Scarborough and Rouge Hospital (SRH) cardiac patient Robert Dacpano, 41, took a frightening diagnosis and turned it around – for both himself and other patients.
The Pickering resident landed in the emergency department of his local hospital in the fall of 2015 with difficulty breathing. In the hospital for a week of monitoring, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF), diabetes, sleep apnea, and high blood pressure and cholesterol.
“During my stay, I had time to think and reflect on what had just happened,” says Dacpano. “I figured I don’t want to ever end up in this situation again. I needed help. So, I began asking questions. Hospital staff were so receptive and helped me get back on my feet.” He was discharged from the hospital with seven prescriptions, a referral to the Central East Regional Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Service for their six-month rehab program at the Centenary site, and a determination to make significant lifestyle changes.
The rehab program helped him do just that. “Staff were very welcoming and very responsive to anything I needed,” he says. “They provided a lot of resources and education, not only from exercise therapists but pharmacists, dietitians and other health-care professionals. Exercise at the hospital, equipped with a track, bikes, treadmills and weights of all sorts, was also an essential component and was matched to individual’s capabilities and comfort levels.”
Over a period of seven months, Dacpano lost 85 pounds. Today, his CHF and diabetes are now under control, his sleep apnea is no longer an issue, and his blood pressure and cholesterol are back in normal range. Those seven different pills a day he was taking? He doesn’t need them anymore.
As he was losing the weight, Dacpano found something else: a passion for educating others and promoting good health. A senior financial analyst by trade, he has developed a health coaching business for several clients. And he gives back to the hospital that supported him during his remarkable lifestyle transformation: he has recently started volunteering as a Patient and Family Advisor (PFA) at SRH.
In this role, he will join other PFAs in supporting Patient and Family-Centered Care at SRH, which is a philosophy that embraces health-care professionals working together with patients and their families to plan, deliver, evaluate and improve health care. PFAs work with the hospital to develop and promote hospital policies, programs and practices that directly impacts patient care and services. They share their stories, develop patient information pieces, work on short-term projects, and help with hospital recruitment.
As a new PFA, Dacpano has already begun sharing his story and promoting wellness and lifestyle change; in February, he presented at SRH’s Heart to Heart Community Education Session at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. He is also working with a committee to improve a form for congestive heart failure patients, with an eye to keeping it patient-friendly. “I was shown the preliminary forms, and they were very technical,” he says. “This is fine for a physician, but what about the patient? It needs to be easy to understand.”
Dacpano is excited to be giving back to the hospital that gave him so much and welcomes the opportunities that will come with his role as PFA. “I’m looking forward to what’s next and down the road,” he says. “If I can help someone, then I’ll do it.”