For someone who had open heart surgery nine days earlier, Luke Brockholm looked fantastic.
If it weren't for a bit of the incision peeking out from the top of his shirt, you'd never know Brockholm recently had major surgery.
"I do feel really good," said Brockholm, 54, a Penticton Airport maintenance worker who lives in Okanagan Falls.
"I wasn't nervous at all to be the first person to get open-heart surgery here at Kelowna General Hospital. If anything, they said I was such a good candidate that it made me feel even better to be the first."
On Wednesday, Interior Health Authority held a media event at KGH to introduce Brockholm as the first patient to have heart surgery in the Interior.
B.C. Health Minister Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid flew in for the event. Dr. Guy Fradet, who did Brockholm's surgery, and Kelowna-Westside MLA Ben Stewart were also on hand.
"History was made here last week," said MacDiarmid. "Now that cardiac care is available closer to home, it will make a difference in many people's lives."
Brockholm's quadruple bypass operation on plugged arteries took place Dec. 3 and he was discharged Dec. 7 and has been recovering at home since.
Previously, anyone in the Interior who needed cardiac surgery had to travel to Vancouver or Victoria.
"It would have been much more stressful to have gone to Vancouver or Victoria," Brockholm said. "Kelowna's just an hour up the road from our place in Okanagan Falls and it was much easier on my wife to come and visit me."
In October, Brockholm's heart disease had gotten so bad that his doctor recommended he be medevaced (flown by plane or helicopter to hospital in Vancouver) for the bypass operation.
By mid-November, Brockholm found out the surgery could be done in Kelowna in temporary space at the hospital before the Interior Heart and Surgical Centre opens there in 2015.
Since he lives a healthy and active life and doesn't smoke, the source of Brockholm's heart disease is a bit of a mystery. However, a lot of heart disease can be hereditary or is caused by people eating poorly, not exercising and
As such, the health minister took the opportunity to encourage people to eat well, not smoke and maintain a healthy weight in hopes of never having to use the Interior Heart and Surgical Centre.
Heart surgery in Kelowna has come in stages. Three years ago, doctors started performing angioplasties.
They are the procedure that uses small balloons and stents to open blocked arteries in an operation that takes less than
30 minutes and is much less invasive than opening the chest for the much-longer open heart surgery.
About 1,000 angioplasties are done annually at KGH.
The second stage is the two temporary operating rooms in the hospital's Strathcona building where heart valve repair and bypass surgeries can now be performed.
The goal is to do 15 open heart operations a week.
The third stage will be the opening of the full Interior Heart and Surgical Centre at KGH in 2015.
The centre will have 15 operating rooms, an intensive care unit and medical tool sterilization room.
It will employ a large team of cardiologists, anesthetists, nurses, radiologists, respirologists and support workers.