Patient Stories

Marathon runner gets new lease on life

Doug Leask

This past summer, people were shocked at the devastation caused by the wildfires burning in British Columbia, Alberta and northern Saskatchewan. Regina resident Doug Leask didn’t just watch. As a Red Cross volunteer, he was one of many who helped extinguish the fires in northern Saskatchewan and Kamloops, British Columbia.

Each day he volunteered, he recorded up to 19,000 steps on his Fitbit. Staying active is important to Doug because six years ago he had a wake-up call. He had always had regular checkups and the only red flag was slightly elevated cholesterol.      

A runner, Doug had completed several marathons and half marathons. But in 2010, while training to run his eleventh marathon, he started having trouble breathing. He went to his doctor and they thought his problem was either lung-related or heart-related, so his doctor prescribed a puffer for him. For the first month, he thought they had the answer.

While in Hawaii that March, Doug continued to train for the marathon, but again he found himself short of breath. When he returned home, he saw a cardiologist who performed a stress test on him. Although he could stay on the machine longer than the average person, his cardiologist did not like what he was seeing on the monitors. Sure enough, when the machine stopped at the end of the test, Doug became dizzy and stumbled.

He was admitted to Regina General Hospital where the doctors performed an angiogram - a procedure used to detect blockages or narrowing in the coronary arteries. They discovered several of Doug’s arteries were blocked, some up to 90 per cent. Doctors performed surgery the following Monday. In total, he needed seven bypasses.

My treatment was amazingly quick and I had excellent care,” says Doug. “Hospitals of Regina Foundation raises funds to invest in the best technology for our hospitals; and having the right equipment and technology allows our local hospitals to attract and retain great doctors, like mine.When asked what advice he would give other patients, he says, “Don’t be afraid of this type of surgery. It is major, but we have access to the best care and technology in the world.”

He also jokes about the number of doctors who stopped by to see him. “They all wanted to meet the 10-time marathoner who had to have bypass surgery.”

“We are fortunate to have one of Canada’s best cardiac centres right here in Regina,” says Dino Sophocleous, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “The generosity of the community has helped create this cardiac centre of excellence that has helped countless people across southern Saskatchewan, like Doug, live better lives.

Because of his experience at Regina’s hospital, Doug is a firm believer that great health care should be local.

Today, the 65-year-old still runs four to seven kilometres a day and has completed two half marathons since his surgery. He is also a minor football official, and plays slow pitch and golf.

To learn more about the world-class care patients receive at Regina's Mosaic Heart Centre, click here to watch a short video.
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