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IMG_2557With a McCafe coffee in hand, restaurant owner Ben Land proudly surveys the “new” Cold Lake McDonalds.

The 52-year-old businessman has just completed a major renovation of his popular restaurant. But perhaps more importantly, he’s recently done a major overhaul on his life.

“I’ve slowed down. For me, good was never good enough; it always had to be the best. And with that came the go-go attitude and stress,” says Land, who moved to Cold Lake four years ago to take over the franchise.

A combination of an unknown, inherited illness, a busy lifestyle, and untreated high blood pressure resulted in a health scare that almost cost him his life.

One morning in late August, while working in his restaurant, Land felt sudden and severe chest pain. He lost consciousness and woke up to six of his staff members crowded around him.

“They were taking my socks off, massaging my feet, giving me sugar, one was praying and someone else was calling 911,” says Land, who is affectionately known as “Sir Ben” to his staff.

Within minutes, three ambulances arrived at the restaurant and took Land to the Cold Lake Healthcare Centre. The doctors and nurses working in the Emergency Department immediately recognized his case as serious. They stabilized him and quickly organized a Medevac flight to Edmonton. 

“The nurses, I can remember them, being very upbeat. And, the doctor called my wife,” says Land, who remembers only parts of the ordeal.

At the Royal Alex Hospital in Edmonton, he was diagnosed with an aortic dissection, or tear, in the main artery leading to his heart. He was quickly transferred to the University Hospital and underwent a five hour operation. Fortunately for him, the tear was in its early stage.

The hereditary condition claimed the lives of his mother and brother. It’s potentially life-threatening, with a mortality rate of 50%.

After the operation to repair the artery, Land knew he had come dangerously close to death.

“I realized how the medical system came through. We always complain about not enough beds and all these long waits, but there was never a shortage of attention or manpower for me right from my staff, to the paramedics, to the nurses and doctors, they were all over me, without hesitation,” he adds.

Land is expected to make a full recovery, but he is being careful to take it easy, live a healthy lifestyle and now takes medication to control his blood pressure.

He recently delivered a plaque to the staff at the Cold Lake Healthcare Centre, thanking them for the care he received.

"There are people who saved my life and I wated to reward them. How do you reward the hospital? I guess Hearts for Healthcare is one way."

He was also impressed with the paramedics and home care personnel who treated him after the ordeal, upon his return to Cold Lake.

“You need to enjoy life, enjoy your family. It’s payback time, now it’s time for me to do my thank you’s to the hospital, society, staff and my family."