Bishop Philip Poole, the retired area bishop of York-Credit Valley, is resting comfortably at home after suffering a heart attack in Halifax in early September.
Bishop Poole, 65, was on a six-city tour to promote the Compass Rose Society, an organization that supports the programs of ministries of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Consultative Council.
Bishop Poole, who is the past president of the organization, was walking through the Halifax airport after a flight from Newfoundland when he felt tension in his chest. After checking into his hotel room, the pain got worse.
“It felt like a ball under my sternum – a strong, consistent ache that was strengthening,” he says. “I usually tolerate pain well but this was really too much.”
He was surprised because the pain wasn’t like any heart attack symptom he had heard of. “I didn’t have tightening across my chest. I didn’t have pain down my arm. It didn’t radiate and move around in the way I anticipated. I wasn’t dizzy or had to sweats – all of which I anticipated happening if I was going to have a heart attack. It was just a big pain in the middle of my chest.”
He took a taxi to the nearest hospital and was immediately taken into the critical care unit, where he received an electrocardiogram and was told by a doctor that he was having a heart attack. Within 30 minutes he was in an operating room having a stent inserted, followed by angioplasty to unclog a major artery. He was awake throughout the procedure.
“The staff was brilliant in talking me through it all, and as soon as it was done I could feel instant relief from the pain,” he says.
He was returned to the critical care unit and his wife, Karen, was by his bedside within five hours, having flown down from Toronto. He was released from hospital two days later and they were both back home by Sept. 19.
His doctor says there was minimal damage to his heart and he is expected to make a full recovery. For the time being, however, he’s taking it easy, having a walk and a nap every day. He admits the inactivity is a challenge.
“What I need is a patience pill,” he jokes. “I want to be active. I believe life was meant to be lived. But I have to be reasonable about it. I’ll probably take the next few months off before I start doing too much.”
He says he learned a couple of valuable lessons from the experience. “One is that I want to say don’t try to tough it out. You’ve got to pay attention to your body. Be smart about it. If I hadn’t gone to the hospital, it might have been a much different result. The other thing I learned is that not all heart attacks are the same. The kind of heart attack I had was not what I expected. You need to be aware. The symptoms can be very different.”
Due to his heart attack, Bishop Poole had to retire a few days earlier than planned as the area bishop of York-Credit Valley. But he still made his presence felt at the September meeting of Diocesan Council. Although not there in person, he sent a letter of appreciation to Council, expressing his thanks for all those in the diocese and across the Anglican Communion who had been praying for him. At the end of his letter, he moved that the meeting be adjourned – a motion he has moved at countless previous Council meetings. Council laughed heartily and approved it. Members also formally thanked him for his leadership and ministry in the church.