John Dickhout
John Dickhout calls the donor of his transplanted heart "my superhero." (Photo: The Globe and Mail)

​Heart of a Superhero

John Dickhout is a 55-year-old man with the energy of someone several decades younger.

The Burlington, Ont., resident speaks with the projection of a stage actor, apt for a man who decided to plunge full-time into acting two years ago. His eyes well up with tears when discussing emotional subjects, and he has a range of unconscious habits – like angling sideways when engaging in conversation and twisting the silver Superman insignia ring on his left pinky.

In that last detail, there's a profound link between subject and object. The ring once belonged to Adam Prashaw, a 22-year-old man from Kanata, Ont. And the heart giving John his high colour and boundless energy once belonged to Adam, too.

"I wear this to remind me that he's my superhero," John says.

Adam passed away in 2015 after suffering an epileptic seizure and drowning in a hot tub. Described as kind, generous and deeply loved, he had signed on as an organ donor to ensure he would continue his spirit of giving back to others. His thoughtfulness would end up saving John Dickhout's life.

In 2013, John suffered a heart attack as a result of sarcoidosis, a rare disease that causes the immune system to turn on the body's internal organs.

"The whole thing was surreal, because I went from what I thought was completely healthy to completely a mess overnight, with no explanation and no understanding," he says.

At the time of his heart attack, John, a call centre executive, was living in the Philippines. He had relocated there from Welland, Ont., with his wife, Lynn, when an opportunity arose to help get a new satellite location off the ground. The Dickhouts made the most of their new adventure, exploring their surroundings and playing golf with other ex-pat friends on Sundays.

One Saturday, John woke up in the middle of the night with a racing heart. He tried to control his breathing and eventually went back to sleep.

"Old depictions of heart attacks have people clutching their chest in agony and falling over, and that's part of the challenge, because that's what you expect. [But] that's not what happened to me," he recalls of the heart attack that nearly killed him that day.

PMCC Magazine - 2018 

The fourth Peter Munk Cardiac Centre magazine is published by The Globe and Mail. Flip through its (digital) pages to read more about a day in the life of PMCC, game-changing devices, precision medicine and a tribute to our namesake, Peter Munk. The magazine is now available online.

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