Nazru Deen

Memoir chronicles Naz’s ‘No better life,’ thanks to the help of the Ottawa Heart Institute

My name is Nazru (Naz) Deen, and this is my story about how the Ottawa Heart Institute extended my life.

I was born in a small village in Trinidad eight decades ago, and then lived in England before arriving in Canada in 1968.

Professionally, I was a Superintendent of Education for the Carleton Board of Education. I have been married to my wife Bea for more than 50 years, and we have two adult sons and three grandchildren.

Although it had never really affected me in my early life, I was diagnosed with a heart defect as a teenager. But 20 years ago, my family doctor referred me to a cardiologist. His reasoning was: If an emergency situation arose, I would be with “the right person…and we can save you a lot of time.”

Becoming a patient

That’s when I was first introduced to the Ottawa Heart Institute, and to Dr. Luc Beauchesne. Unfortunately, Dr. Beauchesne had bad news for me; my heart valve had become so deteriorated that I was only functioning at about 25 per cent capacity.

And I was supposed to be travelling the very next week to Italy for a family reunion! Dr. Beauchesne told me I shouldn’t be going anywhere, because I was going to have surgery that summer.

I was sent home, and advised to never be more than a 20-minute drive from a hospital.

Close to home

Two weeks later, while I was playing golf with my wife, a storm was about to hit. We rushed off the course. That small sprint had me feeling short of breath and increasingly uncomfortable throughout that day.

That night, I made my way to the hospital and I was immediately admitted to the Heart Institute. While I hadn’t experienced a heart attack, Dr. Beauchesne wanted to keep me there at the hospital, and get me into surgery more quickly.

Within one week, I had a brand-new heart valve, and 10 days after surgery, I was home.

Post-surgery challenges

However, I had somehow picked up a bacterial infection and so I was rushed back to the Heart Institute. I was very lucky. The great doctors reacted with speed and urgency, and caught that infection before it could enter my bloodstream and damage the new valve or any of my organs.

I was sent home again, but needed to stay put for several weeks. Arranged by the Heart Institute, a nurse came to see me every day. “Normal life” resumed three months after dealing with the infection.

My greatest challenge was building back my strength and getting back to normal breathing again. I was very short of breath during that entire time, and became more conscious of how close to death one can become.

I followed the Heart Institute’s rehab program and increased the intensity gradually on the treadmill.

I also got back to playing golf. In fact, two years after I received my valve, the man I was playing with asked if I had ever been a patient at the Ottawa Heart Institute. I said yes. Suddenly I realized: this man was Dr. Jean-Yves Dupuis, the head of anaesthesiology! Given the many patients the hospital treats on a daily basis, I was amazed that he would have remembered me.

After my heart valve was installed, I have been having yearly check-ups. During my last annual check-up in November 2015, tests showed that my heart was receiving less oxygen than it should have been getting. I needed a pacemaker – and quickly.

Surgery couldn’t have happened soon enough: only two days after learning that I needed a pacemaker, I blacked out in the basement of my home. I went back to the hospital, and had a pacemaker put in within days. That was back in February.

Now it’s been a few months, and I feel that having the pacemaker has made a tremendous difference. I go to a special clinic for pacemaker wearers, and am due to go back in September. At that time, the staff will adjust it to the rhythm of my body and level of activity.

The heart is a phenomenal organ, and the Heart Institute is a phenomenal place.

Paying it forward

A wise person once said you can never pay back for all the good deeds from which you have benefitted: instead of trying to pay back, aim to pay forward. This has been a philosophy by which my wife and I have always tried to live by.

Meanwhile, I have had a storied life that many others have said to me is blessed. As such, I have written a memoir called No Better Life. The book is about my personal and professional life, as well as a celebration of teaching as a profession. I plan to donate all proceeds from book sales to three Ottawa charities, including the Ottawa Heart Institute.

The Ottawa Heart Institute is a ‘human’ place, amazing in every way. I’ve never been anything but ecstatic about the quality of service they have provided me. They are world-class not only for their second-to-none technical expertise, but because of their approach to service.

Only as a patient of the institute can one truly realize the tremendous quality of health care that we are privileged to enjoy.

As I near my 80th birthday, I feel eternally grateful to have had my life extended by the Ottawa Heart Institute.

To order a copy of No Better Life ($20 + shipping), e-mail Naz Deen at nbdeen@aol.com.

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