Heart disease is often times referred to as a 'silent killer' because it's difficult to detect before someone falls critically ill. Taking control of those things that are considered risk factors for heart disease – blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, physical activity, smoking, stress – can both lower your risk and protect you from other diseases. But sometimes, heart disease is hereditary and even lowering risks can't replace consistent professional heart monitoring.
Our employees share their stories about cardiovascular wellness, healthy initiatives, and more.
Joseph Adelfio, Administrative Clerk, Davenport, IA
Once or twice a month, Davenport, Iowa-based CP administrative clerk Joseph Adelfio makes the round-trip journey to help cancer patients fight their battles by donating platelets and plasma at the Vitalant Villa Park, Ill., clinic. We all want to make the world better for those around us, and this is Adelfio's way of doing it.
"Pretty much every person in my family has some sort of thing they have to take pills for," he said. "Someone's got a bad thyroid. Heart attacks and cancer run high in my family. People have high blood pressure. I'm the only child out of six that has literally nothing wrong with me. I took that as a blessing."
Specific to the need for blood donations, Adelfio's older brother has an immune deficiency. "He constantly has to have transfusions to keep him from getting infections," Adelfio said. "That takes a toll on me, knowing that you need people to donate to help my own personal family."
A little goes a long way. Platelet and plasma donations take about two hours to complete. Nurses connect donors like Adelfio to an apheresis machine, which draws blood and separates the blood's three main components: plasma, platelets and red blood cells. It then returns the red blood cells to the donor. The process is important because it enables the donor to give up to 24 times per year, while whole blood donors can only give a few times per year, as the body takes time to replenish its red blood cells.
Adelfio is an ideal donor for two reasons: His O-positive blood type means his platelets and plasma can be transfused into patients with any blood type. Also, his platelet counts are much higher than most people's – "astronomically high," he says. Typically, doctors like to line up five plasma donors in advance of a major surgery to ensure enough supply. Adelfio once gave enough plasma for two patients – in a single donation.
"Knowing that I have that opportunity and that I can produce what most people can't, it's what keeps me going," he said. "I strongly recommend that everyone who is able, should reach out to their local donation center and help to donate. Every little bit helps to save a life."
Jeff Piush, Lead Wireman, Winnipeg, MB
My 10 year old daughter's [biological] dad had a heart attack and passed away at 32 years of age. My daughter was only six months old at the time. He was found to have a hereditary heart disease that had also caused his mother's passing.
I met my daughter when she was 18 months old. Every year we take her to Variety Club here in Winnipeg to monitor her heart and make sure she is safe. Thankfully, so far, she shows no signs of heart disease. Without this service at Variety though, we would not be able to monitor her progress. This helps give us piece of mind and allows my daughter to lead a happy and healthy lifestyle.
I would definitely give my donation to Variety.
Photo: Left to right: Candice, Chelsea, Jeff and Ava
Supervisor CAD, Engineering, Minneapolis, MN
Heart disease has had a life changing impact on my life and that of my husband. In 2013 my husband, Nicholas Staples, passed away from a massive heart attack at our home at the age of 33.
Nick suffered from Cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle becomes weaker, thick or rigid, and is less able to pump blood through the body and maintain a normal electrical rhythm. Nick knew he had Cardiomyopathy for a year or so, but I do not believe that he knew the severity of his condition. I don't recall Nick suffering from the signs and symptoms of the disease much, other than fatigue and cou ghing, but Nick was on medication which would have reduced these symptoms. Nick, who was a manager at CP's St. Paul Yard Locomotive Shop, was like every man and didn't complain much about his health, and was due in for his checkup the week following his heart attack.
Having lost my husband to heart disease I think of heart health as a serious problem in our society and one that has cost me and my husband's family greatly. My advice to anyone that is reading this is to get CPR qualified, maintain those qualifications and be ready to act. I performed CPR on my husband Nick, but unfortunately, due in part to the time it took for the first responders to get to our home, Nick never really had a chance. Nick was a wonderful man and husband.
I would be honored if CP chose the MN chapter of the American Heart Association for one of the $2,500 donations in honor of Nick Staples.
Conductor, Sutherland Terminal, Saskatoon, SK
I read the bulletin about the company's desire to know what Cardiovascular and Heart Disease means to its employees. The bulletin struck quite close to me as my father had just had a stroke this last December. It is so easy to think that heart disease doesn't affect me or my family, but this is the second scare my family has had. My mother had a pretty severe heart attack just over 5 years ago, and is lucky to be alive. She was dealing with her own father's death 2 weeks earlier and the number one similar symptom my parents shared in their experience was denial. I am so glad that both of them had each other during these traumatic events. I almost lost both my parents within 5 years of each other. The second similar symptom they shared was a near perfect outcome. The deficits are easy to see at early stages of recovery, but even my father is expected to make a full recovery.
