stories with heart Just a Heartbeat Away

CK Hui Heart Centre patient is grateful to get back to his favourite place for a stroll.

George Leonty has gone from taking care of icy sidewalks to strolling down a warm beach in Mexico. In between, he had a heart attack.

Two years ago, George and his wife Stephka had packed their bags and were ready to leave for a trip to Mexico. They were looking forward to escaping the snowy and cold January weather in Willingdon, a small town east of Edmonton.

“I sanded the sidewalks and after walking into the house, an excruciating pain struck me in the chest without warning,” explains George. “I didn’t have any previous heart issues except high blood pressure which I was taking medication for.”

Stephka called 911 and George was stabilized by paramedics before being rushed to the Royal Alexandra Hospital’s CK Hui Heart Centre.

At the CK Hui Heart Centre, George came under the care of Dr. Raymond Leung, who quickly installed a stent in George’s heart to get him out of immediate danger. His oxygen levels were dangerously low, so two days of treatment in the Cardiac Care Unit were needed to get George ready for two more stents.

“After the two stents, I was moved out of the CCU and into a regular room,” says George. “I went from not really remembering where I was to feeling well enough to walk around. I felt very weak, but kept up the walking to build back my strength. The CCU staff were great, and the care was excellent.”

After a week-long stay at the Royal Alex, George was discharged and able to go home. An 8-week rehabilitation program at the Glenrose taught George and his wife more about the nutrition and exercise that would help George return to a normal life.

“They taught us about diet, medication, exercise, and positive thinking,” says George.  A sense of community develops with other patients. Everybody has different issues and procedures, so we also learn from each other. The program is awesome and the staff very compassionate. The program taught me how to measure my own heart rate and establish a safe level of exertion.”

“My wife and I are both retired school teachers, so we appreciate a good teaching program!”

The road to recovery after a heart attack can be a long one. George didn’t waste any time getting back on track to good health.

“Stephka and I walked many miles together to strengthen my heart and my body in general,” says George with a smile. “We were always avid swimmers, and got back into our routine of two kilometers each week at the Vegreville Fitness Centre. I also used a treadmill at home during the winter months.”

What George really wanted, however, was to walk on a beach. Two years after his fateful heart attack on the eve of a Mexican vacation, George and Stephka finally made it back to Mexico, where they enjoyed long walks on the warm sand in Cancun.

George is grateful and thoughtful about his experience.

“I am truly grateful that my heart attack happened at home and not on a plane to Mexico!” says George. “I think of it as synchronicity. As a result, I’ve become more spiritual. I feel very grateful for surviving, and for the expert care I received at the CK Hui Heart Centre.”

George & Stephka Leonty

George and his wife Stephka enjoying the beach in Cancun.


George went from grateful patient to generous donor by providing a gift to the CK Hui Heart Centre. Do you or a loved one have a story with heart? Let us know or show your support for the CK Hui Heart Centre with an online donation.