A Change of Heart

One summer day while out for a bike ride on his mountain bike, John unexpectedly went headfirst over his handlebars, hitting his head and chest. While in moderate pain after the accident, John decided the incident did not warrant a visit to the doctor. A choice that he would later regret. 

Three days later, John started having irregular heart palpitations, medically known as Atrial Fibrillation (AFIB). While John had experienced AFIB in the past as it runs in his family, the symptoms generally cleared up on their own within a few days. This time, the irregular heart palpitations lasted a month. John also started to gain weight, had no energy for exercise, had terrible back aches, and couldn’t sleep. Finally, after several months of fatigue and chronic pain, John decided to go to the emergency department at his wife’s insistence.

"These doctors gave me a gift and I am not going to waste it. Every day I am still here after what happened is divine time."
- John Beaton

On the day he went to the hospital, John could barely walk to the car. He was so weak that an ambulance had to be called to take him to the hospital. After checking his heart rate, the EMT was in disbelief at how low John’s heart rate had fallen. Once at the Royal Alex, John was immediately directed to the ICU.

And, at the moment John entered the ICU, he went into cardiac arrest and died. 

“The fact I was in the ICU at that exact moment was a godsend,” he said. John laid on the floor of the ICU for nine-and-a-half minutes before his heart started again. A doctor immediately jumped on his chest and performed CPR. He was in a coma for five days and remained in hospital for three weeks. John’s heart muscles had become so weak they could only pump blood at a rate of 17% – 25% of a normal heart. John’s weight gain was caused by severe swelling due to Edema, as his heart was not adequately circulating blood throughout his body, causing him to inflate to almost 340 pounds. The back pain and fatigue he experienced were side effects of heart failure. Cardiologists at the CK Hui had to use cardioversion to shock his heart out of AFIB. It took three months to get his heart back up to 40%. 


“After that experience, I did everything the doctors said. I followed food guidelines and started exercising again. Took the medications every day. And since then, if you can believe it, I’ve made a full recovery,” John said. 

“Thinking back, it’s wild: I had my accident in July that caused me to have AFIB. I died in November. Spent weeks in the hospital. And then ran 10k on my 54th birthday the year after.”

John’s life-altering change of heart comes with a whole lot of thanks for the teams at the Royal Alexandra Hospital Emergency Department and the CK Hui Heart Centre. 

“Best hospital in the world as far as I am concerned,” he said. “These doctors gave me a gift and I am not going to waste it. Every day I am still here after what happened is divine time.”

“Thanks to the doctors, the nurses, the techs that came and took the blood, the people who come and clean—these are all amazing people. They showed me amazing care and I’ll never stop being grateful.”

“I even got a tattoo!” John shared with excitement. “Of stone arrowheads. They mean don’t give up, and if you’re going down, go down fighting.”