Canadians die every day of heart and cardiovascular disease, but it is preventable. Even with early detection there are many ways to reverse a potentially fatal prognosis. My mother was a smoker my whole life up until the day she had her heart attack. Now, she has turned her lifestyle around and in the face of adversity she is living a healthier lifestyle for our family. My father is a very healthy and active man and was told that some people are just predisposed to this disease. He is still recovering and we are all in his corner.
Cardiovascular and heart health is now more relevant to me and my family than ever before. Five years might seem like only days compared to others who have been fighting and recovering from this disease for longer, but it's important to me, because of the research that doctors and scientists do is the only reason my parents are alive today. Drugs, treatments and therapeutic studies are all results of heart health research funding and it means something to me that the company I work for is making this difference. If there was someone I could directly thank at the company I would. It means the world to me.
Locomotive Engineer, Thunder Bay, ON
Prior to February 2015, Heart health didn't mean much to me, sure I was always thinking about it... my dad had a quadruple bypass in his 50's but I mean I was different. Every physical I had showed my heart rate and pulse to be normal and my family doctor never said anything bad about it except I had to quit smoking.
I smoked since I was about 10, a pack a day from 16 to 51.
And then it all changed on February 14, 2015. Valentine's Day of all days, I was in the bunkhouse at my away from home terminal in Ignace, Ontario. It seemed like a normal day, I got up in the morning, went outside and had my morning coffee and cigarette, aside from being away from home and wondering when I would be home to spend Valentine 's Day with my wife and family. As I walked back to my room I could feel my chest and back tightening like someone was squeezing me in a big bear hug. I tried stretching and it just didn't feel right. I could hardly hold my coffee cup. I called my conductor's room and told him what was happening. He rushed over to my room and walked me to the main booking-in room and called an ambulance. The paramedics arrived and gave me some aspirin, the pain subsided, and now I had a choice to make: go to the hospital or let it pass and go see my doctor when I get back to Thunder Bay.
I didn't want to take a chance and went to the hospital which was an hour away, the wrong way though - the closest hospital was in Dryden, Ontario, another hour west of Thunder Bay.
The paramedic thought something didn't look right with the ECG he was doing and felt it was the best to go to the hospital. Sure enough, I did have a heart attack and waited 4 days to get back to Thunder Bay for an angiogram that resulted in me getting a stent put in as I had a 95% blockage.
A couple of months later I was back at work, going through Cardiac Rehab and feeling the best I have in many years.
Thunder Bay Regional hospital is becoming a larger and better hospital expanding many services available to patients like angiograms and hopefully heart surgery in the near future. Heart Health in Northern Ontario is one of the best improvements in health care and the Northern Cardiac Fund deserves every penny it raises through the Thunder Bay Regional Health Services Foundation!
Son of Leonard Lewis, Engineer, London ON
Hello CP, my name is David M. Lewis; I am 20 years old and currently attend Saint Mary's University in Halifax where I study Physics and Geology. I am the son of Leonard Lewis. My father is an engineer for CP in London, Ontario. While I wasn't conscious of the importance of heart health at the time, it is something that has affected both me and the loved ones around me since the day I was born. It is a stressful and hard job raising a child, even more when your child is sick.
Despite the several abnormalities in my heart, I consider myself to be very fortunate. My congenital heart disease (CHD) has not restricted me from the things I most enjoy unlike many other people born with CHD. While my condition prevented me from participating in high impact sports, I was still able to enjoy my favourite sport of hockey by being the goalie. I was also fortunate enough to do competitive running, soccer and volleyball for the majority of my life. Moreover, I am still very much allowed to play the majority of sports, and attend overnight summer camps.
If I were to be to chosen to receive $2,500 to go to a charity, the money would go to Lonny's Smile, the main charity of Camp Oki. Camp Oki is a camp that runs through The Hospital for Sick Children Cardiology department allowing kids with "special" hearts to enjoy a week at an overnight camp. The camp was first started in 2004, by Cardiologist Dr. Kirsh, at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He noticed that many kids with CHD were denied [participation] by many camps due to the child's underlying heart condition that require the child to take medications and have close medical supervision. Therefore, this camp not only gives an opportunity for children with congenital heart disease to feel comfortable with their scars and overcome their fears, but also for parents to feel relief that their children are having fun and are provided medical supervision by the doctors and nurses from The Hospital for Sick Children. Parents' relief is something that is very important to me, as I have witnessed the stress that my CHD has caused my parents. My parents have both mentioned that Camp Oki allows a stress-free feeling for them because they know that their child is in good hands.
