Mike’s Story: The Power of an Echocardiogram

Mike and Ethel spent many years roaming the globe, often spending six months away at a time. From Machu Picchu to Singapore, they took in the wonders of the world. Today, they’re most grateful for something they have access to right here at home.

It all began in Barbados in 2017. Mike suddenly fell short of breath while snorkelling.

Ethel knew something was wrong. “I had to drag him out of the water,” she says. “He was grey and he could hardly walk.”

On the advice of a cardiologist, Mike had an echocardiogram—the first of many to come. It revealed a leaky heart valve. Mike’s heart was not functioning as well as it should. He was given medication, and was able to rest and finish his holiday.

When he returned to Canada, Mike met with Dr. Shetty, a cardiologist at Royal Jubilee Hospital (RJH) and the Echocardiography Medical Lead for Island Health. “We felt like we won the lottery after that,” says Mike. “We found Dr. Shetty and his office staff to be very caring. It’s almost like you’re part of the family.”

Dr. Shetty ran several tests using specialized equipment, including another echocardiogram. They confirmed that he was in congestive heart failure.

“I felt the reality set in that we’re only here for a short time,” Mike says. With two adult children living in Victoria, he was concerned for his family.

This year, Mike’s health challenges persisted. In July, his body started retaining fluid and he was admitted to Royal Jubilee Hospital. He spent two weeks in the cardiac unit.

A month later, Mike’s condition worsened again.

“I found him unresponsive and had to call 9-1-1,” says Ethel, a former ICU nurse. “I tried to take his blood pressure, and there was nothing.”

Mike was admitted again. Now with atrial fibrillation, an irregular, often rapid heart rhythm.

This October, Mike underwent a cardioversion—a procedure to shock his heart to try to restore its regular rhythm. Thankfully, the procedure was successful.

Despite all the uncertainty, both Mike and Ethel take comfort in the excellent care he received. “I found all the staff to be very caring. They always explained to me what they were doing. I found it quite soothing,” he says.

Mike has always been an advocate of philanthropy, and has sat on the boards of various local charities. He and Ethel are passionate about giving back. “We’re privileged to have the best care, but only because we all support our hospitals,” says Ethel. “It makes all the difference when you don’t have to fly to Vancouver—you have the best care right here.”

Today, Mike’s condition has stabilized and he’s realistic about his heart health. “It’s difficult to accept that most of your body parts are past their best-before date. But I feel comforted that I am getting the best care possible right here in Victoria. I’m very grateful for that.”