'twas the night before Christmas

Fall 2016

It was a typically busy Christmas season for cardiac surgeon Dr. Bob Kiaii.

On Dec. 24 he had two cardiac surgeries booked for the morning, and he performed two more emergency surgeries later in the day. The third surgery was a special one given the day ahead.

For patient Don Reid it was also a typically busy season leading up to Christmas. Don is Santa Claus at a local mall, something he’s been doing in London for about 20 years now, and he has a loyal following of children and parents.

On Dec. 19 Don was at home making a cup of tea and suddenly felt this chest pain. He started sweating and decided he better lie down. The symptoms didn’t lessen so Don called 911 and told EMS he thought he was having a heart attack.

“The ambulance took me to the University Hospital emergency department, and they brought me straight through to the cardiac catheterization lab to put in a stent,” says Don. Then he was taken upstairs to the cardiac care unit.

After the insertion of the stent, Don felt just fine and ready to go home.

“I told the doctor, I feel great!”

However, his cardiologist determined he was not quite ready to return home. Don had one artery on the right side that was completely blocked, which is where the stent was inserted, and another very critical artery on the left side that was 80 per cent blocked.

On Dec. 24, Dr. Kiaii, Chief of Cardiac Services, conducted double bypass surgery.

While he had experienced chest pains once about a year prior, Don says he was surprised by his diagnosis.

“I said to the resident, this came out of the blue. I didn’t have chest pain or any of the other symptoms,” says Don.

“And the resident told me ‘no, you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes; so it really didn’t come out of the blue.’”

Don’s heart condition and surgery are quite common, says Dr. Kiaii.

“The best advice is to be preventative. Try to avoid or minimize the risk by keeping your cholesterol low, watch your diet, and stay as active as possible. If you’re a diabetic, make sure you keep your sugar levels under control to minimize the increased risk from the diabetes,” says Dr. Kiaii.

For Don, his surgery came at just the right time and his recovery has gone very well.

A widower, he is back to living his life as a father, grandfather, and great grandfather.

The long-time actor and volunteer radio host -- you can hear his classical show on Fanshawe Radio 106.9 on Sunday afternoons – looks forward to his gig as Santa this Christmas.

“I love my job. It is an overall love for people and experience, the human condition.”

And speaking of love, Don is engaged. “I’m 82 and in love. Love knows no reason, caution goes out the window!”

As for his experience at LHSC?

“I never got the impression that I was just another patient. I received devoted attention from everyone, from the nurses to the medical staff. Food services staff was good, anything they could get for me, little things make such a difference,” says Don.

“The hugs I got from the nurses when I was discharged, that was something. They were so nice to me. The care was first rate. They really cared about what they were doing.”

It seems last Christmas it was Santa who got the big gift.


Next Article
The cardiac surgery team includes (back row to front) Erica DiCola, J.P Mousseau, Tyler Poulter, Dr. Chris Harle, Dr. Uthman Aluthman, Arlene Hamilton, Leslie Orendorff-Robson, and Dr. Bob Kiaii.
Santa in the hall at University Hospital.