This camp has been a huge part of my life: I am now an ambassador for Camp Oki. I have spoken at fundraisers in the past and currently writing an article for Lonny's Smile February Newsletter. This camp means the world to me and my family; and I love to continue giving back to this camp.
Assistant to VP HR/LR, Calgary, AB
"Heart Health" took on a whole new meaning for me on Aug. 30, 2014 when my husband Ken had a heart attack. Ken arrived home from volunteering as a standard-bearer (walking 18 holes) at the Shaw Charity Classic PGA golf tournament and made himself a snack.
I was outside watering my plants, and when I returned into the house in a matter of 10 minutes, he said he did not feel good and that he was dizzy/nauseous. I asked him to lie down on the couch and hopefully it would pass, but he kept repeating that he did not feel good. I asked him if he wanted me to drive him to emergency and he said "Yes." I quickly ran upstairs and in a matter of two minutes I heard him yell "You better call 911!"
On the phone with the paramedics, Ken laid on the couch squirming and complaining about being uncomfortable. Once 911 confirmed the ambulance was on the way and that I could hang up, Ken's symptoms worsened to shortness of breath and pain in his chest and left arm. Waiting for the ambulance was the longest seven minutes of our lives. The two paramedics that arrived were terrific and within a few minutes had stabilized Ken and whisked him away to the South Health Campus Hospital.
Still, at this point, we had no idea what was wrong with him, and didn't think it was a heart-related as he had no family history of heart disease. We were both blown away when we got the diagnosis from the doctor that Ken had actually had a heart attack and would be transferred to the Foothills Hospital for an angioplasty and stent.
This experience proved when the health care system works, it really works! He spent three days in cardiac ICU and one more day in cardiac before he was released. He is now on a cocktail of prescription drugs, complete with unpredictable side effects.
Doctors confirmed there was no rhyme or reason for the heart attack, just the luck of the draw. Ken was very lucky that the sequence of events occurred very quickly and he was at the right place at the right time. Due to the quick response and Ken being in pretty good shape to start off with, there was little damage to his heart.
My husband and I considered ourselves healthy people and healthy eaters. After this event, I scrutinize our health more than ever. We always watch our sodium, fat/trans-fat, and sugar intake, exercise daily and try to reduce stress and get lots of sleep. We view things differently now and, I know it is so cliché, but we do live each day to its fullest, as those that have had a life changing event come to understand and appreciate. Your life can change in a second.
Crane Operator, Weston Shops, Winnipeg, MB
My name is Joel Kennedy. I am a CP employee working out of Weston Shops in Winnipeg. I am a Crane operator.
I was married to my beautiful wife, Samantha, in August of 2015 and took two weeks' vacation after for our "honeymoon." The first few days Samantha felt kind of ill, so instead of going to the cabin we stuck around home so she could recover before we started the honeymoon. She was prescribed an antibiotic. After a day or two we gathered up all three kids and headed to the lake to spend some good family time together. But Samantha did not get any better so after a couple days we headed home.
Within a couple days she seemed to feel better, and one evening about a week after getting married we were lying in bed when her chest started to hurt. Her heart rate was erratic and beating very fast. Within minutes her arms and legs went numb and felt like her heart was going to beat right out of her chest. We called an ambulance and Samantha was rushed to hospital and placed in the resuscitation room.
There were many doctors and Paramedics who kept coming over to look at the heart monitor that my wife was hooked up to. They all looked shocked and very concerned. Her heart rate was 275 BPM and was not dropping at all. Her heart was beating so fast that a reading could not be taken that would show what her heart was actually doing.
This was a very real and traumatic experience for our family and has affected our quality of life in a very big way. It really affected me as I almost lost my wife after being married for only a week. She is now on medication to keep her heart rate at 50 BPM, and has yet to get a positive diagnosis of what heart condition she is dealing with. Samantha is not even thirty years old.
My wife Samantha has been left without an understanding of what exactly is wrong with her heart and lives in fear everyday of having heart failure. This has affected all aspects of her and our lives. I feel that more needs to be done to shorten the ever so long waiting lists for specialists and to make these services more accessible. Heart disease is one of the top killers of women. Heart health is of utmost importance and needs more research and funding. I would like to congratulate CP for being on the front lines of this battle and supporting and funding this very important research.