A Cardiovascular Christmas Tradition to Warm the Heart!


Every year at this time, our Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) at the Health Sciences Centre welcomes a very special visitor – a man who likes to remind us of what we gave him many years ago….and who in return, gives back to our staff and other cardiac patients.

Mr. J.J. Strong had cardiac surgery in 2000, along with a bit of an extended stay with us – and as you might imagine, it left a big impression on him.

Mr. J.J. Strong, former patient of the CVICU

Mr. J.J. Strong, former patient of the CVICU

That’s because cardiac surgery is a pretty big deal.

The surgery itself is extremely complex and requires an expert surgeon and operating room staff. Most surgeries last an average of five hours. Then there’s the post-operative period – which also takes specific expertise, a multidisciplinary approach, kindness and compassion to help our patients recover.

Not to mention a good effort and positive attitude, on the part of the patient! Most patients do extremely well – even if it is a challenge!

And J.J. certainly lived up to his name – proving himself Strong indeed! He had a bit of a complicated post-operative course in – and remained in our intensive care unit for 23 days. What an indomitable gentleman – especially for a man who was then 72 years old!

He did fully recover – and ever since, has shown the CVICU how kind and thoughtful he is: in the true meaning of Christmas, he continues to give back.

A sweet treat and special gift from Mr. Strong

A sweet treat and special gift from Mr. Strong

At Christmastime, EVERY year since his surgery, Mr. Strong has visited the CVICU with homemade treats, or in recent years, a delicious box of cookies or biscuits.

This charming fellow has shown up, without fail, for 15 years – a man who is now 87 years old. A sweet gesture, in every sense of the word!

In these days of an increasingly “commercial” Christmas, and with the sometimes hectic pace on and off the job, we are reminded of the essential jobs that we do affect our patients in profound ways.

Mr. Strong’s yearly visit reaffirms for our CVICU staff that our clinical expertise and kind guidance does not go unnoticed. It also touches everyone very deeply that Mr. Strong could be so steadfast and loyal in acknowledging how grateful he is for his CVICU experience.

And then he goes one step further! He is quick to point out that he was “pretty sick” for 23 days before he regained his health and strength; and with that in mind – he likes to chat with our current CVICU patients – and, in turn, give them hope that a full recovery is possible!

Mr. Strong enjoying his annual visit with staff from the CVICU at the Health Sciences Centre

Mr. Strong enjoying his annual visit with staff from the CVICU at the Health Sciences Centre

By remembering those who helped him so many years ago, Mr. Strong has filled the hearts of all the CVICU staff with the joy of the real meaning of Christmas: giving – and giving back.

We might fix hearts for a living, but this year – and every year – he warms ours!

Thank you so much, Mr. Strong! ■

This story was written by Sharon Gregory, Division Manager, Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit/Critical Care Unit at the Health Sciences Centre.

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