A Bit of Luck and a Push in the Right Direction Saves Patient’s Life

Gordon St John on PageGordon St. John is, by his own admission, “an incredibly lucky person.” About 40 years ago he was working with a client who was a patient at Henry Ford Health System. During a consultation about a life insurance policy, which in most cases requires a medical exam, the client asked Gordon, “When was your last physical?” It had, in fact, been nearly 20 years since Gordon’s last check-up.

For someone who considered himself to be in great shape - regularly lifting weights and playing hockey (he has skated since he was three years old) - the annual physical exam had not made the top of Gordon’s priority list. At his client’s insistence, Gordon scheduled an appointment with a primary care physician at Henry Ford, which began his long relationship with the health system. Gordon says he received great care from the start, with his physician following up with him every year to make sure he was doing well.

About 15 years after scheduling that first appointment, Gordon was at his gym and found himself feeling lightheaded after using the steam room after a workout. He went in to see his doctor, who ordered an EKG. After his doctor reviewed the EKG, Gordon’s case was progressed to the cardiac catheterization lab at Henry Ford Hospital, after which it was discovered that he had a blockage in three arteries.

When they did, the attending cardiologist told Gordon he was “going to take him upstairs” - he needed triple bypass surgery. Stunned, Gordon, who also coached high school hockey and was in the middle of his season, asked if the procedure could wait until their last game in March.

“You'll be dead by March,” was his cardiologist’s response. Gordon underwent surgery several days later.

He thanks the Henry Ford Heart and Vascular Institute for getting him “through an unexpected and dangerous time,” and he credits his former client for giving him the impetus to seek out care in the first place.

In addition to his appreciation for the life-saving care he received at Henry Ford, Gordon also commends the health system’s work in Detroit, noting that it “does an enormous amount for the community.”

In gratitude for the great care he has received from Henry Ford and its doctors, who “have a tremendous amount of empathy for patients from all walks of life,” Gordon and his wife Linda give to the Center for Structural Heart and Disease Fund and the Heart and Vascular Institute Research Fund.

Seemingly indefatigable, Gordon continues to work in the insurance industry and pursue his enduring passion for hockey - he still coaches at Catholic Central High School in Novi, MI - at the age of 82.

On his lifelong penchant for being in the right place at the right time, Gordon echoes Lefty Gomez, an all-star pitcher for the New York Yankees in the 1930s: “I’d rather be lucky than good,” he says.

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