It’s a peculiar situation if ever there was one. Parksville, BC, residents John and his wife Carol were on vacation in Arizona in December of 2008 when a horrific pain shot across John's chest and down his arm. He could barely breathe and an ambulance was summoned immediately.
No, it wasn’t a heart attack. Doctors didn’t know what had happened, actually, so a battery of tests were ordered for the 69-year-old, who spent 40 years in the insurance and financial planning business.
Due to a calcium build up in Roberts’ spinal cord, a chain reaction was set off throughout his body, one that eventually led to an aortic valve replacement where a bovine valve replaced his failing aortic valve.
The surgery, performed on April 1, 2009, went off without a hitch – or so Roberts thought.
Six months later Roberts was having some issues and he returned to the hospital. Tests were inconclusive, but with knee surgery scheduled for a few weeks later, the doctors felt it would be a good idea for Roberts to get checked over top to bottom, x-rays and everything.
That’s when it happened.
“I’m laying there in the emergency room for what seems like forever and after a while the doctor comes whipping in with a piece of paper in his hand,” recalled Roberts, a father of two and grandfather of two.
“The doctor said ‘John, are you a Canucks fan?’ I said ‘yes, why do you ask,’ and he said ‘because you’re a living Canuck, look at your heart valve.’”
Doc held up the x-ray and Roberts was shocked to find that his new aortic valve was a dead ringer of Vancouver’s orca logo.
“He showed me the x-ray and then was off running all over the emergency room showing everyone; ‘he’s in bed 8’ he yelled,” laughed Roberts.
At birth, unbeknownst to Roberts, a native of Ontario who met his wife on a blind date nearly 46 years ago, his aortic valve had only two, not three, aorta flaps, causing the heart to lose its efficiency over time.
More than 60 years went by before Roberts became aware of the issue, a non-issue to him these days. His heart is working just fine; he survived Game 7 versus Chicago after all.
“I feel great and who knew surgery could lead to such an absolutely weird and magical thing,” said Roberts, who carries a photo of his orca-valve with him.
“It’s a really bonkers and funny thing, it builds relationships with people who just laugh about it. It’s given other people a chance to laugh, smile, cheer and just enjoy it. That gives me a feeling of goodness, it really pumps me up.”
If you’re wondering if the cardiac surgeon who performed the aortic valve replacement, on April Fools’ Day, was saluting the Canucks in one of the most unique and twisted ways possible, that isn’t the case. He told Roberts that it didn’t go in looking like that.
Of course Roberts’ commitment to the Canucks increased post-surgery and today he is, without a doubt, the heartiest fan around.