Petrolia Mayor Brad Loosley has always know heart problems run in his family. But when doctors told him he needed open heart surgery earlier this year, he was surprised.
The second-term mayor has been keeping a low profile lately, taking a leave of absence from council three months ago when doctors first told him he would need bypass surgery. Last week, council extended the leave until the end of the year, but Loosley isn’t expecting to be gone that long.
He just needed some extra time to deal with a cardiac arrhythmia – basically an irregular heart beat – which has left him short of breath when talking or climbing stairs.
While the mayor’s doctors only began active testing about a year-and-a-half ago, Loosley says he’s been aware of his heart health for some time since heart disease runs in his family.
“My dad died with a heart attack. My older brother passed away a year ago, he had heart problems. My younger brother’s had stents put in,” he told The Independent during an interview at his home Tuesday.
He and wife, Wendy, had just become patients of Dr. Enoch Daniel, who suggested they should take a deeper look just to make sure everything was alright.
Loosley went to the Dr. George Farag – Sarnia’s main cardiologist – for some testing and later to London for more tests.
“The one day I was there, they wouldn’t put the dye in it because they said there was way too much calcium around my heart … so they couldn’t see it. So then I went saw Dr. Farag again a couple of weeks later, he said ‘there’s something wrong. I’m going to send you back for an angiogram.”
Loosley says the procedure didn’t take too long, but it took a while for the doctor to return. And when he did, he didn’t have good news.
“He came out and said ‘you need open heart surgery’ – so they showed me that picture of my heart and I could see where the lines were blocked or stopped so the blood wasn’t getting to the other side of the heart.”
Three weeks later, Loosley was in an operating room for six hours as surgeons repaired his heart. Five days later, he was headed to his son’s home where Jay and his wife, Tina, a paramedic and nurse, could help care for him for the first couple of weeks.
Loosley says it took a while to breathe normally again – during the procedure, the lungs are collapsed and it takes some time and exercise to recover. And he was improving, although his voice was raspy because of the medical equipment. Then, Loosley found he was suddenly breathless.
“I’m walking. I can walk at a slow pace but as soon as I speed it up, holy cow or go up the stairs too fast,” Loosley says shaking his head.
Doctors in Sarnia recognized the problem right away, saying his heart was simply going too fast.
Wendy says the top two chambers are “fluttering” and the bottom two are trying to keep up.
The arrhythmia can be fixed by stopping the heart.
“They will stop the heart and then they restarted with electric shocks… to try and get me back on my proper rhythm,” he says. That’s scheduled for late July.
“I don’t expect to be off till Christmas,” Loosley says. “There’s no way. I just gotta get over this. And the reason I asked for the extension because of this cardioversion thing in July; I want to make sure everything’s okay with that.
“I’ve had a few scares (with shortness of breath) that have told me I gotta slow down.”
So, the mayor has been reading more novels than he ever has before.
He’s also out for short walks with his wife three times a day and doing the exercises assigned by his doctors to regain his strength.
And he’s been getting regular updates about council from Acting Mayor Joel Field.
“I read the papers, I got my iPad. I read the agendas and stuff to keep up with them. I skim it, but I don’t get into details,” he says admitting it hasn’t been easy to slow down.
“I’ve always been kind of hyper…this is a big adjustment for me.”