Fifty-one-year-old Ian Gray has a lot to be thankful for – a wife and two healthy, grown children, a supportive work environment, and, thanks to a recent preventive-based health assessment, a properly functioning heart.
Ian is the operating partner at Ian Gray’s Salmon Arm GM. In 2018, parent company Bannister Automotive Group decided to look at how they were protecting their company assets. In addition to investing in their buildings and products, the Bannister Group decided to invest in what they believe is their greatest asset, their business partners. They did so by offering each partner the chance to complete annual health assessments at Copeman Healthcare. Even though Ian had no recent health concerns, when the opportunity arose, he happily got onboard.
Being physically active and diet-conscious have always been a part of life for Ian as he was born with an inherited form of heart disease called bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) disease. Typically, the aortic valve has three leaflets that regulate blood flow. BAV is an aortic valve that only has two leaflets. Some people can have a bicuspid valve and never know it, while others can develop serious complications. Luckily, Ian was diagnosed at birth.
“By the age of five, I was having regular checkups to monitor the condition and was always told that I’d eventually need surgery to replace the defective valve,” notes Ian. “Even so, I grew up as a healthy, active boy until I was 18 years old and the doctors told me I should stop playing junior hockey due to risk of overexertion during practice.”
Ian ended up having valve replacement surgery at 21, started taking blood thinners and continued living a healthy life, even running half marathons, boxing and going to the gym. Other than a successful 2009 surgery to replace an aortic arch that had an abnormal bulge, he had no other health issues.
In January of 2019, Ian had his first annual health assessment at Copeman Healthcare. The assessment was led by Dr. Raymond McConville, and other members of his Copeman Healthcare team including a family health nurse, a registered dietitian and a kinesiologist.
“It’s a very thorough assessment – bloodwork, family history, physical examination, etc. – they spend the better part of the day with you, talking, listening, taking everything into consideration.”
As part of the comprehensive assessment, clients undergo a stress test that shows how the heart works during physical activity. Because exercise makes the heart pump harder and faster, an exercise stress test can reveal problems with blood flow.
Because of his history, Ian had completed several stress tests with cardiologists prior to his assessment at Copeman. It was common for Ian to fail the tests because of his condition. Typically, those failures were chalked up as false positives because of his mechanical valve. The results from Ian’s stress test at Copeman indicated a fail as well.
“When the results of Ian’s stress test came back positive, showing a hypertensive response to exercise, I decided to recommend additional testing,” says Dr. McConville. “With any positive result we usually consider coronary CT angiography. Even with his history of BAV, I called Ian immediately, explained the situation and options for testing and set up a CT scan at Salmon Arm General Hospital.
“The scan identified that he had been leaking blood into his chest cavity just above where the aortic arch was operated on in 2009. It was a small leak, but if it had turned into a big leak, he would have bled out in a minute or two.”
Ian was immediately scheduled for surgery at Kelowna General. The very difficult surgery lasted about eight hours, but in the amazing hands of the cardiac team at Kelowna General, the surgery was a success. Since then Ian has been on the road to recovery.
Looking to the future
“I feel like I’ve won the lottery in so many ways. I’m so fortunate – to have been born in Canada, to have great work partners, for having great surgeons and for Dr. McConville and the rest of my supportive Copeman team.
“I was talking with one of the hospital’s senior cardiologists and he asked about how I found out about the leak. I told him about the failed stress test, which is normal for someone with my history, but that as a precaution my doctor scheduled the scan that detected the leak. He told me, ‘You should buy that physician a very nice bottle of something, because he probably saved your life. If a cardiologist had done that test, they almost certainly would have ruled it out due to BAV.’”
These days, Ian is feeling great with plans to get back into downhill skiing and has his sights set on waterskiing next summer. In the meantime, he continues with his annual Copeman health assessment and is thankful for the power of prevention.
Comprehensive Health Assessments are available at all Copeman Healthcare Centres.