologist in the Lower Mainland for yearly check ups. On one of those visits his condition had ramped up to moderate so visits were also ramped up to every six months.

This spring, Ron’s condition had moved to severe and surgery would be required, that is if Ron wanted to live.

He did.

“I couldn’t believe I was facing open heart surgery,” he said.

“I’m a healthy, fit guy, not overweight, this couldn’t be true.”

Looking back Ron realized he’d had a few mild symptoms over the past winter including some shortness of breath which he attributed to a cold.

“Without a regular checkup, they never would have found my condition.”

Four weeks after finding out he needed surgery, Ron had an angiogram then four weeks after that he had his three-hour surgery at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

“They took out the old valve and replaced it with a biological valve.”

The medical experts say the new valve should be good for about 20 years. Ron is still recovering from the surgery he had about a month ago and believes his excellent physical health has helped with his recovery.

“They told me I should notice a huge difference with the new valve.”

Ron knows he’s lucky they found his condition because knowing and monitoring him saved his life.

“Regardless of how fit you feel, regular check ups find the hidden medical conditions you never suspected existed. Remember your truck? As you keep it running in tip top condition, do the same for your body.”