Five years ago, local elementary school teacher Doug Adams underwent open-heart surgery, a five-and-a-half-hour procedure that ultimately saved his life.
Adams was born with a heart condition which caused his aortic valve to only have two flaps to force the blood through the body, as opposed to three.
While he functioned just fine throughout his life, when he turned 44 things changed. He was told he would need to undergo surgery to replace his aortic valve with a mechanical valve.
"It was a little bit shocking at first, but when I put things in perspective, the fear and the worry left me and I knew that it had to be done," Adams said.
Adams, who teaches grades 3/4 at Ecole New Era School, said the recovery was "slow and steady" over a number of months, and is grateful for the care he received from the health system.
Adams is now a board member with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and spoke about his personal survival story at a donor recognition event at Remington’s Seafood and Steakhouse Wednesday night.
"I am really thankful that there were people in the past that made donations to the Heart and Stroke Foundation that were passed on to researchers, that came up with the development of mechanical heart valves and open heart surgery that are now used to save people’s lives," he said. "I’m thankful for the donations that were made in the past because they saved my life."
Another reason Adams wanted to get involved with the foundation is that his father, Jack Adams, died of congestive heart failure at the age of 67.
"I’m hoping that others will continue to want to give, and their donation that they’re giving now may help save their child or their grandchild or friend in the future," he said.
The family established the Jack and Ada Adams and Family Endowment with the Heart and Stroke Foundation to ensure funds will go toward research in perpetuity.
"I hope that we can increase donations and also make people more aware of healthy living and healthy lifestyles so that we can save lives before surgeries and things are needed," he said.
Marc Desrosiers, vice-president of philanthropy with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, said last night’s event was held to recognize donors, volunteers and other supporters.
Desrosiers said Brandonites are very generous, as are folks in Virden, Portage la Prairie, Wawanesa and Winnipeg, to name a few communities. Right now in Manitoba, there are 15 cardiac researchers.
"We fund these 15 researchers, they received almost $700,000 in funding last year, and all of this funding … comes from the donors," he said.
In Brandon, Desrosiers said HSF staff work regularly with elementary school teachers to promote healthy living programs and heart programs.
The event last night also recognized a group of optometrists from Total Eye Care, for their pledge to donate a major gift to HSF over the next five years. The dollar amount will be kept private.
"What we wanted to know was that money is going to prevention," said Dr. Don Williamson of Total Eye Care. "I mean fixing heart disease is one side … and lots of people raise money for that. We really wanted to know that this money was going to go to programs that are going to help people get healthier."
Williamson pointed out that as people age, the only way that they are going to continue to have healthy vision, is if you lived a healthy lifestyle.
"It makes such a huge impact later," he said. "The things that affect vision often are some of the same things that affect heart and stroke … The same prevention for heart and stroke is preventing eye problems down the road. Getting that message out is important to us."