Jasmin Labrie: from the operating table to the board of directors
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It’s no secret that some factors such as tobacco use, a sedentary lifestyle, age, and an unhealthy diet can lead to heart disease. But did you know that even the healthiest of individuals can still experience heart problems? Take a stroll through the Montreal Heart Institute and you’ll quickly discover that our patients come from all walks of life.
The story of Jasmin Labrie, 29, is proof of this. Mr. Labrie is an active, energetic, and ambitious entrepreneur with an impressive list of achievements under his belt. He has invested his body and soul in his company, he is involved within the community, and sits on several boards of directors, including the one at the Montreal Heart Institute Foundation. Hard to believe that he underwent open-heart surgery last June.
And yet, he did.
The surgical intervention
Jasmin Labrie was born with tetralogy of Fallot, a condition caused by a combination of four congenital heart defects. As a child, he was a patient at the CHU Sainte-Justine where he was operated on at the age of 7. It was only a matter of time until he would need to undergo another surgery to replace his pulmonary valve.
His patient file was transferred to the Montreal Heart Institute when he turned 18. The Institute’s specialists monitored his condition every year, looking for signs of weakness or shortness or breath which would indicate heart failure. Everything was fine until January 2020 when they detected a slight arrythmia. “I came back in April to pass an exercise stress test. I felt fine but after looking at my results, the radiologist asked me if I felt okay and told me I should sit down immediately. They sent me to the ER. I had ventricular tachycardia.”
The time had come for the second surgical procedure.
The highs and lows of recovering during a pandemic
The open-heart surgery took place on June 25, 2020. Dr. Nancy Poirier and her team implanted a bovine pulmonary valve into Mr. Labrie, a procedure that was carried off without a hitch. “During the first few hours after the surgery, I was conscious and kind of on a high. I was chatting with my family, friends, it was surprising. I was even able to get up and sit down!” The following days were a bit harder. In pain, Mr. Labrie had trouble eating and was sleeping most of the time. “It was a three-day nightmare,” he says. The only source of comfort was the medical staff since the pandemic meant he couldn’t have any visitors.
“The quality of the service I received was incredible. Everyone who came into my room was caring, from the physicians to the attendants. They all looked after me.” Mr. Labrie is quick to praise his cardiologist, Dr. Blandine Mondésert, and is grateful for the time she took to explain every part of the process, even using drawings when needed. She was reassuring and available whenever he needed her. Mr. Labrie even became friends with nurse Mohamma Mourad who answered his questions and regularly checked in on him. “We’re now friends on Facebook. We’ll write every now and again, he wants to know how I’m doing.” His Foundation colleagues were also a source of support during his hospitalization and throughout his recovery.
He was released from the hospital at the beginning of July, after several days of ups and downs. Two weeks later, he was back at work, remotely, and after a month, he was able to drive again. “At the beginning of August, I was hiking on a mountain in Gaspésie with friends! I’m in better shape now than I ever was.”
From patient to mentor
Mr. Labrie wants to volunteer to help young kids who are getting ready for an open-heart surgery. “It’s important for me to share my experience with someone going down the same path I did at around the same age I was.” The goal is to reassure the patient throughout their journey, from preparation to recovery. “If you went through that surgery yourself, you’re able to tell someone not to worry and let them know what they can expect. I can tell them they’ll be doing better in X days, X weeks.” As a mentor, he’ll also be able to answer any questions the patient has. It’s an invaluable human connection that complements the medical care provided at the Institute.
The Foundation: a way to give back
Mr. Labrie has been actively involved in the Foundation, even prior to his surgery. He became a member of the emerging leaders committee, les Ambitieux, in 2018 and a member of the board of directors in December 2020. “It was obvious to me that I had to invest in this cause that I care deeply about. I’m a patient at the Institute and they’ve always taken very good care of me. This is my way of giving back to the community.” Les Ambitieux are responsible for organizing the HeartBeat event to raise funds for the Foundation. By being part of both the Committee and the board of directors, Mr. Labrie has become a bridge between the two groups, conveying the Foundation’s vision to the young members of the committee while paving the way for new board members.
At the heart of the Foundation: a dedicated community
“The team is outstanding. Everyone is fully committed and wants to organize memorable events. They also make sure to reach out to their network for support.” The donations have a direct impact on patients and the annual reports are proof of this: new pavilions, cutting-edge equipment, research projects… “We know that the money raised isn’t just set aside. We bear witness to the progress being made.”
Cutting-edge technology to the service of patients
While lying on the operating table, Mr. Labrie was able to see for himself how the Institute relies on state-of-the-art equipment to take care of patients. “Giant pieces of equipment, big screens, and the large trustworthy medical team all reassured me and helped me to let go. I was no longer in control of my body but I was leaving it in good hands!” That’s one of the tangible impacts of the donations raised by the Foundation.
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